March 14, 2013 at 11:45 am by Ethan Purser under Draft
One of our initiatives this season at Capitol Avenue Club is to prepare you, the reader, for the 2013 Rule 4 Draft in June. The Braves have the 31st or 32nd overall pick, depending on Kyle Lohse’s ultimate destination. While it’s clearly impossible to know who they are targeting with this particular pick this early in the process, we can throw some darts and highlight quality prospects who could be in consideration at this point and in later rounds as the college and high school seasons progress. You will see plenty of first-hand scouting reports of top draft talent along with collegiate performance recaps once the MiLB season begins and nightly stat roundups commence. Enough of this; let’s get down to business, shall we?
The state of Georgia is not lacking this year in terms of draft talent at both the collegiate and high school level. I recently caught a midweek game at Georgia Tech and came away very impressed with the team’s crop of 2013 draft-eligible prospects. On this particular night, the Yellow Jackets boasted an impressive outfield in terms of draft prospects, highlighted in center field by senior Brandon Thomas. Thomas was selected in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 but decided to return to campus for his senior season. Thomas possesses a strong 6’3”, 210-pound frame, yet still covers plenty of ground in center field thanks to his plus speed and the length of his strides. At the plate, the switch-hitter leaves a good bit to be desired. He lacks top-shelf bat speed from both sides of the plate, and the swing itself can get lengthy — especially from the right side — leaving him vulnerable with respect to pitches on the inner half of the plate. Thomas’ big frame has always hinted at some untapped power potential, but he has yet to consistently show this tool at the collegiate level. As previously mentioned, he’s an above-average to plus runner, getting down the line in 3.9 seconds on a bunt attempt on this particular night. If everything breaks right, Thomas could be a solid fourth outfielder at the major league level, as his ability to play all three outfield positions competently and bat from both sides of the plate would certainly be positives in this role. I struggle to see even this, however, as his poor hitting tools mixed with his lack of power raise serious questions about his transition to the professional game.
Kyle Wren, a 30th round pick by the Cincinnati Reds in 2012 as a draft-eligible sophomore, manned left field for the Jackets. That name should sound familiar; Kyle is the son of Braves’ GM Frank Wren. Wren’s carrying tool is his plus-plus speed. On a jailbreak, Wren made it to first base in 3.65 seconds. At the plate, Wren is a pesky hitter with a short, line-drive oriented swing. His swing can become bottom-hand dominant, causing him to lose barrel control and forcing the majority of his best contact to the pull-side. Wren’s a small dude — he’s listed at 5’10”, 172 pounds — and lacks any sort of power projection. In the outfield, Wren uses his blinding speed to cover tons of ground. Besides power, Wren’s arm is his weakest tool. In fielding practice, Wren’s throws had visible arc and routinely two-hopped the catcher on weak bounces. Ultimately, he reminds me of Sam Fuld, not on a direct tools level, but in the ultimate role that he could occupy at the major league level. Guys like Wren are my ultimate scouting blind spot; he’s a personal favorite.
Rounding out Tech’s outfield on this cold, blustery night was Daniel Palka. Palka lit up the Cape Cod League this summer, wowing spectators and prognosticators alike with his plus-plus left-handed raw power. Palka is, to put it bluntly, a grown man; his muscular 6’2”, 220-pound frame aids in his ability to send balls well over the fence with regularity. He begins his swing from an open stance and with his bat in a fairly vertical position. From here, Palka loads his rear hip by cocking his front hip with a big leg raise and an inward knee turn. Palka does a great job of clearing his hips and separating his upper and lower half, creating impressive torque and leverage. He loads his hands in an ultra-aggressive manner, a trait that I love to see in power hitters. He drops his hands, tips the barrel toward the third-base dugout, and unloads with ferocious intent. With a swing like Palka’s, the intentions are evident — he wants to harm baseballs. This type of swing obviously has some holes, and mixed with a bit of loop on the backside as a result of a flatten-then-swing move, Palka will swing and miss with regularity at the professional level. Palka could have the most raw power in the class, though, and this could cause teams to be on him very early in this year’s draft. The bad news, however, is that he ultimately does not profile in right field. Palka can certainly hold his own at the collegiate level, though he should ultimately wind up at first base due to a lack of playable foot speed and the worry that he will get slower as his midsection and lower half continue to add bulk as he matures. This is a shame, as one could certainly argue that his second-best tool is his arm, which could be a true plus weapon in right.
