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Young Braves way ahead of schedule

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Especially when it comes to pitching

Colorado Rockies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Eliminated Monday by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 2018 Atlanta Braves still take home a massive “W” for the year. Their first winning season since 2013 ended in October when most expected it to be done by August.

Just like 2013, the Braves fell 3-1 to the Dodgers in the NLDS. They were outmatched, but this is only the beginning for them, while L.A. advances to their third straight NLCS.

It was supposed to be another year of building for the Braves, but they decided to win the NL East instead. It’s a very young team, with few veterans, especially on the pitching staff.

The past few years in the rebuild have seen them collect a treasure trove of young arms.

Last year, they graduated Sean Newcomb, Max Fried, Luiz Gohara, Lucas Sims and A.J. Minter.

This year, Mike Soroka, Bryse Wilson, Chad Sobotka, Kolby Allard, Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright joined the mix.

That’s ten staff members for the future, with Sims having been dealt to the Reds earlier at the deadline.

Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

All listed are 25 or younger, giving the Braves a lot to be excited and optimistic about going forward.

Newcomb, acquired in 2015 for Andrelton Simmons, has ace potential and proved worthy of a contender’s rotation this year in just his sophomore year.

Gohara and Soroka dealt with shoulder injuries, but both have substantial upside, particularly Soroka.

Soroka was a 2015 first-round pick (28th), as was Allard (14th). Soroka’s debut this year made him the youngest pitcher in baseball, and the second-youngest player overall behind only teammate and pending NL Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuña Jr.

Allard, like Toussaint, boasts a plus-plus-curveball. Both will battle for a crowded roster spot —and from there a rotation spot— in 2019. In an era of velocity, these two curveballs have a chance to steal the hearts of fans and swings of opponents for many years to come.

Fried made the postseason roster and performs when he pitches, but is oft-injured. Getting his health figured is a must as he turns 25 in January.

Sobotka and Wilson were both fourth-round picks, in 2014 and 2016 respectively, and the former was dominant in 14 relief appearances.

Wilson, like 2017 fifth overall pick Kyle Wright, were used in emergency duty this season but are both now big league graduates and players for the depth chart next year and beyond.

Wright, the former Vanderbilt standout, was expected to rise through the minors quick, but saying it and doing it are different things. He made his MLB debut 14 months after hearing his name announced at the draft.

College World Series - Virginia v Vanderbilt - Game One Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The lefty Minter, a rare high draft pick relief pitcher, earned a second round nod in 2015. After two years out of the bullpen at Texas A&M, he moved to the rotation his junior year but fell victim to Tommy John surgery.

Atlanta developed him exclusively out of the pen, and he saved 15 games this season with a 3.23 ERA and 10.1 K/9 in 61.1 innings. He has lights out stuff and, while Atlanta has a ton of starting options, their bullpen is up for grabs.

Of those still in the minors, 2016 third overall pick Ian Anderson is well on his way, with Triple-A and his 21st birthday on the horizon in 2019.

Joey Wentz, the seventh (of eight) pitchers in John’s latest Braves Top 20, is on track to replace Anderson at Double-A Mississippi.

The young Kyle Muller and Freddy Tarnok. Patrick Weigel has his Tommy John surgery behind him. All these arms make up an exciting future for a young team that just won a division.