Commentary by Joshua Mabry, Campus Carrier Asst. Sports Editor
Coming into the 2018 Major League Baseball (MLB) season, nobody thought that the Atlanta Braves had a shot at a successful season.
In 2017, the team ended with a 72-90 record and very few roster moves and trades were made by the front office staff during the offseason. This caused many fans and sports reporters to believe that there was nothing to be excited about on this year’s team.
Bleacher Report’s 2018 preseason rankings predicted that the Braves would finish third in their division, the National League East, with a 74-88 record.
The Braves have proven all of the doubters wrong by clinching the National League’s eastern division on Sept. 22 and posting an overall season record of 89-68 as of Sept. 26. This has caused many people to say that the Braves are ahead of schedule because the Braves were not expected to be a contender until 2020.
I have been a believer in the 2018 team since Opening Day when Nick Markakis, rightfielder, hit a walk-off home run to win the game. That particular game was exciting because the Braves did not give up until the end, which foreshadowed what was to come this season.
Promising players like leftfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., who won “Braves Organizational Player of the Year” in 2017, and right-handed pitcher Mike Soroka, who won “Braves Organizational Pitcher of the Year” in 2017, made their debuts in the 2018 season only adding to the talent already on the team.
Acuna Jr. has had an amazing season. His batting average is .289 with 119 hits, 60 runs batted in (RBI) and most impressively, 26 home runs. Acuna Jr. is a candidate for the “National League Rookie of the Year” award because of his outstanding season.
Soroka made his Major League debut on May 1, gave up one earned run and struck out five through six innings of work. Soroka made a few more starts after this and went 2-1 with a 3.51 earned run average (ERA). This is remarkable work for a rookie.
Soroka unfortunately spent most of the 2018 season on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.
Being a season-ticket holder at the Rome Braves, Atlanta’s Single-A affiliate, I have known that talent from guys like Acuna Jr. and Soroka was coming for a few years now. The Rome team that Acuna Jr. and Soroka were on in 2016 won the South Atlantic League championship.
Other guys on the 2016 Rome team include Kolby Allard and Touki Toussaint, who both made their MLB debuts with Atlanta this season. Max Fried was also a part of the 2016 Rome team. He made his MLB debut last season with the Braves. Allard, Toussaint and Fried have all contributed to the achievements of the 2018 Atlanta Braves.
This young talent is not the only thing that added to the success of the 2018 Atlanta club, however. Veterans like first baseman Freddie Freeman and Markakis have also had outstanding seasons.
Freeman has a .310 average and 95 RBI and 23 home runs, while Markakis has an average of .303 with 93 RBI and 14 home runs as of Sept. 26.
There are some other pitchers who helped contribute to the amazing year the Braves are having. Mike Foltynewicz, who has a 12-10 record with a 2.88 ERA as of Sept. 25, is one worth noting.
The future is undoubtedly bright for the Braves, both this season and in future seasons.
There is even more talent in the Braves minor leagues to be excited about.