Tech’s shortstop, Mott Hyde, became my focal point for a majority of the game. A 44th round pick out of high school in 2010, Hyde possesses a sturdy 5’11”, 190-pound frame with a muscular and well-defined upper body, which includes broad shoulders and very strong forearms and wrists. At short, he shows good footwork and instincts, properly identifying and reading hops off the bat. His lightning-quick transfer helps his above-average arm strength play up during game action and his above-average to plus speed helps him cover the position well. At the plate, Hyde has a fairly short and compact swing, displaying power potential that could be above-average for an up-the-middle position. His first move with his upper body is to drop his back shoulder, causing a bit of an uppercut that limits the amount of time his barrel stays in the zone and opens up some holes above his hands. The natural loft created by this move, however, aids in his current power output and future power potential. While Hyde will likely never hit for a ton of average at the professional level, he could make up for it with plenty of extra-base pop, a valuable trait at an up-the-middle position. One could make the argument that he will have to move off of shortstop as his lower body continues to fill in and he loses a couple of steps. While I could theoretically see this happening, I’m not completely sold; I think he can handle the position for at least his first few professional seasons. If everything works out, I could see him becoming a second-division regular at the position. It’s not going to work out, though. It never does.
*Note: Zane Evans, another player who is draft-eligible this season, was not catching in this game. I’ll save my thoughts on him for when I am able to see him behind the plate.
September 15, 2012 at 1:02 pm by Ethan Purser under Atlanta Braves, Draft, Prospects
With the end of the 2012 minor league season officially upon us, let’s take a look at how the Braves’ 2012 draftees fared in their first taste of professional baseball in a John Sickels-style draft update. This post will be focused on the picks from the first two days of the draft, encompassing rounds 1 through 15. Please keep in mind that the numbers presented here are from an extremely small sample.
1. Lucas Sims, RHP: 3.71 ERA with 39/13 K/BB in 34 innings pitched between the GCL and the Appalachian League. Mixed in some good and bad starts while at Danville, compiling a 4.33 ERA with 29/12 K/BB in 27 innings pitched. The prep pitcher from Snellville, GA, showed legitimate swing-and-miss stuff as a young 18-year-old who spent a majority of his time facing much older competition in the Appalachian League. This kid is going to be fun to watch. Sims was ranked 5th on our midseason prospect list.
2. Alex Wood, LHP: Went straight to Rome from UGA and impressed. 2.22 ERA with 52/14 K/BB in 52.2 innings pitched. Kept the ball on the ground, compiling a 2.09 GO/AO. David and I have talked about this kid at length; needless to say, we really like him. Hard-throwing college lefties with two legitimate secondaries at their disposal are fun. Depending on instructs/spring training, the Braves may be tempted to skip him a level and send him to Mississippi to start next season a la Mike Minor, Sean Gilmartin, etc. Wood was ranked 10th on our midseason prospect list.
3. Bryan De La Rosa, C: .162/.194/.221 with 2/30 BB/K in 73 plate appearances in the GCL. Threw out 30 percent of runners, but passed ball and error rates look atrocious. Not an impressive debut for the undersized Florida high school product, but he’ll take plenty of time to develop and will need patience. It may take a while, but this kid is going to hit. He was ranked 25th on our midseason prospect list.
