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Braves' Davidson homers twice for 2nd straight game

MLB.com

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Braxton Davidson is getting used to jogging around the bases in the Arizona Fall League.

After hitting a pair of homers on Tuesday, Davidson belted two more during Peoria's 6-0 win over Scottsdale on Wednesday at Peoria Sports Complex. The Braves' prospect went deep four times in a span of five at-bats over the past two games.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Braxton Davidson is getting used to jogging around the bases in the Arizona Fall League.

After hitting a pair of homers on Tuesday, Davidson belted two more during Peoria's 6-0 win over Scottsdale on Wednesday at Peoria Sports Complex. The Braves' prospect went deep four times in a span of five at-bats over the past two games.

"I feel good, man, like I said yesterday, just trying to have quality at-bats, putting swings on balls and swinging at good pitches," said Davidson, who leads the Fall League with five home runs. "I've been seeing the ball well and getting my timing right."

Gameday

Can Davidson remember a stretch as dominant as this during his pro career?

"Nothing like this," Davidson said. "This is probably like the best baseball I've played in a while."

Over five Minor League seasons, Davidson has two multi-homer games, both of which came this year -- June 9 and Aug. 8 -- for Class A Advanced Florida. He has never hit three home runs in a game. But he hit two quickly on Wednesday.

With one out in the first inning, Davidson belted a three-run homer off Phillies farmhand Tyler Viza to open the scoring. Davidson drove the ball to straightaway center field, and it hit off the batter's eye above the yellow home run marker.

In the third, Davidson went deep off Viza again, hitting an opposite-field solo homer to left for a 4-0 Peoria lead.

"I felt like I got it good," Davidson said. "He started me off with a curveball for a strike. I've been working trying to stay more left-center, center-field approach, not trying to spin off balls. He just threw me a pitch I could handle on the outer third, and I just took it that way."

Davidson struck out swinging in the fifth, but he notched his second straight three-hit game when he singled in the seventh.

Over his last six AFL games, Davidson has collected all five of his Fall League homers and all 11 of his RBIs. During that stretch, he has raised his average from .067 to .275. Entering Tuesday, Davidson was batting .161.

Davidson's early run support was more than enough for Peoria as Mariners No. 27 prospect Anthony Misiewicz and five relievers combined to shut out Scottsdale, allowing only five hits.

Davidson flashed his power potential during the Minor League season, when he hit 20 home runs at the Class A Advanced level. However, the Braves' prospect hit .171 with 213 strikeouts in 416 at-bats.

Strikeouts have been an issue for Davidson in the past, but he "100 percent" feels that the extra at-bats during the AFL season are helping him become a better hitter.

"All these guys can play, good hitters, really good pitchers, good arms around here," Davidson said. "You've just got to step up to the plate, rise to the occasion, and hopefully I can keep it going for the rest of the Fall League."

Jake Rill is an editorial producer for MLB.com based in Phoenix.

Atlanta Braves

Davidson powers Peoria with pair of home runs

MLB.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Braxton Davidson led Peoria in a high-scoring Arizona Fall League affair on Tuesday, belting two home runs in the Javelinas' 12-7 win over Surprise at Surprise Stadium.

Davidson hit a solo home run in the sixth, followed by a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh that gave Peoria an 8-6 lead. The Braves prospect has three home runs during the Fall League season.

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Braxton Davidson led Peoria in a high-scoring Arizona Fall League affair on Tuesday, belting two home runs in the Javelinas' 12-7 win over Surprise at Surprise Stadium.

Davidson hit a solo home run in the sixth, followed by a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh that gave Peoria an 8-6 lead. The Braves prospect has three home runs during the Fall League season.

"Right situation, right time," Davidson said. "Just trying to put good swings on balls, trying to find the barrel and just be more consistent with that."

Gameday

Davidson went 3-for-5, also hitting a double. He is batting .222 with seven RBIs in 10 AFL games.

2018 Arizona Fall League rosters

Since being selected in the first round of the 2014 Draft, Davidson has hit .213/.341/.349 over five Minor League seasons. He hit .171/.281/.365 with 20 home runs and 64 RBIs, both career highs, in 121 games for Class A Advanced Florida in 2018.

"I had a little bit of a rough year, with the strikeouts and stuff like that," Davidson said. "But just trying to make contact, hard contact, put good swings on balls, have quality at-bats and see what happens from there."

Davidson is enjoying his time in the Fall League, but he is also out to prove something.

"Baseball's a tough game, mentally and physically," Davidson said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I'm out here with a bunch of good guys, guys that can hit. There's a bunch of good ball players out here. I believe I'm one of them."

After only playing in the outfield in his first three full pro seasons from 2015-17, Davidson moved to first base, a familiar position, this past season.

"I've proved I can play in the outfield for three years," Davidson said. "Going back to first base is my natural position. I played there all in high school, so I'm glad I'm back over there. It's a little bit more comfortable for me."

Davidson wasn't the only Peoria player to hit two home runs. Austin Allen, the Padres' No. 25 prospect, also went deep in consecutive innings, hitting homers in the seventh and eighth. Allen went 2-for-5 with five RBIs.

Drake Dunaway is a senior journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Atlanta Braves

Pipeline names Braves' Prospects of the Year

RHP Toussaint, third baseman Riley selected for honor
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Though the Braves introduced Ronald Acuna Jr. and many of their top pitching prospects to the Major League level this year, they still have an impressive farm system that was enriched this year by the progress made by both third baseman Austin Riley and right-handed pitcher Touki Toussaint.

MLB Pipeline has named Riley the Braves' Player of the Year and Toussaint the club's Pitcher of the Year. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.

