The Braves are chock-full of some of the best young players, which also makes it difficult to project which ones will have a case at the Hall of Fame when their careers end.
Over at MLB.com, Mike Petriello went through 40 current players that could be headed to Cooperstown when it’s all said and done. Among them, three Braves appeared on the list.
The first was of course Ronald Acuña Jr.
Tier 5: It’s not too soon to call them legends
19. Juan Soto (29 WAR)
20. Ronald Acuña, Jr. (27 WAR)
At 26 (Acuña) and 25 (Soto), it’s a little too soon to say that we know, with certainty, how their careers will be remembered. But we do know that – barring serious injury or off-field issues – it’s almost impossible to start a career like these two have and not have it end with a plaque in Cooperstown. Above, we said that it wasn’t clear that Beltré was likely to be a Hall of Famer until his mid-30s. That’s absolutely not the case here. We’ve known it since almost day one.
I can say with absolute confidence that both Acuña and Soto will be headed to the Hall of Fame at the end of their careers, barring a plethora of injuries. They are two of the best players of this generation. Not only will they likely be remembered in Cooperstown forever, they have a fantastic chance of going down as two of the best outfielders in the history of the game.
The second Braves player to appear was the newly acquired Chris Sale.
Tier 6: You’re going to have to elect some starting pitchers, you know
As the Verlander/Kershaw/Scherzer/Greinke generation reaches the end of the line, future generations of voters will have to figure out just how to evaluate starting pitchers, given that wins don’t matter and, increasingly, “eating innings” is less valued than “dominating more over fewer innings.” You can’t compare the way today’s starters are used to the days of Bob Gibson, because you can barely compare the way starters are used to the days of CC Sabathia, and he only retired in 2019. You also can’t pretend no starting pitchers are ever getting into the Hall again, either.
Cole, a six-time All-Star, newly anointed Cy Young winner, and – by today’s standards – an innings-eating horse – probably straddles the generational line to some extent, though he’s been around since 2013 and is less than three years younger than Kershaw is. It’s possible Sale (48 WAR) is viewed in a Sandy Koufax-esque lens of a short, elite peak, given that he did collect Cy Young votes for eight consecutive seasons from 2012-18 before he was sidetracked by injuries.
Sale’s peak is a thing of beauty. He never finished outside the top six of the AL Cy Young race from 2012-2018. He never won the award; still, that kind of consistency over nearly a decade will weigh heavily in the eyes of the voters. It’s also worth noting that he currently leads all pitchers in MLB history in K/9. If Sale ends his career nicely with the Braves, he should receive the nod to the Hall of Fame.
The last Braves player to appears was Spencer Strider.
Tier 10: The young right-now stars
Obviously, it’s far too early to tell if Strider will do enough to get to Cooperstown, but he has a chance to claim the thrown as the best pitcher in baseball this season at age 25. The stuff is second to none, and it’s reasonable to expect him to win multiple Cy Young awards, but injuries are so common among pitchers that they could derail his career.
Riley might be the best third baseman in baseball right now. He’s accrued 18 WAR over the last three seasons, hitting at least 33+ home runs in each. His defense has also wildly improved as he enters his age-27. If Riley can average around 5 WAR over the next ten seasons, he’ll be in the conversation. That’s a lot to ask, but it’s possible.
Albies has to follow a similar path as Riley if he wants to make the Hall of Fame, but he could go down as one of the best second baseman of this generation because of his consistency. Performance in big moments for the Braves in the postseason will also go a long way in improving his case.
Michael Harris II should have probably been included in the “young right-now stars” category. He already has a accrued 8.7 WAR before age-23, and his ability to affect the game with his defense and speed as well as his offense allows him to rack up WAR in bunches. For whatever reason, Harris doesn’t get mentioned alongside the best young players in the game, which is a shame. He’s had an unbelievable start to his career at such a young age and could just be getting started.
Photo: John Adams/Icon Sportswire