4. Justin Black, OF: .182/.292/.258 with a couple of home runs and a 19/54 BB/K in 157 plate appearances in his debut in the GCL. Showed a good eye at the plate but also showed a propensity to swing and miss quite frequently. Stole 3 bags in 7 attempts. This Montana prepster is very unrefined in every aspect of his game, but has serious five-tool potential and will require extreme patience. He’s a bit older than your normal first-year player out of high school. Black was ranked 24th on our midseason prospect list.
5. Blake Brown, OF: .201/.313/.313 with four home runs and 25/72 BB/K in 210 plate appearances for Danville. He’s played both center field and right field but profiles better at the latter position as he moves up. Stole 10 bags in 14 attempts. This super-toolsy college draftee—somewhat of a rare breed this day and age—has some of the most serious physical tools in the system, but will he ever hit enough to showcase his massive raw power? This guy is my favorite of the lot, for some reason. Previously drafted by the Pirates in 2009.
6. Josh Elander, C: .260/.366/.439 with four homers and a stellar 16/19 BB/K in 145 plate appearances at Danville. Polish at the plate wasn’t the problem coming into the draft; defense was the biggest knock on him, considering his limited appearances at catcher as an amateur. Threw out 29 percent of opposing base stealers and committed four errors and allowed four passed balls in 181 chances. Raw power translated into some power production this season at TCU and at Danville. This college draftee showed some nice tools/skills at the plate, but questions linger about his ultimate defensive home. Elander was the starting catcher for USA Baseball’s college national team in 2011. Previously drafted by the Nationals in 2009.
7. David Starn, LHP: 5.50 ERA with 28/20 K/BB in 34.1 innings pitched in Rome; senior sign out of Kent State. Missed a couple of starts after signing due to shoulder fatigue. Labeled as a command/control guy out of college, Starn did not live up to this reputation in his debut, although the aforementioned injury may have affected his performance. Fastball ranged from 84-87 when I saw him, so he will need to cut down on the walks in order to survive as he climbs the ladder.
8. David Peterson, RHP: 1.93 ERA with 23/11 K/BB in 28 innings pitched in Rome; senior sign from College of Charleston. Kept the ball on the ground in his debut, posting a 2.88 GO/AO. Big kid—6’5”, 205 pounds, and looks every bit of it. Moved to the bullpen in his senior season and continued to pitch well in this role upon joining the Braves. Looked good in person—sat low-90s, touched 95 with a nice downhill plane and flashed a solid-average breaking ball, although control of both pitches was inconsistent. The college righty had a solid debut and is a back-end-of-the-bullpen sleeper. Previously drafted by the Reds in 2008 and the Astros in 2011.
9. Steven Schils, RHP: If you’re looking for that guy who came in and totally sucked in pro ball . . . look no further! In three appearances for Danville, Schils amassed one inning pitched, allowing seven earned runs (!) on one hit and nine walks. NINE WALKS. Schils did not pitch after July 19th and according to his twitter, he underwent some type of surgery in mid-August (unless he’s speaking of the extreme citrus soda manufactured by the Coca-Cola Company from 1997 to 2003, in which case he needs to know that the drink has been discontinued for nearly ten years and can’t be genuinely defined as a “success”). Needless to say, pro ball hasn’t welcomed Schils with open arms. A quick scan of his college statistics at High Point University and Florida Tech yields more troubling results: 34.1 innings pitched, 20/32 K/BB, and 51 hits allowed in three seasons. The Braves did their homework on this kid, going so far as to invite him to a pre-draft workout. Scouting is obviously more than looking at a player’s amateur numbers, and they must believe there’s something in his arm. Whatever that is, it hasn’t shown up in any results as of yet.
10. Mike Dodig, 3B: .174/.224/.273 with 8/37 BB/K in 143 plate appearances in the GCL. Became the highest drafted player out of Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, New York, and became the first player to be drafted from Columbia-Greene since 1997. Big kid—listed at 6’4”, 210 lbs. Showed some power, as eight of his 23 hits went for extra bases. Played exclusively at third base, committing 14 errors in 86 chances. Fairly young—he was drafted as a freshman—so patience is needed.