ATLANTA -- Though the Braves introduced Ronald Acuna Jr. and many of their top pitching prospects to the Major League level this year, they still have an impressive farm system that was enriched this year by the progress made by both third baseman Austin Riley and right-handed pitcher Touki Toussaint.

MLB Pipeline has named Riley the Braves' Player of the Year and Toussaint the club's Pitcher of the Year. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

Riley ranks as baseball's 43rd-best prospect, the game's No. 3 third-base prospect and the fifth-best prospect within Atlanta's system, per MLB Pipeline. Toussaint ranks as the 40th-best overall prospect and the Braves' fourth-best prospect.

Toussaint began this season with Double-A Mississippi and ended it as part of the bullpen Atlanta used against the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. The 22-year-old right-hander still has some control issues. But the high walk rate he produced (6.5 walks per nine innings) he produced at the Major League level was about double what he constructed as he posted a 2.38 ERA over 136 1/3 innings for Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett this year.

Video: STL@ATL: Toussaint K's 8 in pivotal game vs. Cards

Because he did not begin pitching on a regular basis until he was 15 years old, there's still seemingly plenty of potential growth for Toussaint, who produced a 4.03 ERA over seven appearances (five starts) for Atlanta this year. He allowed one run over six innings when he made his Major League debut against the Marlins on Aug. 13. The Braves brought him back to the Majors a month later and allowed him to serve as their sixth starter throughout September.

Riley also started this season for Mississippi and might have reached the Majors had he not missed nearly all of June with a sprained right knee. The big third baseman combined to hit .294 with 19 homers and an .882 OPS with Mississippi and Gwinnett.

Video: Top Prospects: Austin Riley, 3B, Braves

Even though Johan Camargo enjoyed a successful season for Atlanta, there's still a chance Riley proves to be the club's third baseman of the future. The 21-year-old slugger has legitimate power potential, but there are concerns about the .297 strikeout percentage he had this year.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Touki Toussaint

Wright, No. 2 prospect, among Braves' callups

Special to MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Reinforcements have arrived at SunTrust Park, as the Braves added seven players to their active roster Saturday, including three of their top pitching prospects.

Right-handers Touki Toussaint and Bryse Wilson rejoined the big league club after making their debuts in August, and perhaps most notably, the Braves selected the contract of their No. 2 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, right-hander Kyle Wright from Triple-A Gwinnett. MLB Pipeline ranks Wright as the No. 24 overall prospect.

View Full Game Coverage

ATLANTA -- Reinforcements have arrived at SunTrust Park, as the Braves added seven players to their active roster Saturday, including three of their top pitching prospects.

Right-handers Touki Toussaint and Bryse Wilson rejoined the big league club after making their debuts in August, and perhaps most notably, the Braves selected the contract of their No. 2 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, right-hander Kyle Wright from Triple-A Gwinnett. MLB Pipeline ranks Wright as the No. 24 overall prospect.

View Full Game Coverage

The Braves also recalled outfielder Michael Reed, activated right-hander Shane Carle from the 10-day disabled list (right shoulder inflammation), selected outfielder Lane Adams and activated recently acquired catcher Rene Rivera.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Braves transitioned closer Arodys Vizcaino to the 60-day DL as he continues to recover from right shoulder inflammation. The move was mainly procedural, as his rehab schedule is the same, and he'll be eligible to return on Sept. 12.

Wright, a first-round Draft pick in 2017, has been a starter throughout his pro career but recently transitioned to the bullpen in advance of a potential callup, making three scoreless, one-inning appearances with Gwinnett. The last time he consistently pitched in relief was in '15 when he and Vanderbilt teammate Dansby Swanson played in the College World Series.

"One, it was to keep an eye on my innings because I was starting to getting up there," Wright said. "First full year, you want to play it safe. They said there was a chance [of getting called up]. You try to take that with a grain of salt and try to do what you [can] to get better. Getting to do [pitch in relief] my freshman year of college kind of brought me back, it brought up some good memories, so I was able to adjust easily."

Braves manager Brian Snitker expects Wright, Toussaint and Wilson to mainly pitch out of the bullpen, but all three pitchers are stretched out in case they need to make a spot start or pitch in long relief. However, Snitker said with 17 pitchers on the active roster, he won't be able to give everyone consistent innings.

"We're going to use them however we can use them to try to win a game," Snitker said. "I'm not going to worry. They've all got plenty of innings, and we'll pitch them as they see fit. But there's not going to be a push or anything to make sure guys get innings."

The expanded rosters in September will also allow Snitker to be more creative with substitutions, given that he gained a third catcher -- Rivera was claimed off waivers on Wednesday -- and a pinch-run option in Adams.

Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves, Touki Toussaint, Bryse Wilson

Wilson shows promise in confident debut

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Less than five months since beginning this season at the Class A Advanced level and a little more than 24 hours after learning he would make his Major League debut, Bryse Wilson entered the history books and provided another glimpse of the pitching depth within the Braves' organization.

As he stood on the mound at PNC Park during the Braves' 1-0 win over the Pirates on Monday, Wilson added to Pittsburgh's recent offensive woes and became the youngest Major League pitcher on record to win a 1-0 game in his big league debut. The stoic 20-year-old right-hander allowed three hits and pitched around three walks over five steady innings.

View Full Game Coverage

PITTSBURGH -- Less than five months since beginning this season at the Class A Advanced level and a little more than 24 hours after learning he would make his Major League debut, Bryse Wilson entered the history books and provided another glimpse of the pitching depth within the Braves' organization.

