ATLANTA -- As many of the Braves' other heralded prospects prepare to begin their respective Minor League seasons this week, Kolby Allard will remain at the club's Spring Training complex, slowly distancing himself from back surgery and striving to prove why some considered him the best pitcher available in last
ATLANTA -- As many of the Braves' other heralded prospects prepare to begin their respective Minor League seasons this week, Kolby Allard will remain at the club's Spring Training complex, slowly distancing himself from back surgery and striving to prove why some considered him the best pitcher available in last year's Draft class.
"I feel better than what they are letting me do, but I've just got to trust the process," Allard said. "I wish I could be out there earlier, but I've just got to trust [the Braves' medical staff] and what they're doing."
By the end of this month, Allard hopes to be cleared to throw live batting practice, and if all goes well, he could then join Class A Rome's rotation by the end of May. But for now, Atlanta will continue to provide the 18-year-old southpaw an opportunity to complete the long rehab process he has experienced since undergoing fusion surgery in August to repair a herniated disc.
Allard received some pitching and recovery advice a few weeks ago, when he received a visit from former Braves pitcher Tim Hudson, who underwent a similar back surgery after the 2011 season.
"It was really, really cool for him to come down and just meet some 18-year-old kid," Allard said.
But those who have seen Allard pitch recognize that he is far from being just another 18-year-old kid. The young southpaw established himself as one of the top high school pitchers during the summer of 2014, and he likely would have been selected within the first five picks of last year's Draft had he not taken an awkward swing that created the back discomfort and forced him to miss essentially all of his senior season at San Clemente (Calif.) High School.
Though some teams shied away from Allard, the Braves maintained interest, and they benefited from the fact that the young pitcher had developed a strong bond with Tom Battista, a highly regarded scout who had previously brought Freddie Freeman and Tommy Hanson into Atlanta's system.
Once the Marlins passed on him with the 12th overall selection, Allard began to celebrate the fact that the Braves would indeed get him with the 14th selection. Approximately an hour later, the experience was enriched when Atlanta took Allard's best friend and high school catcher Lucas Herbert in the second round.
"I wanted to be a Brave and it's been better than expected," Allard said. "You hear some things about the Minor Leagues, but the Braves are first class and they treat their Minor Leaguers really well."
Allard completed just six innings over the three appearances he made in the Gulf Coast League before he was shut down last year. But he displayed his dominance within this short span, surrendering just one hit and striking out 12 of the 20 batters that he faced.
"I'm glad I got [the surgery] done and put it behind me," Allard said. "Now, I can go full speed ahead."
MLBPipeline.com ranks Allard as baseball's 88th-best prospect and the fifth-best prospect within the Braves' talent-filled farm system.
As Allard looks toward the future, he looks forward to the chance to develop with the likes of Touki Toussaint and Max Fried while aiming to one day join an Atlanta rotation that could soon be enriched by the likes of Sean Newcomb and Aaron Blair, who rank among MLBPipeline.com's top 55 prospects.
"[Braves general manager John Coppolella] has done one [heck] of a job," Allard said. "When we move into that new stadium, we should be pretty good. It's humbling getting to hang out and stand next to those guys. I'm just very, very excited. We've got a very bright future ahead of us."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.