The Rome Braves won the minor-league team of the year in 2016, primarily due to an exceptional pitching staff. They started to gel as the season went on, catching more and more attention every week. They eventually carried the team to the South Atlantic League title, garnering the attention of people all across the country.
Rome Braves Hold the Keys for Atlanta’s Success
The starting rotation for the playoff run included Max Fried, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka, and Touki Toussaint. All four are top prospects for the Braves, and could be significant contributors in the coming years.
The 22-year-old had Tommy John surgery in 2014, causing him to miss the entire 2015 season. Due to that missed time, he started the season slowly. In the postseason, however, he proved why he was a one-time top prospect and drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft. He appeared in two games, going 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA and a .135 batting average against over 14.2 innings. He struck out 24 batters while only allowing four walks. That’s utter dominance.
He, too, has an injury history. Entering the 2015 draft, he had a back issue, causing him to slide to the Braves at 14th overall. The back injury seems to be behind him, and so do his peers. While only being 19 years old, he appeared in two postseason games. He got one win and 10 strikeouts, along with a .196 batting average against and a 0.00 ERA in 12 innings of work. While he still has some ways to go, this performance has already jolted him to the number four prospect in the Braves organization, per MLB.com.
Soroka was also selected in the first round of the 2015 draft by the Braves. Like Allard, he is just 19 and had an amazing year. In the postseason, he went 1-1 with a 0.61 ERA and a .241 batting average against. ON any other team, those numbers would be top-of-the-line, but not for the Braves. He was arguably the worst starter for Rome, despite allowing just one run in 14.2 innings.
The Braves acquired Toussaint from the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015. He was a first round pick in 2014 and has top-of-the-rotation stuff. The 20-year-old pitched in one playoff game, going eight innings and only allowing one run. He did not walk anyone and struck out six. This is a very positive sign. The biggest knock on Toussaint was his control. In the past, he had a hard time throwing strikes consistently. If he has figured that out, he might turn out to be the best in the entire crop.
This group of players has the potential to be very special. While they might get split up and go to different affiliations next year, they each can carry the motivation and drive that pushed one another to peak performances at Rome in 2016. John Coppolella has made it a priority to acquire pitching in any way possible, and this core of prospects is the epitome of his philosophy. This is not the end for Rome, as next year the top three players the Braves drafted are expected to join the rotation. Hopefully, they can become the next great pitching corps in the Braves organization.