As he stood on the mound at PNC Park during the Braves' 1-0 win over the Pirates on Monday, Wilson added to Pittsburgh's recent offensive woes and became the youngest Major League pitcher on record to win a 1-0 game in his big league debut. The stoic 20-year-old right-hander allowed three hits and pitched around three walks over five steady innings.

View Full Game Coverage

"That's about as good as it gets," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I was impressed all the way around. He carried himself like I expected."

Video: ATL@PIT: Wilson on his 1st win in the Majors

Wilson's meteoric rise through Atlanta's system was accelerated around noon ET on Sunday, when he learned he was being promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett to start Monday's game. A few hours later, he boarded the Braves' charter flight to Pittsburgh and had some time to think about all that has transpired since the Braves selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft.

"It feels like forever ago," Wilson said when asked about the days he spent as a football and baseball star at Orange High School in North Carolina.

Video: ATL@PIT: Wilson escapes a jam after inducing DP

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the 13th-best prospect in Atlanta's farm system, Wilson certainly didn't appear to be just a little more than two years removed from high school during this 87-pitch debut. He leaned on a fastball that touched 97 mph, found success with a slider that has improved significantly since he turned pro and competed with his changeup, the influential pitch he developed over the past year.

"I kind of expected to have a good year, but this year has been a lot of fun," Wilson said. "I've just been blessed with opportunities."

Wilson will return to Gwinnett's roster on Tuesday. But his debut essentially guaranteed that when rosters expand in September, he will return, either to make additional starts or to be used as a reliever. The Braves could opt to use him and another hard-throwing top prospect, Kyle Wright, to add depth to the bullpen.

• Wilson denied 1st career hit on rare 9-3 putout

"We knew this was going to be one start right now, and it was good to see," Snitker said. "He's got to feel really good about everything he's worked toward and getting a win in his first game in a game like this. You're going to see him again for probably a long time."

Wilson -- at 20 years, 243 days old -- became the youngest Major Leaguer to start a game this season. He also joined Mike Soroka and Kolby Allard as Braves starting pitchers who have made their debuts before turning 21 this year. Each earned a win in his debut.

"For as young as they are, they've been pretty impressive," said Braves outfielder Nick Markakis, who plated the lone run in Monday's victory.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves

Braves activate LHP Freeman, option Allard

Reliever looks to regain command in return from shoulder injury
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Instead of sticking to their plan of giving Sam Freeman another Minor League rehab appearance, the Braves activated the left-handed reliever from the disabled list before Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Rockies.

Freeman returns to Atlanta's bullpen hoping to distance himself from the second-highest walk rate among qualified Major League relievers -- 6.13 walks per nine innings -- that led to a 5.45 ERA over 39 2/3 innings.

View Full Game Coverage

ATLANTA -- Instead of sticking to their plan of giving Sam Freeman another Minor League rehab appearance, the Braves activated the left-handed reliever from the disabled list before Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Rockies.

Freeman returns to Atlanta's bullpen hoping to distance himself from the second-highest walk rate among qualified Major League relievers -- 6.13 walks per nine innings -- that led to a 5.45 ERA over 39 2/3 innings.

View Full Game Coverage

Once Freeman allowed opponents to hit .327 with a .438 on-base percentage over 16 appearances from June 15 to July 28, the Braves placed him on the 10-day disabled list with left shoulder inflammation.

Freeman labored through an Aug. 12 rehab appearance for Class A Rome, but then he seemingly regained some arm strength during two appearances for Triple-A Gwinnett. He pitched around a walk in both of the scoreless innings he recorded for the Stripers.

Rookie Kolby Allard was optioned to Gwinnett to create a roster spot for Freeman, who produced a 2.55 ERA over 60 innings (58 appearances) for Atlanta last season.

Toussaint tunes up
Touki Toussaint prepped for a return to the Majors with nine strikeouts and one run allowed over six innings in Gwinnett's win over Buffalo on Saturday night. The Braves have not made an announcement, but it appears Toussaint will return to the Majors to start against the Marlins on Thursday or Friday.

Toussaint allowed one run and two hits over six innings when he made his Major League debut against the Marlins last week. MLB Pipeline ranks him as baseball's 76th-best prospect and the seventh best in the Braves' system.

Prospect watch
Third baseman Austin Riley -- Atlanta's No. 4 prospect and 43rd overall -- hit .308 with a .922 OPS and 10 homers over 222 plate appearances for Double-A Mississippi and Gwinnett before spraining his right knee on June 3. Over 146 plate appearances since returning from a month-long stint on the disabled list, he has batted .262 with a .717 OPS and just one home run.

Riley has also struck out once every 3.18 at-bats while with Mississippi and Gwinnett. His struggles have likely lessened the likelihood he will begin the 2019 season as Atlanta's third baseman. But at 21 years old, he still has plenty of time to live up to his tremendous potential.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Kolby Allard, Sam Freeman

Toussaint, Fried could rejoin 6-man rotation

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Touki Toussaint is a little more than a week away from returning to the Majors and Max Fried has recovered sooner than expected, so the Braves will have the option to resume using a six-man rotation next week.

When Fried strained his left groin during last week's start against the Nationals, the Braves initially feared he would be sidelined until September. But the young southpaw has made a quick recovery and is scheduled to make a rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday.

View Full Game Coverage

ATLANTA -- Touki Toussaint is a little more than a week away from returning to the Majors and Max Fried has recovered sooner than expected, so the Braves will have the option to resume using a six-man rotation next week.

When Fried strained his left groin during last week's start against the Nationals, the Braves initially feared he would be sidelined until September. But the young southpaw has made a quick recovery and is scheduled to make a rehab start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday.

