There are quite a few former elite MiLB prospects facing off in Atlanta Sunday evening.
Ok, ‘a bit’ is a bit of an understatement.
The Braves tore it down after that run. They have had two front office overhauls since then, a new manager, new home digs, and well, primarily, a new team.
The Dodgers began their current run that very same 2013 season against the Braves and haven’t missed the playoffs since. They too have a new skipper, but plenty of faces remain the same from the overall run.
While the two teams are a contrast in makeup (and has shown in the first two games of the series), they have one thing in common.
There are a bunch of former top prospects packed into these lineups.
The Braves young guns
The Braves rebuild is nearly complete. They are ahead of schedule and a playoff team, winners of the NL East. They’ve reached this point behind a bevy of young prospects that have been amongst the best in the game.
Obviously, Ronald Acuña, Jr. delivered in his rookie debut. He was widely regarded as baseball’s top prospect entering the season and will likely walk away with National League Rookie of the Year honors. But he wasn’t alone.
Including Acuña, six of the 2018 Braves top 100 prospects helped get here. Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson, and Kolby Allard all played a small part in the team’s first-place finish. Touki Toussaint did as well, and is amongst the Braves pitchers who have fared well in the first two rough games of the NLDS.
It goes further back. Southpaw Max Fried was a regular in the top 100 lists, once considered one of the top LHP prospects in baseball. Though his big league career has been plagued by injury and inconsistency, he’s still a valuable piece in the bullpen. Speaking of big-time lefty prospects, Sunday night’s starter Sean Newcomb was a top 25 prospect, also amongst the best lefties in the minors. Right-handed Mike Foltynewicz was never consider amongst the elite RHP prospects, but he was twice in the top 100.
There was once concerns that the Braves traded away their top infield prospect Jose Peraza. Those lasted about 15 minutes. Ozzie Albies took the Braves top prospect spot, landing around No. 11(ish) overall around the top 100 lists, as an 18-year-old and hasn’t looked back.
Some of the older guys were also once top 100 material. Kevin Gausman reached as high as No. 10 in Baseball Prospectus and No. 20 in Baseball America. Julio Teheran has shown very (VERY) brief glimpses, but has never lived up to the ace billing. Teheran was twice a top 5 prospect per Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus and once by MLB. Not a bad minor league resume. Even Anibal Sanchez got some top 50 love from Baseball America one year. Of course, Nick Markakis was a long-time top 100 prospect as well.
And of course, there’s the glue that holds it all together, the veteran sage who has seen it all. Freddie Freeman was a consensus top 20 prospect back in 2011. He’s fulfilled the prophecy in the stat book, now he just needs to bring home a title or two.
The Rookie of the Year Factory
It seems like every decade the Dodgers brew something up on the farm. From 1979 to 1982, the Dodgers reeled off four straight Rookie of the Years in Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Howe, Fernando Valenzuela, and Steve Sax. In the 90s, the streak reached five in a row with Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo, and Todd Hollandsworth. The early 2000s took a break before Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger went back-to-back. If it weren’t for Acuña, you could argue Walker Buehler would have made it three in a row.
Of course, Seager isn’t on the postseason roster, but Bellinger and Buehler, both former top 100 prospects, are. Buehler seemingly builds a bigger name for himself every time out, his dominating Game 163 performance putting him on the national stage for those that don’t watch West Coast baseball.
As with the Braves it doesn’t end with the recent history. The roster is deep with top 50 prospects. Even guys like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda were top 50 prospects, but of course that was based on careers overseas and not in the minors.
Yasmani Grandal was a top 100 guy twice. There were quite a few that foresaw a Rookie of the Year award for Joc Pederson (myself included). While he has struggled over his first five years, that power is something and what helped propel him to a top 10 prospect. Yasiel Puig? He was a top 50 prospect and just about the most exciting rookie in 2013. He has had some well documented issues over his career, but has also showed plenty of the tools that made him one of baseball’s elite.
Surprisingly, Matt Kemp and Kenley Jansen were both in the top 100 just one time, both right before their big league debuts. They also have a few players — David Freese, Brian Dozier, and team-MVP (maybe?) Max Muncy — who were never highly rated. All three have had pretty admirable careers.
The Dodgers also have two of the elite players in the game. Clayton Kershaw was a top 10 prospect anywhere you looked prior to the 2008 season, and if I have to tell you whether or not he’s fit the bill, you haven’t watched baseball in ten years. Manny Machado will be one of the most sought after bats this coming off season. Machado was twice in the top 20 prospects in baseball, and has continued to show why seven years later. His power is undeniable, especially for his position, and he still has tools and athleticism across the board.
The Braves and Dodgers history on the farm have long been good ones, both experiencing a little bit of a drought early on in the 2000s but coming right back full circle now. Don’t be surprised if this is just the beginning of these two teams seeing each other in October.