11. Levi Borders, C: Did not sign. Levi, son of Pat, will be taking his talents to . . . err . . . South Florida.
12. Connor Lien, OF: .228/.352/.282 with 19/49 BB/K in 180 plate appearances in the GCL. Spent time at all three OF spots this season, but probably profiles best in RF long-term. Showed polish at the plate and on the basepaths, collecting 19 walks and 15 stolen bases in 18 attempts. This 18-year-old received third-round money out of Olympia High School in Windermere, Florida. Big kid—6’3”, 205 lbs.—with big tools. Can run presently and has a cannon for an arm. One can easily project him to develop power down the road due to his large frame and present bat speed. Tough profile, as he will more than likely evolve into a right/right corner guy. Regardless, Lien has a high ceiling and bears close attention in the coming seasons.
13. Nathan Hyatt, RHP: 1.46 ERA with 37/8 K/BB in 24.2 innings pitched between Danville and Rome. The six-foot, 185-pound college draftee was the closer at Appalachian State this past season and was used primarily in this role during his pro debut with great results. Showed great control in his debut, walking only eight batters in 24.2 innings. These results are interesting, as he walked 24 batters in 27.1 innings this season at Appalachian State before being drafted. Hyatt can throw hard and has developing secondaries. Say it with me . . . yet another bullpen option!
14. Tyler Tewell, C: .308/.319/.495 with three home runs and 3/16 BB/K in 113 plate appearances between the GCL and Danville. Not a huge physical specimen—5’11”, 185 lbs. Caught and played outfield at Appalachian State, but was primarily stationed at catcher upon turning pro. Threw out 38 percent of runners with decent passed ball/error rates. Two carrying tools seem to be his raw arm strength and raw power from the left side. Played in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League in the summer of 2011, hitting very well and garnering a fair amount of attention from scouts. This college bat didn’t show a ton of patience at the plate in his debut, but showed he can hit and play behind the plate. One to watch in full-season ball in 2013.
15. Alex Wilson, RHP: 2.73 ERA with 28/5 K/BB in 26.1 innings pitched for Danville. Used exclusively in relief and even closed a few games. Signed as a junior out of Wofford College where he blossomed after two atrocious seasons in 2010 and 2011. After the draft, Wilson said that he received below-slot offers from the Rays and Phillies a few rounds before the Braves nabbed him. Wilson’s a 6’5”, 220-pound beast of a man with a 60-grade full name (Alexander Tate Wilson). This grade has nothing to do with my strange fascination with Tate Donovan and/or Donavan Tate. Good debut, another potential bullpen option.
June 5, 2012 at 5:18 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Draft
Alex Wood, LHP, U. of Georgia
Wood is the lone player the Braves have selected that I actually had mentioned in draft prep, so I’m proud to have one, at least. He’s a power left-hander with a fastball that sits 90-94 when starting and mid-90s when relieving, so that in itself is worth a high pick. He adds a good changeup to offset the fastball, but where he struggles is with the slider. He is said to struggle with feel for spinning a breaking pitch, and the snap on the slider is inconsistent.
Wood’s delivery is what’s talked about. Before he brings his arm forward, he’s at an 8-2 or even 7-1 angle with his arms instead of the normal 9-3, and he shows the ball to his backside for an extended period of time. His elbow travels a long distance through the motion and is arm-heavy, and it’s no surprise to learn he has already had Tommy John surgery. It also doesn’t help that he hops backward after release, putting further pressure on the arm as he doesn’t follow through.
I’m not sure if the Braves will even try to touch Wood’s delivery or let him loose, but if I put my money on one player’s future in Atlanta’s draft this year, it’s Wood as a reliever. A combination of an inconsistent slider and his delivery spells reliever to me. But there’s no mistaking his power arm and fastball, and I think he’s good value for the second round.