View Full Game Coverage

If all goes well for Fried, there is a chance he could make his next start for Atlanta as early as next Wednesday in Pittsburgh. His return would allow the Braves to once again creatively construct the six-man rotation that was put in place earlier this month to allow each starter to pitch with an extra day of rest.

But the Braves might delay returning to a six-man rotation until Toussaint can return to the Majors.

After Toussaint limited the Marlins to one run over six innings in his Major League debut on Monday, he was sent back to Triple-A Gwinnett with the understanding that if he was not part of a disabled-list transaction, he would not be eligible to return to Atlanta's roster before Aug. 23.

Video: MIA@ATL: Toussaint goes six strong in debut for win

If Toussaint starts for Gwinnett on Saturday, he would be lined up to make the Aug. 23 start in Miami on regular rest.

The Braves have a scheduled off-day on Aug. 27. If Fried starts on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, there would not necessarily be a need for Toussaint to become the sixth man in the rotation until Sept. 2.

Odds and Ends 
• Left-handed reliever Sam Freeman could be activated from the disabled list early next week. Freeman is currently scheduled to make two more rehab appearances for Gwinnett.

• Right-handed reliever Shane Carle is currently working out at the Braves' Spring Training complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Carle was placed on the DL last week with right shoulder inflammation. He has not been cleared to begin throwing activities.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Max Fried, Touki Toussaint

This is how the Braves got so good so fast

MLB.com

Teams with a strong farm system often surge at the big league level sooner than expected. The most famous recent examples are the Cubs and Astros, who suddenly reversed years of losing with postseason appearances in 2015, a prelude to winning World Series in the next two seasons.

The Red Sox went from last place in the American League East in 2015 to first place in '16, and they haven't looked back since. The Twins' youngsters needed a little more time to percolate, then sparked a 36-game improvement in '17 that made Minnesota the first big league club to reach the playoffs following a 100-loss season.

Teams with a strong farm system often surge at the big league level sooner than expected. The most famous recent examples are the Cubs and Astros, who suddenly reversed years of losing with postseason appearances in 2015, a prelude to winning World Series in the next two seasons.

The Red Sox went from last place in the American League East in 2015 to first place in '16, and they haven't looked back since. The Twins' youngsters needed a little more time to percolate, then sparked a 36-game improvement in '17 that made Minnesota the first big league club to reach the playoffs following a 100-loss season.

:: Complete prospect coverage ::

Now the Braves are making the jump, leading the National League East and challenging for the best record in the Senior Circuit after posting four straight losing seasons from 2014-17. After the first of those sub-.500 years, they fired GM Frank Wren and fully committed to rebuilding a farm system that had fallen into disrepair.

However, unlike the Braves' NL East dynasty of the 1990s and early 2000s, this team has not built through the Draft, but instead found alternative methods of bringing in talent. To illustrate this, let's take a look at their lineup in 2005 -- the last of their record 14 straight division titles -- compared to their lineup today.

2005 (How acquired)
C: Johnny Estrada (Trade)
1B: Adam LaRoche (Draft)
2B: Marcus Giles (Draft)
SS: Rafael Furcal (International free agent)
3B: Chipper Jones (Draft)
LF: Kelly Johnson (Draft)
CF: Andruw Jones (International free agent)
RF: Jeff Francoeur (Draft)

2018 (How acquired)
C: Kurt Suzuki (MLB Free agent)
1B: Freddie Freeman (Draft)
2B: Ozzie Albies (International free agent)
SS: Dansby Swanson (Trade)
3B: Johan Camargo (International free agent)
LF: Ronald Acuna Jr. (International free agent)
CF: Ender Inciarte (Trade)
RF: Nick Markakis (MLB free agent)

That 2005 team had five draftees and two international amateur free agents among its regulars, while the current squad has only one drafted player in its everyday lineup (Freeman). So how did they do this? Let's break it down.

Video: Acuna Jr. hits 6 homers over 5 straight games

International focus

Under former president of baseball operations John Hart and GM John Coppolella, Atlanta engineered a slew of veterans-for-prospects trades, acquiring nine former first-rounders and four future Draft picks (more on that later). But perhaps more than anything, the biggest shift was the Braves' focus on the international amateur market, though overly so, with Hart stripped of power and later stepping down, Coppolella forced to resign and subsequently banned from MLB for life and 13 signees declared free agents after an investigation revealed the club had violated signing rules from 2015-17.

Interestingly, Atlanta's two best young players -- and two of the best in baseball -- are international signees from the Wren administration, and predate the international violations. The Braves landed Albies for $350,000 out of Curacao in July 2013, then grabbed Acuna for $100,000 out of Venezuela a year later.

Albies, now 21, already has 21 homers two-thirds of the way through his first full season as a big leaguer after never hitting more than nine in any Minor League season. Acuna, now 20, was the consensus Minor League Player of the Year in 2017 and has had no problems transitioning to the Majors. He has led off his past three games with home runs, giving him 19 in 67 games and becoming the youngest player to homer in five straight contests.

Video: MIL@ATL: Albies belts a go-ahead solo home run in 7th

They're well-rounded players and much more than sluggers, with Albies worth 3.5 Wins Above Replacement and Acuna worth 2.8 so far this year. Only three teams in baseball history have had two players 21 or younger compile 2.5 WAR in the same season: the 1959 Giants (Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey), the '39 Red Sox (Bobby Doerr, Ted Williams) and the 1893 Baltimore Orioles (Joe Kelley, John McGraw). All six of those players are enshrined in the Hall of Fame, incidentally.

