I was going to do a side-by-side summary of how players have performed compared to their projections, but this Talking Chop post tackled a lot of what I was going to say very well. I’ve read a lot that the team is “early”, that they’re ahead of their perceived developmental timeline, and I don’t think that’s true. It’s more about surprise seasons from unlikely sources that has put us where we are.

If we had a development timeline that hinged on prospect performance ahead of expected timeline, then I think we would have had a disappointing season. The actual “prospects of the rebuild”, players acquired via the draft and trade, have largely not beaten projections. Sean Newcomb‘s been disappointing (literally no better than last year), same with Dansby Swanson. While Ender is not a “prospect”, he was acquired via trade and has disappointed this year. Though not drafted or traded for in the “rebuilding” efforts, Ozzie Albies beat his projections, but I don’t think his season is overly surprising. Dan Winkler, Ronald Acuna, and Mike Foltynewicz are the prospects that have been the biggest surprises, and even Acuna, like Albies, was not acquired in the activities of the rebuild. I disagree with the projections for AJ Minter, so I don’t really consider him to be a pleasant surprise, and some are actually disappointed with him. You can make the case that the reason Minter is viewed as a disappointed is because he was billed as the acquisition of The Rebuild(TM) that would get us our very own Craig Kimbrel 2.0, and that hasn’t happened yet. So in some ways, the only prospects that have made a season-changing dent on the outcome are Folty and Acuna.

It’s really just the seasons that have come out of nowhere that have made the biggest impact. Anibal Sanchez, Nick Markakis, Charlie Culberson, Julio Teheran, Shane Carle, Jesse Biddle, non-heralded prospect Johan Camargo, and the deadline acquisition of a seemingly struggling Kevin Gausman have carried the freight to provide the bulk of the performance that has exceeded projections.

I’m sure if you were asked at the beginning of the season what happened to lead to a potential division crown, you may have said that Dansby, Ender, Mike Soroka, Luiz Gohara, Max Fried, and other top pitching prospects developed and contributed key performances. But we sit in September and the currency of the rebuild — high-end pitching prospects acquired via trade and better draft position — have actually contributed very little to the surprise performance of the team, save Folty. That isn’t to say Newcomb hasn’t been a stable, innings-eating addition to the rotation or AJ Minter hasn’t been a perfectly serviceable closer, however. It’s not that we’re early. It’s that we’ve had a surprise season of unexpected contributors that coincides with a body of talent that is sure to continue to develop.

Switching gears, I’m throwing out some select college football picks:

Florida 35, Colorado State 14
Auburn 27, LSU 24
Georgia 49, MTSU 3
Alabama 20, Ole Miss 13
Missouri 24, Purdue 17
UTEP 94, Tennessee 2