The Athens Banner-Herald reported the Braves saved money on Lucas Sims in the first round and were willing to go above slot on Wood in the second round. So the Braves had a strategy to select Wood, meaning they like him a good bit.
Bryan De La Rosa, C, Fla. HS
De La Rosa is a 5’9, 180-pound catcher out of a Florida high school. He was ranked sixth on ESPN’s Top 10 prep catchers in February, reportedly flashing a plus arm and good pop times. But while defense is his strength, he is also said to have good bat speed and hands with a line-drive plane. Perfect Game said if he was 6’2, 200 pounds, he would be a first-rounder. De La Rosa will need to be given time to develop physically, but despite his size, he sounds like a great defensive catcher out of the prep ranks. Video of De La Rosa here and here.
Justin Black, CF, Montana HS
Black is intriguing as a product of a Montana high school who played travel ball in Canada to get reps and exposure. I made a point to monitor toolsy center fielders considering the Braves have been going that route lately, and Black fits the mold, although he may not be the name many expected. Black’s main tools are speed and athleticism, standing 6’0, 190 pounds. ESPN thought enough of him to rank him No. 100 on their prep 100, and he is a Nebraska sign. Is said to be raw at the plate and will probably need time to adapt in the lower levels. Video of Black.
Blake Brown, OF, U. of Missouri
Brown is a college position player but is raw, not making as much contact as you would like at the college level. He’s listed at 6’1, 185 pounds but appears strong and thick in the lower half. He has a smooth, fluid swing with good hands, and you would like to think he will develop some power to combine with his above average speed and athleticism. He played center field for the Tigers but was announced as a corner outfielder. Jim Callis ranked him as the fourth-best player in Missouri and 324 overall. Video of Brown.
June 5, 2012 at 6:00 am by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Draft
The Braves selected Brookwood High School right-hander Lucas Sims with the 21st overall pick in the draft. Sims wasn’t even on my first-round list, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have been considered. It means I’m wrong for having overlooked him. He’s a good pick for the Braves, a pick that reminds me of past drafts.
Sims stands at 6’2, 185 pounds, and appears thin but athletic. ESPN’s report calls a concern about velocity dips late in games due to his build, which is likely to be the case until he’s given a chance to develop further. Most reports indicate a lack of projection, but considering how athletic he is now, it shouldn’t call for much worry.
Sims’ fastball sits 90-94 and has received various speeds on the touch category, from 96 to 98. Either way, his fastball has good life and is a commanding pitch. His curveball is above average with the potential to be a plus pitch as he develops command. His changeup has decent speed differential but relies especially on his arm speed and deception to succeed as more than a junk pitch. I’ve seen some label Sims as a potential reliever down the line, but reports indicate his changeup is good enough to be a reliable third offering.
The knock I see on Sims through watching video is the same I discovered when reading his report on ESPN: “He has a loose arm and a smooth arm action, but his elbow gets higher than you like to see in the back of his arm stroke, he takes a short stride and will fly open at times. When you combine a thin physique, inconsistent velocity, an arm-heavy delivery that he has some trouble repeating and a quick arm that doesn’t have an ideal path, there are some concerns about how his arm might develop but the talent is undeniable.”
This basically tells the story I was going to tell from the video I watched. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s an injury risk, but perhaps it could mean inconsistent command or durability concerns.
But every pitcher comes with his share of concerns regardless of where he’s taken in the draft. Sims has great stuff and shows good strikeout ability. He’s a local kid who grew up a Braves fan and is said to have great makeup. And he succeeded in every event he participated in while showcasing in high school. Sims is a first-round arm, and the Braves are fortunate to pick him at 21.
Braves.com: Braves stick with local strategy for first pick
AJC: Brookwood’s Sims “ecstatic” to be drafted by Braves in first round
Baseball America: Braves Take Luke Sims
ESPN HS page
ESPN Insider draft page
June 3, 2012 at 10:55 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Draft
Estimating the direction the Braves will take after the first round is a crapshoot. They won’t pick again until No. 85 in the second round, with no compensatory picks this year, so they can sit back and relax after No. 21. Below is a list of a few names the Braves may consider in the second or even third round.