Third baseman Johan Camargo (age 24) was another astute international signing ($42,000 out of Panama in 2010) under Wren, but many of the Braves' young standouts have Hart and Coppolella's fingerprints all over them.

Outside-the-box trades

Many clubs are hesitant to trade cost-controlled players, including homegrown guys they have given long-term contracts to prior to free agency. The Braves, however, have exploited this, and brought back a lot of value in the process.

Perhaps the most famous example is when they acquired Swanson (age 24), the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 Draft, along with defensive standout Inciarte in a trade that sent Shelby Miller to the Diamondbacks and could go down as one of the most lopsided trades in history and the standout transaction of the Hart/Coppolella era. Of course, that trade was only possible because Hart flipped Jason Heyward to the Cardinals in a trade for Miller prior to the 2015 season. At the time, Heyward was a year from free agency, while Miller had five years of team control left, so it was a nice bit of arbitrage.

Along those lines, the clubs' two best starting pitchers, Mike Foltynewicz (age 26) and Sean Newcomb (age 25), arrived in deals with the Astros for Evan Gattis and the Angels for Andrelton Simmons. The Simmons deal was notable because it came in the fall of 2015, just a few months after he had signed a seven-year, $58 million extension.

Video: MIA@ATL: Folty K's 7 over 8 frames, gets RBI in win

The Braves first demonstrated a willingness trade homegrown players signed to long-term deals the previous April, when Hart sent closer Craig Kimbrel -- given a four-year, $42 million extension by Wren in 2014 -- and Melvin Upton Jr. to the Padres in a deal that brought back Matt Wisler (then the top prospect in the trade), Jordan Paroubeck, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin and a 2015 competitive balance Draft pick, which they turned into third baseman Austin Riley at No. 41 overall. That pick may end up being the key to the deal, as Riley now ranks as their No. 4 prospect and No. 43 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list.

Other less-heralded -- but equally shrewd -- trades are when they acquired 21-year-old flame-throwing lefty Luiz Gohara from the Mariners in a swap that saw them surrender Mallex Smith, and the infamous deal with Arizona in which they sent infielder to Phil Gosselin to the D-backs in exchange for Bronson Arroyo's onerous contract and right-hander Touki Toussaint, who now, at 22, looks like a potential lynchpin of the rotation.

Video: MLB Tonight on Toussaint's big league debut

Best of the rest

Of course, the Braves do have some key contributors who came from the Draft, as well as Major League free agency.

Co-closer A.J. Minter (age 24) was a supplemental second-round pick in 2015 despite having Tommy John surgery earlier that spring, and couple of other pitchers who have made cameos this year and should play larger roles in this future are 20-year-olds Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka, both of whom were first-round picks in '15.

And, of course, there is Freeman, who at 28 years old remains Atlanta's most dangerous hitter. He was the Braves' second-round pick back in 2007 (Atlanta's top pick that year was Heyward).

Video: MIA@ATL: Freeman drives a solo home run to center

In terms of Major League free agents, right fielder Markakis and starter Anibal Sanchez are having career renaissances at age 34, while the over-30 catching duo of Suzuki and Tyler Flowers has been surprisingly effective. But make no mistake -- this is a young team that's only going to get younger in the next couple of years.

The Braves placed second in MLB Pipeline's midseason farm-system rankings and top all organizations with nine players on our Top 100 Prospects list: Soroka, right-handers Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson, Riley, outfielder Cristian Pache, Gohara, Toussaint, Allard and outfielder Drew Waters. They're contending ahead of schedule, and 2018 should only be the beginning of an extended run of success.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Atlanta Braves

Toussaint on track for MLB debut in twin bill

Braves' No. 7 prospect slated to start opener vs. Marlins
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- As soon as Touki Toussaint was scratched from Friday night's start with Triple-A Gwinnett, Braves fans gained further reason to eagerly anticipate his Major League debut.

It appears that will come at SunTrust Park on Monday, when Toussaint is expected to be promoted from Gwinnett to start the opener in a doubleheader against the Marlins.

ATLANTA -- As soon as Touki Toussaint was scratched from Friday night's start with Triple-A Gwinnett, Braves fans gained further reason to eagerly anticipate his Major League debut.

It appears that will come at SunTrust Park on Monday, when Toussaint is expected to be promoted from Gwinnett to start the opener in a doubleheader against the Marlins.

With Max Fried on the disabled list, Luiz Gohara dealing with a sore left shoulder and Kolby Allard showing he is not yet Major League ready, the Braves don't have many other attractive options beyond Toussaint, who ranks as baseball's 76th-best prospect and the Braves' seventh-best prospect per MLB Pipeline.

Toussaint has posted a 2.10 ERA over the 12 starts he's combined to make for Double-A Mississippi and Gwinnett dating back to May 24. The 22-year-old right-hander has a 2.01 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 13 walks over the 31 1/3 innings he has totaled through his first five starts for Gwinnett.

With the Braves planning on using a five-man rotation, Toussaint will likely make just one start and then return to Gwinnett to extend his development. He has 28 starts above the Class A Advanced level.

Video: Top Prospects: Touki Toussaint, RHP, Braves

To get Toussaint from the D-backs during the 2015 season, the Braves exchanged Phil Gosselin and agreed to pay the remainder of the $10 million owed to Bronson Arroyo while understanding the veteran hurler would never throw a pitch for them after completing his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Touki Toussaint

Toussaint being considered for spot start

Prospect could get called up for Monday's doubleheader
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- As soon as Touki Toussaint was scratched from Friday night's start with Triple-A Gwinnett, Braves fans gained further reason to eagerly anticipate his Major League debut.

