One year after welcoming Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey to Spring Training, the Braves open their camp to a multitude of highly touted prospects, many of whom were not yet born when the aforementioned former Cy Young Award winners began their respective careers.
Youth will certainly garner much of the focus, as the Braves will welcome eight of their Top 10 prospects, including each of their top four, to their big league Spring Training this year. Seven of those players rank among MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects and the other — Cristian Pache — just missed being placed on this illustrious list.
Ronald Acuna, who ranks as MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 overall prospect, headlines the talented young crop that will come to Braves camp looking to either secure a job or show how close they might be to getting a call to the big leagues. The other members of the Top 100 coming to camp include right-handers Kyle Wright (ranked 30th) and Mike Soroka (31st); left-handers Luiz Gohara (49th), Kolby Allard (58th); and Max Fried (83rd) and third baseman Austin Riley (97th).
“Everybody is excited about our young players,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “We’ve been talking about them for how long? Now, all of the sudden, they show up and I want to see them go.”
Wright, who was taken fifth overall out of Vanderbilt in last summer’s Draft, will be experiencing Spring Training for the first time. Acuna was used as an extra in some Grapefruit League games last year, but he’ll join Soroka, Gohara, Allard and Riley as newcomers to the big league side of camp.
Fried is the Braves’ only representative on the Top 100 list who was in big league camp last year. The 24-year-old southpaw stands with Wright as the only members of this group who were born before the Braves won the 1995 World Series.
Wright was born 26 days before Tom Glavine tossed his gem, David Justice homered and Mark Wohlers induced the Carlos Baerga fly ball that Marquis Grissom snared in left-center field to provide Atlanta its only World Series title.
“I always used to tell Chipper [Jones], ‘I can’t wait until you guys get your two at-bats so we could get our young guys a chance to play in those Spring Training games,'” Snitker said. “You knew what the [veterans] were going to do, but it’s the young players who make it exciting.”
Gohara began last season with Class A Advanced Florida and ended it with a five-start stretch at the big league level that left a good impression on Freddie Freeman, Snitker and many members of the Braves’ organization. The big southpaw is a favorite to win one of what appears to be two available rotation spots.
Fried was called up to the Majors from Double-A Mississippi in August and was given a chance to make four starts in September. There’s a chance he could win a rotation spot, but it seems more likely he’ll start the season with Triple-A Gwinnett and continue his development.
With just 17 professional innings under his belt, Wright will likely begin this season with Florida or Mississippi. Soroka and Allard successfully skipped the Class A Advanced level last year and now seem destined to open this year with Gwinnett. Both have the potential to join Atlanta’s rotation at some point this summer.