Buck Farmer is an advanced college pitcher out of Georgia Tech listed at 6’3, 228 pounds. He’s a typical second-round college pitcher with experience, good enough stuff to make it and probably through developing physically. His drop and drive motion reminded Mark Anderson of Roy Oswalt, and he showed inconsistency in the lower half. He profiles an average fastball that needs good command to get by, and the potential for a good curveball and changeup. He’s a starter or bust due to the lack of a commanding fastball, but he stands to be a durable back-end starter if his secondary pitches develop. Video of Farmer.
Logan Vick is a center fielder at Baylor who stands at 5’11, 195 pounds. There isn’t a ton out there on him, but he made John Sickels’ Top 100 at No. 99: “Solid tools including very good speed, strong throwing arm, power potential, and patience at the plate.” Vick is very quiet at the plate, showing low hands until beginning his load and showing a decent load. He tends to push his hands through the zone and doesn’t use his wrists much, meaning a lack of power potential. And if I had to guess based on the video I’ve seen, he probably dips his back side on occasion. But Vick is said to have good tools as a center fielder, and as a college hitter, the Braves may take a look. Video of Vick.
If the Braves want an undersized second baseman – because you can never have enough of them – Tony Renda could be an option. Renda is a 5’8, 173-pounder out of the University of California. Like Vick, there isn’t a ton to go on here, but the video shows very quick hands through the zone and zero stride. His bat speed indicates the potential for some gap pop, and if he can take the ball the other way with authority, he could be a valuable doubles hitter. Baseball America tabbed him as the best defensive second baseman in the Pac-12 this spring, so I’ll take their word on that. Video of Renda.
Brandon Thomas is an athletic outfielder out of Georgia Tech, standing 6’3, 205 pounds. Watching video, Thomas looks big and you would think he would kill baseballs, but his swing just doesn’t show the authority needed, so his power potential is largely untapped. He is said to have good speed and ranges in center field well, but his size may cause a move to a corner, in which case the power will need to develop. His hit tool is average at best, so he will get by largely on his athleticism. He’s a question mark. Video of Thomas.
Popping Trey Williams isn’t for the faint of heart. The prep third baseman out of Valencia High School in California is ranked No. 81 on Sickels’ list and No. 82 on Keith Law’s, but he’s a big risk. His power potential is big, and he appears to have room to grow into an athletic frame, standing at 6’2, 205 pounds. His bat speed is off the charts, and his quick-twitch swing will help contact-wise. However, he drifts toward the pitch with a huge leg kick, and he must get the foot down in time to remain in sync. Also, with this leg kick means some off-balance swings in his future when he doesn’t recognize off-speed and breaking stuff. One report also mentioned possible makeup issues, although this remains to be seen. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Braves take the risk if he falls in the second or third round, because his bat speed and power potential slap you in the face. Video of Williams.
With a name like Skye Bolt, how could you go wrong? Bolt is a prep outfielder out of Holy Innocents in the Atlanta area, so he’s local. He stands at 6’3, 185 pounds and can handle center field, so he’s athletic and is very projectable. He’s ranked No. 70 on ESPN’s prep 100, hitting from both sides of the plate and has the potential for power while sticking in center with good speed and a plus arm. The one knock on Bolt is his swing is very upper-half-focused, and he doesn’t utilize his lower half as much as he should. But this is something that can be worked out after a year or two in the minors. He has a quick hitch in his bat as his load, something like a more violent Adam LaRoche, but he has good enough wrists and bat speed to make it work. Bolt’s tools could carry him in the minors, and he would be worth a look in the second round. Video of Bolt.