The Braves have not announced their plan for Toussaint. But it appears Toussaint will be promoted from Gwinnett to make a start in Monday's doubleheader against the Marlins.

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ATLANTA -- As soon as Touki Toussaint was scratched from Friday night's start with Triple-A Gwinnett, Braves fans gained further reason to eagerly anticipate his Major League debut.

The Braves have not announced their plan for Toussaint. But it appears Toussaint will be promoted from Gwinnett to make a start in Monday's doubleheader against the Marlins.

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With Max Fried on the disabled list, Luiz Gohara dealing with a sore left shoulder and Kolby Allard showing he is not yet Major League ready, the Braves really don't have any other attractive options beyond Toussaint, who ranks as baseball's 76th-best prospect and the Braves' seventh-best prospect per MLB Pipeline.

Toussaint has posted a 2.10 ERA over the 12 starts he's combined to make for Double-A Mississippi and Gwinnett dating back to May 24. The 22-year-old right-hander has a 2.01 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 13 walks over the 31 1/3 innings he has totaled through his first five starts for Gwinnett.

With the Braves planning on using a five-man rotation, Toussaint would likely make just one start and then return to Gwinnett to extend his development. He has totaled 28 starts above the Class A Advanced level.

Video: Top Prospects: Touki Toussaint, RHP, Braves

To get Toussaint from the D-backs during the 2015 season, the Braves exchanged Phil Gosselin and agreed to pay the remainder of the $10 million owed to Bronson Arroyo while understanding the veteran hurler would never throw a pitch for them after completing his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

Toussaint's stock dropped during his first two full years in the Braves' organization, and there were legitimate doubts about his future last year when he posted a 5.04 ERA over 19 starts for Class A Advanced Florida. But after starting this season slow, he has proven more consistent with what has the potential to be a plus curveball at the Major League level.

Sanchez improves
Anibal Sanchez hobbled around Nationals Park's visitor's clubhouse in painful fashion late Thursday afternoon and then boarded the Braves' charter flight wearing a walking boot. But after arriving at SunTrust Park on Friday, the veteran hurler had improved enough to lead the Braves to believe he will make Tuesday's scheduled start against the Marlins.

"He came in here today considerably better than when we got here [Thursday night]," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "So, right now, unless he shows up tomorrow and relapses, he's planning on making his next start."

Sanchez exited Thursday's start against the Nationals after being struck on the left calf with Michael A. Taylor's comebacker to end the second inning.

Video: ATL@WSH: Sanchez hit by comebacker, later exits game

Roster moves
The Braves purchased right-hander Chad Sobotka's contract and recalled left-hander Chad Bell from Gwinnett before Friday's series opener against the Brewers. The two relievers filled the roster spots vacated when Wes Parsons and Adam McCreery were optioned to Gwinnett immediately after making their respective Major League debuts after Sanchez exited Thursday.

Sobotka has produced a 2.14 ERA while combining to make 25 appearances with Florida, Mississippi and Gwinnett this year. The 6-foot-7 hurler was taken in the fourth round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Bell posted a 7.31 ERA over the 31 appearances he combined to make for Detroit within the past two seasons. 

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Anibal Sanchez, Touki Toussaint

Allard, Toussaint options for Braves' spot start

Atlanta hosting Marlins for doubleheader on Monday
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- With their pitching depth diminished by Max Fried's latest injury and concerns about Kolby Allard's readiness, the Braves will once again begin using a five-man starting rotation. But they will likely need to promote at least one of their prospects to start a game in Monday's doubleheader against the Marlins.

As the Nationals teed off against the mediocre fastball, changeup and curveball Allard offered after he was forced to relieve Fried in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Nationals, it was apparent he was not ready for the Major League level.

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WASHINGTON -- With their pitching depth diminished by Max Fried's latest injury and concerns about Kolby Allard's readiness, the Braves will once again begin using a five-man starting rotation. But they will likely need to promote at least one of their prospects to start a game in Monday's doubleheader against the Marlins.

As the Nationals teed off against the mediocre fastball, changeup and curveball Allard offered after he was forced to relieve Fried in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Nationals, it was apparent he was not ready for the Major League level.

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But as he celebrates his 21st birthday on Monday, Allard might find himself starting one of the games in that twin bill against Miami. The Braves' other choice would be Touki Toussaint. But with Toussaint scheduled to start for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday, it might not make sense to push him back two days to make what would be his Major League debut.

Toussaint, Allard among Braves' top prospects

Braves manager Brian Snitker has not decided who will be paired with Mike Foltynewicz to start on Monday. But his options are limited -- as he tries to stick to the team's previous plan of creatively constructing a six-man rotation to allow every starter an extra day of rest this month without missing a start.

"I think when we can we'll probably still try to do that, when it's right," Snitker said.

As the Braves find themselves on the second day of a 48-day stretch with 48 games scheduled, they don't know when they might be able to turn to Luiz Gohara, who has been sidelined since July 29 with a sore left shoulder.

Fried strained his left groin as he completed just two innings in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader. The 24-year-old southpaw will likely be sidelined the rest of this month, but the Braves are hopeful he'll be available to be used as a starter or reliever in September.

Video: ATL@WSH: Fried exits with groin strain after the 2nd

Toussaint has posted a 2.01 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 13 walks over 31 1/3 innings since being promoted to Gwinnett. Once the Braves determine he is Major League ready, they can place him in one of the two vacant spots on their 40-man roster.

Although Toussaint might be the most attractive option to start Monday, if the Braves choose not to push him back a couple of days, Allard would seemingly be the only remaining option. The 20-year-old southpaw's fastball has averaged 89.3 mph as he has allowed 15 hits and eight earned runs while recording just two strikeouts through seven innings in the Majors.

