MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – It was a cruel end to the football season, with Georgia losing to Alabama in the championship game and the Falcons losing to the Eagles in round two of the NFL Playoffs. Yes, the Super Bowl is next week, and we all hope you’ll watch it on 41NBC – even though we all know you are tired of seeing the Patriots play into February.
Can we talk a little baseball?
We are now less that three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training for the Braves. That’s always a great day on the calendar. We’ll be talking a lot of baseball between now and opening day, but there was a piece of news this week that is worth sharing. Baseball America, the premier minor league publication, came out with its Top 100 prospect list. The Braves had eight prospects on that list. Then Keith Law, ESPN’s main minor league guru, had his Top 100 list and he had 10 Braves prospects on that list, including four prospects who were not on the Baseball America list.
That means 12 different Braves prospects were named on the two most prominent preseason Top 100 prospect lists. That’s really good. It shows you how talented the Braves farm system is and why there is reason to be excited about the future.
Forget about the scandal that rocked the Braves over this winter. That’s over. We now need to focus on the fact this organization has tremendous young talent that is getting ready to graduate to Atlanta. We saw several last season – like Sean Newcomb, Luiz Gohara, Max Fried, A.J. Minter and Ozzie Albies. This year, we’re going to see the best prospect in baseball – outfielder Ronald Acuna – make it to Atlanta. He’s been compared to Andruw Jones, and the Braves will probably have him in one of the corner outfield spots by May 1st. Even if the 20-year-old Acuna struggles early on with the bat, which is unlikely, he will still be better than Matt Kemp was last season in the outfield.
We’ll also see Albies for the full season, which should be an upgrade over Brandon Phillips at second base from last year.
But the real thing to watch for is the pitchers. The Braves should have veterans Julio Teheran and Brandon McCarthy lead the rotation, and Mike Foltynewicz will get another shot as a starter. Then the favorites for the final two spots will be Newcomb and Gohara, along with Max Fried – three left-handers. But then, there are three more pitching prospects – all highly-rated – Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard and Kyle Wright, who could be ready at some point next season.
The Braves rebuilding process is now in year four, and we still have to be patient. Remember, when the rookies get to the big leagues, that’s when we really have to be patient. The kids will have ups and downs, but with the quantity of talent the Braves have assembled, the overall team should be better.
You still may have to be realistic on the potential win total for this season, but with the news that 12 prospects are rated as some of the best in the sport, please realize that the Braves are getting there. They are close. They should be better this season, and the future for this Braves team is very, very bright.