Jeff Gelalich is another college hitter who doesn’t show any one great skill but does well enough with across-the-board skills to be a good player. Good speed, average arm, good swing, good hit tool. He has a smooth, easy swing on a great plane with no stride, so he should cover the plate well and be able to make adjustments well as he progresses. He’s probably maxed out physically at 6’1, 205 pounds, but he’s an athletic corner outfielder who should provide good enough power. Video of Gelalich.
Preston Beck, OF, UT-Arlington: Above average power, corner-outfield defense, good arm, decent physically.
Chris Beck, RHP, Georgia Southern: Likely to go before 85 but here based on locality. Good fastball and curve, and a good enough changeup to be an average major league pitch. Strong, durable body. Inconsistent spring hurt his stock. Video of Beck.
Alex Wood, LHP, Georgia: Another probably gone before 85 but here for locality. Outrageous mechanics made me do a double-take, and I wasn’t surprised to hear he’s had Tommy John surgery. Motion spells pro reliever. Good fastball and change, decent breaking pitch. Video of Wood.
Tyler Pike, LHP, Fla. HS: Ranked No. 66 on ESPN’s prep 100. Florida State comped him as Sean Gilmartin. Athletic, 6’1, 185 pounds, low-90s fastball.
Torsten Boss, OF, Michigan State: No great tool but solid across the board. Made transition from third base to center field this year reportedly well, showing good range and a good arm. Above average speed.
Fernando Perez, 3B, Central Arizona: Advanced for 18 years old due to wood bat experience. Similar drift and twitch as Trey Williams with great bat speed. Projectable body and potential for power. Should stick at third. Video of Perez.
Brett Phillips, OF, Fla. HS: Good speed, range, glove and athleticism in the outfield. Most value is defensively, but should hit enough to carry. Simple swing mechanics and potential for gap power.
D’Vone McClure, OF, Ark. HS: High risk but potential for big return. Has an outstanding, athletic body at 6’3, 190 pounds, and shows the potential for power as he develops. He’s very raw across the board, needing adjustments both offensively and defensively, and popping him is a long-term type of deal requiring patience. But the reward could be big down the road in the form of power and athleticism. Ranked No. 41 on ESPN’s prep 100. Video of McClure.
Brett Mooneyham, LHP, Stanford
Alex Yarbrough, 2B, Ole Miss
Mitchell Traver, RHP, Texas HS
Brady Rodgers, RHP, Arizona State
Kolby Copeland, OF, La. HS
Adam Walker, 1B, Jacksonville
Jameis Winston, OF/RHP, Ala. HS
Avery Romero, 3B/C, Fla. HS
Nolan Sanburn, RHP, Arkansas
Austin Maddox, RHP, Florida
June 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Draft
There is no such thing as a clear-cut favorite for a pick as late as the Braves’ 21st overall selection. Names are thrown about, and you can gain some sense of the direction they may go with the pick, but the best you can do is pool some players and make the assumption that they will take one from the group.
If readers have any players not mentioned here that you think the Braves could pick at 21, or if you have questions on a player, feel free to comment.
For the Braves, it was almost as if there was a favorite for much of the mock draft season. Tanner Rahier, a shortstop from Palm Desert High School in Indian Wells, Calif., has been linked to the Braves on numerous boards. Keith Law had him pegged to the Braves early and stuck with it for most of the time. Jim Callis changed his Braves pick to Rahier in his most recent mock, as well.
Rahier is a 6’2, 205-pounder ranked, ironically, 21st on ESPN’s Top 100 prep list. He’s labeled a baseball rat who goes at 100 percent all the time, and he is said to have tremendous makeup. I read he gave up his senior season at Palm Desert to play in a wood bat league, which gives him more experience, although maybe not as much attention.
Rahier has a solid upper half to his swing, providing a good load and showing good hands and wrists. As he develops strength, he will turn doubles into home runs, but I don’t expect him to be a true power hitter. His lower half shows inconsistency at times due to an inconsistent leg kick, and it looks like he may have to adjust to covering the outer half and breaking stuff away as he moves up the minor leagues.
