The Atlanta Braves shocked many when they promoted two 19-year-olds to Double-A Mississippi to start the season. It’s something that’s rarely, if ever been done.
In fact, a check of the history of the Atlanta franchise shows that no highly rated high school draft pick has skipped High-A after spending a full season in Low-A. Steve Avery, the third pick in the 1988 draft, skipped Low-A and went straight to High-A, but that’s as close as we could find to any similar move.
So far, Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard have been tremendous. Soroka has a 3.42 ERA in his first five starts, while Allard has a 1.36 ERA in his first six starts for Mississippi.
It’s worth wondering how close these two could be to the big leagues. Could they make it to Atlanta sometime in 2018, as 20-year-olds?
The Braves do not need to rush these two, and this article by no means implies Soroka or Allard should pitch in Atlanta this season. The current struggles of Atlanta’s rotation may make you want to see the young pitchers, but they need to develop as long as possible.
Plus, there are two ahead of Soroka and Allard. Lucas Sims (2.83 ERA) and Sean Newcomb (3.08) have both started well in Triple-A. The Braves need to see what those two, both 23 years old, can do before thinking about the kids who have yet to reach 20 yet.
It’s worth looking at Allard to wonder how close he is to Atlanta. He’s allowed only 25 hits in 33 innings in his six starts, with only seven walks and 28 strikeouts. For his career, in 25 starts, Allard now has an ERA of 2.42, with 98 hits in 126.2 innings, 32 walks and 135 strikeouts.
Now, comparisons are always tricky and dangerous. But what kind of pitching prospect has the stats that can make them candidates for the big leagues at 20 years old?
Let’s look at two players, both highly-rated high school pitchers who were drafted early in the first round, to see what they did in the minors before being promoted. Like Allard, both of our examples are left-handed pitchers who dominated the minor leagues.
Clayton Kershaw made the big leagues on May 25, 2008. He was 20 years, 67 days old. Kershaw pitched in 51 games (47 starts) in the minor leagues. He allowed 165 hits in 233.1 innings, 63 earned runs, 94 walks and 296 strikeouts. Kershaw’s minor league ERA was 2.43.
What about Avery, someone Kershaw was compared to when he got to Los Angeles? Avery was tremendous in his minor-league career – 24-13, 2.34 ERA, 49 starts, 250 hits allowed in 319.1 innings, 83 earned runs, 94 walks and 314 strikeouts.
Avery made his debut with Atlanta at 20 years, 60 days old. That’s seven days shy of Kershaw when he made his first MLB start.
So, Avery’s minor league ERA was 2.34, Kershaw’s was 2.43 and Allard is at 2.42 after 25 starts. Let’s say Allard finishes the season in Double-A Mississippi. He could make 20 more starts to finish this season with 45 career starts – a tad shy of what Avery and Kershaw had before making their MLB debut.
If Allard made the Atlanta roster on Opening Day, 2018 he would be 20 years, seven-and-a-half months old, which would be older than what Avery and Kershaw were when they were called up.
Can Allard keep up this pace, with this success? If he finishes these next 20 starts and does well, the Braves may think Allard could be ready early next season. Perhaps they hold him back to get another season of control, which would have Allard up sometime in May.
For now, let Allard and Soroka continue their development. It’s fun to wonder when they’ll be up, but they do not need to be rushed. They are putting up numbers that will make the conversation interesting in the next 12 months.
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MINOR LEAGUE CAREER #s
AGE OF MLB DEBUT
20 yrs, 60 d.
20 yrs, 67 d.