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This is why the Baby Braves are so impressive

August 23, 2018

To understand how remarkable this season has been for the first-place Atlanta Braves, consider this data compiled by MLB.com's Statcast™ team:• They're the fifth team in 30 years to have multiple position players 21 or younger play at least 70 games -- Ronald Acuna Jr. is 20; Ozzie Albies, 21.•

To understand how remarkable this season has been for the first-place Atlanta Braves, consider this data compiled by MLB.com's Statcast™ team:
• They're the fifth team in 30 years to have multiple position players 21 or younger play at least 70 games -- Ronald Acuna Jr. is 20; Ozzie Albies, 21.
• They're the second team in the live-ball era to have four pitchers 21 or younger make starts.
• Five of MLB's six youngest players in 2018 are Baby Braves, including three 20-year-old pitchers who've combined to make seven starts -- Bryse Wilson, Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka.
• Albies has played 122 games; Acuna, 75. When Acuna plays his 100th, Atlanta will be just the third team in 30 years to have multiple position players on the field for 100-plus games.

Here's how rare that feat is (thanks again to the Statcast™ team for the research): Acuna (2.5) and Albies (2.8) are on track for 3-WAR seasons, per Baseball-Reference. That has happened just once before, when the 1959 Giants, who had two 21-year-old future Hall of Famers -- Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey -- contribute 3-plus WAR seasons.
Only the 1952 Pirates had four 21-or-younger pitchers make starts and two position players that age play 50 games. But the Bucs lost 112 games that season, while the Braves are fighting for a postseason berth.
Atlanta has amassed so much talent in its Minor League system that -- like the Royals, Cubs and Astros in recent seasons -- it was a question of how quickly it would be back in contention.
The Braves led the Majors with eight players on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list entering the season. (Here's the latest ranking.) Acuna, who made his debut on April 25, was second overall.
Atlanta has spent 69 days atop the National League East after spending nine there the previous three seasons combined. At 71-55, the Braves have already surpassed their average win total of the previous three seasons (69). Last season, they won their 71st game on Sept. 25 in Game No. 155.

Obviously, the Braves' success is not just about young players. Veteran first baseman Freddie Freeman and veteran outfielder Nick Markakis have had tremendous seasons.
Freeman had a one-point lead over Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals in MLB.com's latest survey of potential NL MVP Award candidates. Also, veteran right-hander Anibal Sanchez is having one of his best seasons after being released by the Twins during Spring Training.
Rookie third baseman Johan Camargo, 24, has been a steady contributor with 13 home runs, a .790 OPS and elite defensive play.
And the Braves' rotation has been anchored nicely by Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Julio Teheran. While Teheran is a product of Atlanta's farm system, Foltynewicz and Newcomb were acquired in trades with the Astros and Angels, respectively.
All in all, it's working. Manager Brian Snitker, who has spent 42 years in the Braves' organization, has been one of the unsung heroes of this season.
First-year general manager Alex Anthopoulos upgraded the roster at the non-waiver Trade Deadline by acquiring a starting pitcher (Kevin Gausman), two relievers (Jonny Venters and Brad Brach) and an outfielder (Adam Duvall). But Anthopoulos made those deals without losing sight of the big picture, declining to surrender any of the organization's top 20 prospects to make a larger trade.
It has worked. Atlanta leads the NL in runs, and Acuna has 13 home runs and a 1.164 OPS since Snitker inserted him at the top of the lineup after the All-Star break.
The Braves lead the second-place Phillies by three games in the NL East, and the two teams play seven more times during an 11-day stretch in September, including three in Philadelphia at the end of the regular season.
Atlanta fans appear to have bought into the youth and energy of this Braves team, with the franchise on track for its highest home attendance in 16 years.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.