The NL East champs were led by an army of young prospects that have made their way through the ranks over the course of this rebuild. The even more exciting part about that; this is just the beginning. Wave number two will be making their impact at the major league level as early as opening day next year. Here are five guys who you should be thrilled to see at SunTrust Park next season.
Looking for the Braves to acquire a power bat this offseason? They might not have to make a move to do that after all. Austin Riley has turned into the Braves top hitting prospect and probably could have made an impact last September as a call-up. The organization determined he wasn’t quite ready, but Braves fans will get their first glimpse of him early on in 2019.
The 21-year old finished a hair shy of hitting .300 last season with 19 home runs and 70 RBIs in just 108 games. The biggest question regarding Riley is where he fits in the grand scheme of things. The Braves currently have a very solid option at the hot-corner in Johan Camargo and can’t really afford to move him anywhere other than perhaps shortstop. That would mean the Braves would have to move on from Dansby Swanson, which doesn’t seem likely. With Riley’s arm, there’s also the option of flexing him out to the outfield. Either way, this is a prospect everyone should be looking forward to seeing next year.
Wright was the Braves fifth overall selection in the 2017 draft and already has his MLB debut under his belt. Coming out of Vandy, he was viewed as the most MLB-ready pitching prospect on the board. It all starts with the mid-90s fastball that he can put wherever he wants. He follows that up with three off-speed pitches: curveball, slider, and changeup.
This is probably the prospect the Braves have the most faith in eventually becoming a frontline starter. Even though he has only appeared in 31 games over his pro career, he is going to be in the conversation for a starting rotation spot to begin the season. He may not get the nod in April, but at some point, he is going to be a familiar face on the mound for Atlanta in 2019.
Soroka dazzled last season in his major league debut against the Mets, which made it even more disappointing when he was shut down for the season because of shoulder soreness. A smart move by the Braves, however, because this young man has an extremely bright future. in 5 starts for Atlanta last season, Soroka went 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA, showing off his patented control that makes him so special.
The way he attacks batters is Maddux-like. His stuff doesn’t include a flashy high-90s fastball or a devastating curveball, but his ability to put the ball where he wants it makes up for any of that. This is a guy who walked a batter about every five innings in the minors and consistently kept hitters off balance with a three-pitch repertoire. He’s currently the #1 ranked prospect in the Braves organization according to MLB.com.
Notice anything familiar? The Braves have an overload of young arms ready to crack the majors on top of all the young pitching already making their mark on the big leagues. That means at some point this offseason, Alex Anthopoulos is going to make a move and trade some of these guys. However, I wouldn’t expect Ian Anderson to be one of them.
Anderson sits at #3 on the Braves prospect list according to MLB.com. Coincidently, Atlanta selected the right-handed pitcher with the 3rd overall pick in 2016. He hasn’t busted through the levels of the minors as Kyle Wright has, but that is because he is only 20 years old. He was dominant in both Florida and AA Mississippi, averaging well over a strikeout per frame and holding opposing hitters to a combined .199 batting average last year.
Gohara is certainly a name you could hear tossed around in trade talks, but selling on him now would definitely be selling low. The 22-year old lefty was given an unfortunate set of circumstances last year dealing with injuries and family issues. He also performed poorly when on the field, recording a 5.95 ERA in his nine major league appearances.
If someone is still willing to take on Gohara as a blue-chip prospect, expect him to be in another uniform next season. I just don’t see that happening though, and the Braves should avoid selling low on him. Whether it’s in the rotation or the bullpen Gohara can be a quality piece for the Braves next year.