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The Next Wave: Future Atlanta Braves Stars

Being a Braves fan my entire life, I have had reasons to be excited about my favorite team many different times. The 14-year divisional titles streak, the 2005 “Baby Braves” movement, the rise of stars like Freddie Freeman, and the end of the latest rebuild have all given reason to be excited as a fan. This past season was a surprise to many, as the projected .500-team Braves ended up winning the division, thanks to the outburst of superstar Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, Mike Foltynewicz, and many others. I saw it as the beginning of the next Braves dynasty, one that I am excited to keep up with over the next decade or so.

As we begin the season, let us take a look at who got us to where we are today. Over the past couple seasons, the first wave of prospects took root in Atlanta and began showing their potential that the front office has been promising since the beginning of the rebuild. Albies started the 2018 season with a hot streak, batting a solid .293/.341/.647 in the months of April and May, which ultimately earned him his first All-Star nod. While he did fizzle out in the second half of the season, him completing his first full MLB season was important in his development. Foltynewicz was a true “ace” for the Braves pitching staff, logging 183 innings and just over 200 Ks for the first time in his career. He also had 2 complete games, including 1 shutout (leading the Major Leagues in both). He earned his first All-Star nod and finished 8th in the Cy-Young Award voting, which is bright for the future of the Braves rotation.

Perhaps the biggest addition to the Braves lineup was Rookie of the Year superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. In just 111 games, Acuña slashed a .293/.366/.552 with 26 HR for the season. While his stats may not have been as consistent as Juan Soto’s over the season, his August and September campaign as the leadoff man earned him the Rookie of the Year Award. He set a record by hitting a homer in 5 straight games, becoming the youngest player to do so in MLB history (3 of which were lead-off home runs!). Not only was his August and September campaign spectacular, but who could forgot Acuña becoming the youngest player to hit a Grand Slam in the postseason. All of these are signs of even more good to come from Acuña, and I believe that saying Acuña will finish in the top 5 for MVP voting doesn’t even qualify as a “hot take” anymore.

Now, let’s get to the real purpose of this article: the Next Wave. I have compiled a list of 5 prospects who I believe will contribute to the Atlanta Braves’ success in the 2019 season. These prospects could be listed in any order.

Mike Soroka, RHP

Photo Courtesy of Curtis Compton, AJC

Canadian-born Mike Soroka should be a candidate for the Braves starting rotation in 2019. He pitched in 5 games in the 2018 season before going down with a shoulder injury. In those 5 games, he showed the potential to be a solid 4th or 5th starter, striking out 21 while only walking 7 in 25 innings. He’ll have to work at lowering the hits given up, as he gave up 10.5 hits per 9 in the limited action he saw. Once he figures those woes out and gets over his shoulder ailments, I believe he has the potential to be a perennial starter for the Braves.

Touki Toussaint, RHP

Photo Courtesy of John Amis, AP

Touki Toussaint has become a favorite among the Braves organization. From his nasty curveball, to his fascination with only the best waffle fries from Chick-Fil-A, he has garnered the attention of Rob Friedman, also known as Pitching Ninja to many baseball fans, and baseball fans alike. In a limited number of games, Toussaint racked up a solid 9.9 SO/9. While his ERA may not be pretty, his FIP and WHIP are more generous. While I think Toussaint is most valuable as a starter long-term, he could easily become a long reliever or spot start option for the bullpen to keep arms fresh during the long season.

Luiz Gohara, LHP

Photo Courtesy of Scott Cunningham, Getty Images

Luiz Gohara has had quite the journey during his time in the Braves uniform. He debuted in the MLB in 2017, but due to injuries and his father’s untimely passing in the 2018 season, he has only tallied 49 innings in the majors. While he has had some unsuccessful outings, I believe there is still potential in this young prospect. Reports coming out of Spring Training say that over the offseason, he has lost nearly 35 lbs and feels much more comfortable on the mound. With a successful spring and successful opening months, I believe Gohara could earn some spot starts or long relief out of the bullpen.

Austin Riley, 3B

Photo Courtesy of Cliff Welch, MiLB.com

Top prospect Austin Riley has been named in numerous trade proposals, but I think Riley’s most value will come on the field in a Braves uniform. The Braves haven’t had a true top 3B prospect since the beginning of the Chipper Jones era, and they’ve had a difficult time filling that void since Chipper’s retirement in 2014. With the signing of Josh Donaldson, this allows Riley to continue working at AAA Gwinnett, finishing any last minute tuning he may need before taking over as the full-time 3B starter for the Braves. Riley has been seen working with all-time greats, such as Chipper, Albert Pujols, and Terry Pendleton. Riley knows the pressure that comes with being a top prospect, and I believe he could be eased into it with a crucial bench role this season that could easily turn into a full-time starting gig. (Obviously, if Donaldson doesn’t return to form, Riley could be called up much sooner).

Ian Anderson, RHP

Photo Courtesy of Julio Cortez, AP

Perhaps the most hyped-up pitching prospect in the Braves’ farm system right now, Ian Anderson could get his chance sooner than many expect. Injuries could easily happen (especially with a young staff and bullpen), and I fully expect we see Anderson at some point during the 2019 season. Anderson has been lighting it up in the lower minors, and I believe he has the potential to be the true “ace” of the Braves staff of the future, which we haven’t seen since the days of trio Smoltz, Maddux, and Glavine. This being said, I hope the Braves aren’t too eager to rush him into the majors, but bringing him up when he’s ready could prove to be beneficial in his final development.

Honorable Mentions:

Kyle Wright, RHP

Cristian Pache, OF

Kolby Allard, RHP

Drew Waters, OF

Let me know in the comments if there are any other Brave prospects you think could make an impact in the 2019 season!

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Peter Bekkerus

Senior at Iowa State University, Music Ed major, sports enthusiast. Braves are the main team that I follow. Follow me on Twitter - @peterhb97

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