Video: Top Prospects: Touki Toussaint, RHP, Braves

Odds and ends
• With Dansby Swanson sitting against a left-handed starter again on Wednesday, Snitker opted to position Charlie Culberson at third base and move Johan Camargo to shortstop. Last week, he kept Camargo at third and had Culberson at short.

• When Shane Carle experienced shoulder soreness during the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader, the Braves opted to place him on the disabled list and recall fellow right-handed reliever Wes Parsons. Parsons' late Monday afternoon flight from Buffalo was canceled. So by the time he got another flight, his cab did not near Nationals Park until the conclusion of the second game.

Jason Hursh, a first-round Draft selection in 2013, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Double-A Mississippi on Wednesday.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Kolby Allard, Touki Toussaint

Prospect Allard wins debut, singles in 1st AB

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Even though Kolby Allard knew he would be sent back to Triple-A Gwinnett following Tuesday's start, that didn't stop the 20-year-old left-hander from garnering a few firsts in the big leagues.

And he has a collection of baseballs from an 11-6 win over the Marlins to prove it.

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ATLANTA -- Even though Kolby Allard knew he would be sent back to Triple-A Gwinnett following Tuesday's start, that didn't stop the 20-year-old left-hander from garnering a few firsts in the big leagues.

And he has a collection of baseballs from an 11-6 win over the Marlins to prove it.

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"First hit, first pitch, first strikeout," Allard said. "Those are the three things I'm keeping."

Video: MIA@ATL: Allard gets Straily swinging for 1st MLB K

Some wet Georgia weather at SunTrust Park nearly kept Allard from making his Major League debut with the Braves, and by 9 p.m. ET, the rain was still coming down as he made his way out to the mound to face the Marlins.

After giving up back-to-back singles to open the game, Allard settled in with his four-seam fastball, which remained in the high-80s and low-90s throughout his first start in the Majors.

In earning the victory, Allard became the youngest Braves left-handed starter to win his debut since Charlie Vaughan did so Sept. 3, 1966, at the age of 18 years, 332 days.

"I thought he handled himself great," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He wasn't overwhelmed with the situation with the long rain delay and making [his] debut."

Video: MIA@ATL: Snitker on Allard, Inciarte's 4-hit game

Allard, though, would be the first to say Tuesday night's start wasn't his best. Atlanta's No. 8 prospect (92nd overall), according to MLB Pipeline, was chased with no outs in the sixth inning after giving up five runs (four earned) on nine hits, with two walks and one strikeout. He threw 81 pitches (48 strikes).

"It obviously wasn't the way I drew it up," Allard said, "but it's a surreal moment and one I'll never forget."

Video: MIA@ATL: Allard retires Prado, strands bases loaded

Besides making his Major League debut on the mound, Allard also came through in the box. Allard lined a single to right field in his first Major League at-bat in the second.

"It was a nice swing, huh?" Allard joked.

The 20-year-old southpaw also laid down a pair of sacrifice bunts before his night ended.

Video: MIA@ATL: Allard singles in 1st Major League at-bat

And though it was a night of firsts for Allard, it will be short-lived as Snitker confirmed prior to the game that Allard will be sent back down to Triple-A.

According to Snitker, the Braves will likely use a six-man rotation moving forward -- without actually carrying six starting pitchers at one time or another -- with various prospects being called up to make spot starts. The Braves will employ this strategy during a span of playing 31 games in as many days.

From the get-go, Allard was aware of his short stay in the Majors.

"From what I know, tonight was just a one-time thing for now," Allard said. "I'll go back down [to Gwinnett] and make a few more starts."

Video: MIA@ATL: Allard's father, friend attend Kolby's debut

However, by implementating a possible six-man rotation, the Braves could likely call upon Allard again, as well as fellow Triple-A starters Touki Toussaint and Luiz Gohara, to help out during the stretch. Allard could be called up in 10 days when he is again eligible to start.

Snitker concluded after Tuesday night's win that the use of Allard in over a week's time still "remains to be seen."

"We will have to see where we are at with the need," Snitker said. "We want him to stay regular and keep pitching because at any point and time we are going to need him again."

Tori McElhaney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.

Atlanta Braves

Braves to use prospects in 6-man rotation

Pitching-rich farm system will spell Atlanta's starters in grueling stretch
MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Kolby Allard's much-anticipated Major League debut will mark the start of a stretch in which the Braves will navigate through their busiest portion of the schedule by essentially using a six-man rotation without ever simultaneously carrying six starting pitchers.

When Braves manager Brian Snitker confirmed Allard will start against the Marlins Tuesday night, he said the highly-touted southpaw's promotion from Triple-A Gwinnett was influenced by the desire to create an extra day of rest as frequently as possible for the starting pitchers as the team is in the midst of playing 31 games within 31 days.

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ATLANTA -- Kolby Allard's much-anticipated Major League debut will mark the start of a stretch in which the Braves will navigate through their busiest portion of the schedule by essentially using a six-man rotation without ever simultaneously carrying six starting pitchers.

When Braves manager Brian Snitker confirmed Allard will start against the Marlins Tuesday night, he said the highly-touted southpaw's promotion from Triple-A Gwinnett was influenced by the desire to create an extra day of rest as frequently as possible for the starting pitchers as the team is in the midst of playing 31 games within 31 days.

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"We want to stretch everybody out and give them the extra day," Snitker said. "It has worked out well for us. Plus, I'm kind of excited about seeing [Allard]. He's had a decent year, and he's been in the mix for a long time.

