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20 vision: Can Allard follow Avery's path?

Braves' highly touted lefty prospect could find himself in Majors before age 21
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Twenty-eight years after Steve Avery burst on the Major League scene as a 20-year-old phenom, Kolby Allard stands as yet another highly touted left-handed pitching prospect who has the potential to join Atlanta's rotation before reaching the legal drinking age.

"I'm not going to lie about it and say you don't think about [reaching the Majors at 20 years old]," Allard said. "Obviously, that's in the back of your mind. But you've just got to go out there and focus on what you do every day. Yeah, I'm confident and I know I can go out there and compete. But that's not my worry and my decision. So, I'm just going to focus on getting better every day. Hopefully, when that day comes, I'll be ready to roll."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Twenty-eight years after Steve Avery burst on the Major League scene as a 20-year-old phenom, Kolby Allard stands as yet another highly touted left-handed pitching prospect who has the potential to join Atlanta's rotation before reaching the legal drinking age.

"I'm not going to lie about it and say you don't think about [reaching the Majors at 20 years old]," Allard said. "Obviously, that's in the back of your mind. But you've just got to go out there and focus on what you do every day. Yeah, I'm confident and I know I can go out there and compete. But that's not my worry and my decision. So, I'm just going to focus on getting better every day. Hopefully, when that day comes, I'll be ready to roll."

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Allard has stood as a centerpiece of Atlanta's rebuild since the Braves took him with the 14th overall selection in the 2015 Draft. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the game's No. 58 overall prospect and the No. 7 left-handed pitching prospect. He has been described as an artist on the mound, but his maturity and baseball IQ might be what sets him apart.

Video: Top Prospects: Mike Soroka, RHP, Braves

"He knows what he's doing," manager Brian Snitker said. "He's got an idea executing pitches and getting hitters out. It's pretty impressive. I was watching him throw his side session the other day. He looks bigger and stronger."

A year ago, Allard and his good friend Mike Soroka, who ranks as MLB Pipeline's No. 31 overall prospect, capably handled the challenge of skipping the Class A Advanced level. Now they stand with outfielder Ronald Acuna as three Braves prospects with legitimate aspirations of reaching the Majors before turning 21.

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Barring an injury, Acuna is seemingly destined to gain this distinction. Allard and Soroka have until August to follow the path paved by Avery, who debuted for Atlanta two months after his 20th birthday.

"All these guys, I'm just blown away by the confidence they have in their abilities," Snitker said. "They're not dazed by anything. I remember Avery, Tommy [Glavine] and [Kent] Mercker. You could have fun with them at a young age and mess with them and carry a conversation. They were all ahead of their time, maturity-wise. These guys are a lot like that. They're a lot of fun to be around, because of their maturity level."

Avery totaled 319 1/3 innings, including 82 1/3 innings for Triple-A Richmond, before making his MLB debut on June 13, 1990. Allard has totaled 243 2/3 innings thus far and Soroka's professional career has consisted of 330 2/3 innings.

Allard and Soroka could both begin this season with Triple-A Gwinnett. They have developed a close bond as they have pushed each other throughout their respective pro careers. Their next step will be influenced by the success they have this year and the needs that develop within the Atlanta rotation, which counts two other members of MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list -- Luiz Gohara and Max Fried -- among its current candidates.

"Everywhere you look, there's a great arm," Allard said. "That competition is good. Me and Soroka were talking about it the other day. I would so much rather come into a situation like this where you have so many good arms and you have so many good players around you.

"Yes, there might be more competition, and yes, it might take a little longer for you to get to that spot because there are so many good arms. But I wouldn't be where I am today if I came up in another organization, because you push each other every single day."

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

Atlanta Braves, Kolby Allard