The state of Atlanta’s sports teams vary, from contenders like the Braves and Atlanta United, to teams in full rebuild like the Hawks. While teams across the A are in different places as far as progress is concerned, there is one similarity shared by all of the clubs, incredible young talent. The Hawks are using their draft picks on potential stars to plan for the future, the Falcons have worked rookies into their game plan, young players in their prime are leading the charge for Atlanta United, and the “Baby Braves” made a run to the playoffs almost no one saw coming. With the young stardom piling up in Atlanta, it’s time to see who is the best 25 and under player on each of the cities’ squads.
Atlanta Falcons: Calvin Ridley
There are numerous guys on their roster you could plead a case for, but the rookie wide receiver, Calvin Ridley, has already been a major contributor to the Falcons’ offense. Just seven games into his career, Ridley has showcased big play potential, and been a reliable weapon in key situations for Matt Ryan. So far in 2018, Ridley has compiled nearly 400 receiving yards, including 6 touchdowns, on just 27 receptions.
It was quite the surprise that the 23-year-old was still available for the Falcons’ first round selection of the 2018 NFL Draft, and the opportunity was something the team could not pass up. Ridley is already performing at an elite level for the franchise, and the ceiling for his abilities is nowhere in sight.
Atlanta United: Josef Martinez
Is this one really even up for debate? Though the United have only existed for two years, Martinez has been nothing short of phenomenal for Atlanta’s youngest sports team. In just 34 games played in 2018, Martinez has scored a whopping 31 goals, leading all of MLS.
The 25-year-old Venezuelan born star is helping the Atlanta United expand their fan base exponentially in such a short period of time. The MLS All-Star, and leader of the club, is setting countless records, and paving the way for the future of the “Five Stripes” in Atlanta.
Unfortunately, it’s hard seeing Martinez stick around the MLS for long with such potential. Nonetheless, he’s been vital in bringing back the excitement of soccer to Atlanta.
Atlanta Hawks: John Collins
I know this pick will probably take some heat due to the emergence of Trae Young, but the less talked about player possessing unmatched potential is the Hawks’ second year man, John Collins. Though the 21-year-old has been sidelined with an injury at the start of the 2018 season, there is no reason to believe he won’t come back better than ever in his return to the hardwood. He averaged over 10 points per game off the bench in his rookie season, and was a big factor on the boards for the Hawks.
Collins is the center of the young core the Hawks are trying to establish for future success, and as he improves his game even more with the experience, he’ll be a household name around the league in no time.
Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuña Jr.
No surprise here, the former number one prospect in baseball has already made himself known around the world with his success on the field. Acuña was essentially the fire and soul of the 2018 Braves team, and when he went on a historic lead-off homer run streak, the rest of the Braves heated up along with him.
Acuña played in just 111 games in 2018, including the playoffs, and still put up ridiculous numbers for a rookie, posting a .293 batting average, knocking in 26 home runs, and tallying up 64 RBIs. Even in the face of immense pressure called the postseason, Acuña didn’t blink, coming through with the biggest hit in Suntrust Park history with a grand slam in game 3 of the NLDS to help lead the Braves over the Dodgers.
The future of the Braves is in good hands with #13 roaming in the outfield.