"Really, until the end of the season, there aren't a lot of off-days. We'll be playing a lot of baseball. So, it will be good to get him in the mix."

MLB Pipeline ranks Allard as baseball's 93rd-best prospect, the 10th-best left-handed prospect and the eighth-best prospect within the Braves' talent-rich farm system. The 20-year-old lefty has posted a 2.80 ERA while recording 87 strikeouts and issuing 33 walks over 109 1/3 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett.

The Braves have an off-day next Monday and then play a doubleheader the next day at Nationals Park. The twin bill will be followed by a stretch that includes just two off-days, the first of which will be Sept. 13.

As the Braves attempt to survive this rough stretch while consistently creating extra days of rest, there's certainly reason to anticipate Allard might return to Gwinnett after Tuesday's start and then rejoin Atlanta's roster when eligible again 10 days later.

Touki Toussaint and Luiz Gohara are among the other starting options who could transition back and forth between Atlanta and Gwinnett's roster within this stretch. There is also a chance the club could opt to use Toussaint or Gohara to create needed depth within the bullpen. This plan will be influenced by whether another reliever is acquired before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET non-waiver Trade Deadline.

"We'll just go through those spurts and see when is a good time to add somebody," Snitker said.

Newcomb apologizes
Sean Newcomb expressed remorse as he spoke to his Braves teammates regarding insensitive tweets that resurfaced after he came within one strike of a no-hitter in Sunday's win over the Dodgers. The left-hander also said he will meet with MLB's Ambassador of Inclusion, Billy Bean, when the Braves are in New York later this week.

"I plan on going forward and taking the proper steps to do right and make sure that people are aware of the fact that I am seriously sorry and that I didn't mean anything by it," Newcomb said.

Ender Inciarte was among the Braves who expressed support for Newcomb, who created the insensitive tweets when he was a high school senior.

"It's just something that happened so long ago, and you know that he was not even a grown man, but he can say a lot of stuff that he will regret, but when that thing happened so long ago, he's probably not realizing the stuff he is saying until now," Inciarte said. "When you see him talking to us and he even apologized and we're OK. We know what kind of person he is. ... If you get to know him, he makes so much [of a] good impact on everybody that we're not going to do anything but support him."

Deadline approaching
Though the Braves have already used international slot money to add depth to their bullpen with the recent acquisitions of lefty Jonny Venters and right-hander Brad Brach, they may attempt to further strengthen their relief corps before the Deadline.

Another possible deal could hinge on whether the Rangers' Adrian Beltre ultimately decides to waive his no-trade rights. If the Braves were to acquire Beltre or another right-handed hitting third baseman, they could transition Johan Camargo to shortstop when facing a left-handed starter. Starting shortstop Dansby Swanson has hit .211 with a .273 on-base percentage against lefties this year.

If the Braves acquire a starting pitcher, they will attempt to land a controllable piece. So, there is a chance they'll remain linked to the Rays' Chris Archer until the Deadline arrives.

Simpson apologizes
Fox Sports South broadcaster Joe Simpson issued an apology in response to comments he made during Saturday night's broadcast regarding the Dodgers' batting practice attire. He voiced his displeasure while the broadcast showed footage of Chase Utley taking batting practice wearing a K Cancer T-shirt, his uniform pants rolled up and no socks.

"I apologize to Chase Utley, the entire Dodgers organization and their fans for comments I made during Saturday's broadcast," Simpson said. "I've always held the organization in the highest light, and my comments certainly didn't reflect that. I am sorry to everyone affected."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Sean Newcomb

Allard to make big league debut on Tuesday

MLB.com

Kolby Allard is getting the call to the big leagues.

Allard, a 20-year-old left-hander, will make his Major League debut for the Braves on Tuesday against the Marlins. In 18 starts with Triple-A Gwinnett this season, Atlanta's No. 8-ranked prospect and 93rd overall according to MLB Pipeline, has posted a 2.80 ERA in 109 1/3 innings. He's struck out 87, walked 33 and held opponents to a .249 average.

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Kolby Allard is getting the call to the big leagues.

Allard, a 20-year-old left-hander, will make his Major League debut for the Braves on Tuesday against the Marlins. In 18 starts with Triple-A Gwinnett this season, Atlanta's No. 8-ranked prospect and 93rd overall according to MLB Pipeline, has posted a 2.80 ERA in 109 1/3 innings. He's struck out 87, walked 33 and held opponents to a .249 average.

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In his last start for the Stripers on July 22, Allard threw 103 pitches in five innings, surrendering two runs on three hits while striking out six and walking two. He was scratched from his scheduled start on Sunday.

Tweet from @MLBPipeline: 20-year-old lefty Kolby Allard is set to make his @MLB debut for the #Braves vs. the #Marlins tomorrow. Allard is No. 8 on the @Braves' Top 30 & No. 93 on @MLB's Top 100: https://t.co/AkfjjcfNRA pic.twitter.com/3yqCiPreyJ

The Braves drafted Allard in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of San Clemente (Calif.) High School.

Allard's start will give the Braves' starters an additional day of rest. Atlanta is in a stretch of playing 31 games in 32 days. Specifically, Allard will give left-hander Sean Newcomb some more rest after he threw a career-high 134 pitches in his 8 2/3-inning performance -- just one out shy of no-hitting the Dodgers on Sunday. Newcomb, 25, almost snapped the Braves' 24-year-no-hitter drought, throwing the most pitches in a game since Tim Lincecum in 2013.

Anne Rogers is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow her on Twitter at @anne__rogers.

Atlanta Braves