by Jeff Norman
Marietta, Georgia -
Over the past eleven years, we at 6-4-3 have been developing and preparing kids for the next part of their lives through baseball. During this stretch we have had over 300 kids go on to play in college. Certain players were also skilled enough to start getting paid to play professional baseball. Of the 22 players that were either drafted or signed to professional clubs, there are eleven 6-4-3 alumni currently playing professional baseball today. These players include: Kent Emanuel (Astros AAA), Connor Johnstone (Braves AAA), Drew Waters (Braves Advanced Single A), Sean Guenther (Marlins Single A), Charlie Madden (Red Sox Single A), Jonathan Pryor (Nationals Short Season Single A), Jim Voyles (Cardinals Short Season Single A), Matt Rowland (Braves Rookie Ball), Jackson Lourie (Braves Rookie Ball), Sam Fuller (Angels 60-Day DL), and Kevin Smith (New York Mets Short Season Single A). As the 2018 season winds down, it felt right to share what each of them accomplished over the past year.
AAA is considered the “doorstep” to the major leagues and is often the final step for players before making it to the show. Two 6-4-3 alumni are knocking at the door this year, Kent Emanuel (LHP) and Connor Johnstone (RHP). Emanuel spent the whole year playing for the Fresno Grizzlies (Astros AAA) where he accumulated a 5-3 record with a 5.31 ERA and 83K / 26 BB over 79.2 innings as both a starter and a reliever. Johnstone has been an up and comer this year as he was listed on five of the Braves’ affiliates and changed between the five teams a total of 16 times. Although he moved all over the minors, Johnstone managed a 3-3 record with a 3.30 ERA over 87.1 innings as both a starter and reliever. Overall, both have reached the doorstep with Emanuel on the cusp of being called up and Johnstone having reached AAA in only his second year of professional ball.
The most prominent of the 6-4-3 alumni is outfielder Drew Waters who was selected by the Braves in the second round of the 2017 MLB Amatuer Draft (the highest selection of any 6-4-3 player in the past eleven years). Waters started the year in Rome (Braves’ Single A affiliate), where he got off to a hot start and carried success into the middle of the summer hitting .303/.353/.513 (batting average/ on-base percentage/ slugging percentage). At the beginning of August, Waters was promoted to play with the Florida Fire Frogs (Braves’ Advanced Single A affiliate) and produced similar success there. Overall, Waters has progressed greatly by hitting twice as many homers and increasing his batting average almost 20 points from last year, as well as being named in the top 100 prospects by MLB Pipeline.
The next two players are currently with their team’s Single A affiliate. The first of the two is left-handed pitcher, Sean Guenther, who was assigned to the Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlin’s Advanced A affiliate) to start the year. There he started all seven games in which he pitched, accumulating 31.2 innings pitched with a 0-1 record and a 4.83 ERA before he spent a little more than a month on the Disabled List (DL). After completing a rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League, he was assigned to the Marlins’ Single A affiliate, the Greensboro Grasshoppers, where he tallied a 4-3 record with a 4.45 ERA and 40 K/ 5 BB over 54.2 innings. The next player is catcher, Charlie Madden. Madden was selected by the White Sox in the 2016 MLB Draft but decided to return to Mercer University for another year. In 2017, Madden was selected by the Red Sox one round earlier in the MLB Draft than the previous year. At the start of the 2018 season, Madden was assigned to Single A where he spent most of the year. When he got called up to AA at the beginning of August, he got all of one game in before being placed on the 7-Day DL. When he was activated again halfway through August, Madden was sent to single A where he spent the remainder of the year. Overall, Madden had a productive year hitting .243/.336/.346.
There are five players that are still on their way to Single A. Jim Voyles, Jonathan Pryor, and Kevin Smith are playing at the Short Season Single A level for their organizations. Jim Voyles has spent the whole year at this level going 3-3 with a 2.70 ERA over 50.0 innings. Overall he has had a solid year, striking out 35 and only walking 11, while holding hitters to a .222 batting average. In limited playing time, Jonathan Pryor played 15 games with the Auburn Doubledays in the New York-Pennsylvania League during which he hit .313/.371./344. Kevin Smith (LHP) appeared in 12 games, while logging 23.2 innings pitched, and tallied a 4-1 record with a 0.76 ERA, 28K/6BB, and a .156 batting average against.
The two alumni, Matt Rowland and Jackson Lourie, that are getting their work at the rookie ball level are both with the Braves organization. Matt Rowland is in his first year of pro ball as he had Tommy John surgery soon after he was drafted in 2016. He is making a strong recovery with the Braves’ Rookie Ball team in Danville where he put up a .238 batting average against with a 3.83 ERA and 46 strikeouts over 54 innings. Jackson Lourie is in his second year of rookie ball where he logged 22.2 innings pitched, tallied 16 strikeouts and held opposing hitters to a .238 average.
As an organization, we are incredibly proud of and impressed with the 6-4-3 players that have gone on to make careers for themselves in professional baseball. As professional athletes, their career path is challenging with fierce competition with many obstacles. We congratulate Kent, Connor, Drew, Sean, Charlie, Jonathan, Jim, Kevin, Matt, Jackson, and Sam on their 2018 success and wish them the very best this offseason as they prepare for the 2019 season.
PHOTO NOTE: pictured is Drew Waters in his 6-4-3 DP Cougars uniform.