You might ask the Phillies how bright the Braves’ future looks

More than a few folks identified the 2018 Phillies as a team of interest. Philly has some promising position players and added Carlos Santana, signed for $60 million over three years; to augment its nice young arms, it signed Jake Arrieta for $75 million over three. The belief in some circles was that Philadelphia had passed the Braves in the Rebuild Rally. And maybe that will indeed prove true. But the teams have already met in three series – the MLB schedule is nuts – and Philly hasn’t yet won one.

The Braves have beaten the Phillies six times in nine tries, outscoring them 54-30. Of Philly’s three victories, two came in extra innings. The two are tied at 16-11, which puts them 1½ games behind the first-place Mets and – this is starting to feel significant – 4½ games ahead of the Nationals, who’d lost six of seven before winning in Phoenix on Sunday.

Back in February, Baseball Prospectus tabbed the Braves to win 76 games. After a month and change, BP's projection shows the Braves winning 80.6 games, which would be a rounded-up 81, which means they'd finish at .500. BP also assigns the Braves a 19.2 percent chance of making the playoffs, which is up from the 14.6 percent of Opening Day but still puts them far behind the Nationals and Mets (both 42.8) and the Phillies (41.1).

Baseball projections, it must be said, are based in large part on history – as opposed, say, to faith – and some of these Braves are too young to have one. We don’t know what the numbers for Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. will be in September. We have, however, seen enough to know this: As talents, neither was overrated.

The belief here was that the Braves would start slowly – tough early schedule, Acuna doing his time in contractual purgatory – but get better as they went. They haven’t started slowly. They’ve lost one series. They’ve faced some very good pitchers, and they lead the National League in runs, batting average and OPS. Ryan Flaherty and Dansby Swanson are no longer among the top 10 in batting average, which you could have seen coming, but the team is still scoring.

Credit: Hunter Martin

Credit: Hunter Martin

Here’s your new-look everyday eight: Kurt Suzuki/Tyler Flowers, the latter just back from injury; Freddie Freeman; Albies; Swanson; Flaherty/Johan Camargo; Acuna; Ender Inciarte; Nick Markakis. Here’s what Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told reporters Sunday after watching his team lose 10-1 on Sunday, a day when Albies led off with a homer Acuna hit two doubles and Inciarte, batting ninth, went 3-for-4: “It’s just a very deep, strong lineup. … It will grind you down. It’s a really good lineup.”

One month ago, the Braves had one foundational player – Freeman. Acuna is 20, Albies 21. They’re the youngest players in the majors. They’re also among the most gifted. It wasn’t so long ago that the Braves were Freeman and a bunch of journeymen. They’re that no longer.

If you watch the Philadelphia 76ers today, you’ll see a good-looking young squad that could well grace the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals. It’s hard to believe these same Sixers went 109-301 over the previous five seasons, but that’s the way of rebuilds. They look awful until they don’t. Again we reference the Astros, 100-game losers in 2011, 2012 and 2013 – and World Series champs in 2017.

The three Johns – Schuerholz, Hart and Coppolella – launched their reset because they believed Frank Wren, “terminated” as general manager in September 2014, had rendered the farm system barren. That wasn’t quite true: Albies, Acuna and Camargo were signed via the international market on Wren’s watch. Drafts were a different matter – remember Matt Lipka, first-rounder? – and that’s the part of this rebuild we still haven’t seen. No pitcher drafted under Coppolella has reached the majors. That’s your Stage 2, which could commence any day.

Pitching, or the lack thereof, remains the reason to doubt the 2018 Braves will become a true contender. It’s hard to know what to make of Julio Teheran, whose velocity keeps dipping. Mike Foltynewicz is the definition of inefficient. Brandon McCarthy has been good, but his injury history means fingers are forever crossed. Sean Newcomb seems a slightly lesser version of Foltynewicz. The bullpen has steadied a bit but is still an area of need

But if we’re viewing the Braves alongside the Phillies – and that’s pretty much all we’ve been doing – which team would you take, not just over the next five months but the next five years? Rhys Hoskins and Odubel Herrera are nice players, but they’re closer to Freeman’s age than to Acuna’s. Maikel Franco may have topped out at 23. The 2B/SS combo of Cesar Hernandez and J.P. Crawford is 27 and 23, respectively; Albies and Swanson are 21 and 24. The Braves have two catchers better than any Philly has. The Braves also have Freeman.

Even though the Braves have clobbered Vince Velasquez three times, you’d take the Phillies’ rotation over this. Aaron Nola is excellent; Arrieta has a Cy Young in his portfolio. You might take their bullpen, though that’s a close call. But the Braves’ best minor-league pitchers are closer to the majors than the Phillies’ top youngsters, which means this arms race should tighten soon.

Lots of teams are doing the rebuild thing. None has lately done it better than the Braves. Philly was the flavor of the month in March, and it had a nice April, at least when playing teams other than the Braves. Still, I doubt even the Philadelphia brass would trade organizations with this one. Not many clubs have an Acuna or an Albies. The Braves have both.