Early this season, MLB Pipeline ranked the Atlanta Braves as having the No. 1 farm system in baseball. Considering how depleted the minors had become under Frank Wren, that’s astounding. That ranking can be whittled down, basically, to one word: pitching.
It’s no surprise. The Braves have been looking for the next John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux for some time now. After one month of the 2017 season, it seems they may be closer than ever.
Just take a look at what is going on the minors:
Kolby Allard (#3 ranked prospect — Mississippi Braves-AA)
Allard was Atlanta’s first pick in the 2015 draft and chosen 14th overall. The 6-foot-1 lefty was drafted out of high school from San Clemente, California, and has turned it on in only his second full season in the Braves organization. After the draft, he worked only three starts in the Gulf Coast League. In 2016, he began in Rookie League Danville and after five starts, finished out the season in Class-A Rome. So far this season, in six starts with the M-Braves, Allard is 2-1 with a 1.36 ERA. He has struck out 27 batters in 33 innings with only seven walks. Opponents are batting only .210 against him and his WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) stands at only 0.97. Like Glavine, he’s a left-handed starter with great location and command.
Mike Soroka (#4 ranked prospect — Mississippi Braves-AA)
The big, hard-throwing right-hander from Canada was Atlanta’s 28th pick in the 2015 draft. And like Allard, he jumped right over high Class-A and began the season in Double-A. Soroka started 24 games with the Rome Braves last season and struck out 125 batters in 143 innings. In the first month of this season, he is 2-2 with a 3.42 ERA in five starts with 27 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting .222 against him and his WHIP is 0.99.
Sean Newcomb (#5 ranked prospect — Gwinnett Braves-AAA)
Newcomb came to the Braves in the offseason of 2015 in the trade that sent Andrelton Simmons to the Angels. His first year with the Braves was spent in Mississippi where he posted an ERA of 3.86 through 27 starts. He led the Southern League last season in strikeouts with 152 while logging 140 innings. This season he is 1-1 with a 3.08 ERA in five starts in Gwinnett. He has struck out 35 batters in 26 1/3 innings including 11 strikeouts during his last start on April 30 in Pawtucket.
Ian Anderson (#6 ranked prospect — Rome Braves-A)
Last season’s first-round draft pick by the Braves and third overall in the 2016 draft seems to be another great choice. Anderson got five starts in the Gulf Coast League before moving on to Rookie League Danville to finish out the season. In 2016, the 19-year-old right-hander from Clifton Park, New York has dazzled the South Atlantic League for the Rome Braves. He is 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA and has recorded 30 strikeouts in 24 innings. Hitters are batting a minuscule .190 against him this season.
Luiz Gohara (#10 ranked prospect — Florida Fire Frogs-A)
Gohara, a native of Brazil, came to the Braves from the Mariners in a January trade for Mallex Smith and Shae Simmons. The left-hander has been dominate in six starts for the Fire Frogs in the Advanced-A Florida State League. He sits at 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA and has struck out 30 batters with only seven walks in 32.0 innings.
Joey Wentz (#13 ranked prospect — Rome Braves-A)
Wentz is another left-handed phenom picked by the Braves last summer as their second pick in the draft, and number 40 overall. The 19-year-old hurler from Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas started for the Gulf Coast League Braves after the draft last season where he did not give up a run in four starts. His promotion to Danville saw him struggle a bit, but still registered 35 strikeouts in 32 innings. This season at Rome, Wentz is 1-2 with a 3.96 in five starts with 24 strikeouts in 25 innings.
Patrick Weigel (#15 prospect — Mississippi Braves-AA)
The flame-throwing 22-year-old California native was dominating at Rome a year ago when he was 10-4 with a 2.51 ERA in 21 starts. He also struck out 135 batters in 129 innings. His efforts got him promoted to Double-A Mississippi where he was 1-2 with a 2.18 ERA in three starts. Now in his second year of Double-A, Weigel is 2-0 with a 2.78 ERA in six starts. He also has 30 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings. The Braves are very, very high on this kid who might skip right over Triple-A to the majors before the season is done.
Lucas Sims (#18 prospect — Gwinnett Braves-AAA)
Sims was the Braves’ first draft pick in 2012 and the 21st player chosen overall. His 2015 season was a tough one as he was injured when the Carolina Mudcats’ team bus crashed May 13, forcing him to spend much of the season on the disabled list. He bounced back to spend 2016 at both Mississippi and Gwinnett, turning in some great Double-A numbers. This season, the former Brookwood High School star has been one of the most consistent pitchers on the Gwinnett staff. He is 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA in five starts with 28 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. His WHIP is 0.84 and opponents are batting only .176 against him.