Defensively, several are saying Rahier won’t stick at shortstop as he grows, which very well may be the case. But if he moves, it should be to third base, because he has a plus arm. I think he will produce enough power to justify the move.
Rahier would be a solid upside pick at 21, and I don’t think his swing is getting enough play in pre-draft talk. If the Braves want the best player on the board at 21, Rahier would be worth considering.
Law stuck with Rahier for much of the mock season, but he changed in his latest one to Matt Smoral. I don’t think Braves fans will mind. Smoral is the definition of projection, standing at 6’8 and weighing 230 pounds, out of Solon High School in Ohio. He’s ranked No. 19 on ESPN’s prep 100.
Smoral throws from a low three-quarters slot that looks deadly from the left side, but he doesn’t achieve full extension, thus losing some of his size and slot advantage. He’s very upper-body focused in his mechanics, as you would expect a 6’8 left-hander to be. He sits 90-94 on the fastball and has a good slider that bites late and is a true out pitch.
Smoral has dealt with injuries, including a stress fracture in his landing foot this spring that dropped him out of the upper half of the first round. He has also had back issues, so the injuries could be a cause of concern.
If not for the foot injury, Smoral is a likely top-10 pick, so popping him at 21 would be big for the Braves. It would also be a throwback pick, as Smoral is the type of pitcher you would have seen the Braves target in the past.
Brian Johnson is here based on the past couple drafts for the Braves. He’s another college left-hander out of Florida who will probably be a back-end starter in the majors. His fastball sits 88-92 with decent movement, and he has a loopy curve and decent changeup. He projects to have good command and control. He’s also a good college hitter but will probably be a pitcher in the pros.
Johnson is 6’3, 235 pounds, and is one of the most experienced players to go in the first few rounds, both playing-wise and body-wise. It’s a pick we have come to expect from the Braves, but whether they go back to that well or change course this time remains to be seen.
Johnson was knocked out during an SEC Tournament game last year, receiving a concussion.
DJ Davis is a 6’0, 175-pound outfielder from Stone County High School in Mississippi. He has legit 80 speed, but he is very raw in the box, throwing his weight and hands at the ball. It’s not likely that he will ever produce much power, but he could be a good contact hitter with tremendous speed. The Braves have made speed and tools a focus after the first round lately, and they may stretch that to the first round if they like Davis enough. He’s ranked No. 15 on ESPN’s prep 100. Video of Davis.
If the Braves want to return to plucking prep players from Georgia, Duane Underwood is there for the taking. Underwood is a 6’2, 205-pound pitcher from Pope High School in Marietta. Underwood is raw, reminding me some of Arodys Vizcaino in his arm action, and he needs to follow through better. But there is no denying the way the ball comes out of his hand. His fastball life isn’t something you teach. He is also said to have a good changeup and decent curveball, so he could stick as a starter. He’s ranked No. 27 on ESPN’s prep 100. Video of Underwood.
Marcus Stroman is here just to add some college blood to this post. He’s a 5’9, 185-pound pitcher out of Duke. There’s little to no room remaining for projection, and I have to believe he’s a future reliever as a pro. He has a good fastball and great slider as an out pitch, but his size and lack of a decent third offering hinders him. Video of Stroman.
If the Braves nab Roache in the first round, I will kick myself for not putting him in the favorites category. The only reason I don’t have him there is because of the lack of attention. Aside from Callis initially linking him to the Braves in his first mock draft, there hasn’t been much talk about Roache. That probably has something to do with him having a serious wrist injury that required surgery early in the spring season, as well as a previous broken ankle. The plus side of Roache is great bat speed and power potential, but his mechanics show some inconsistency in the back shoulder and hips. He will strike out a lot, but as long as his wrist injury doesn’t hamper him, his power potential will make up for it. Roache is a risk at 21, and if a good prep bat is available instead, they may avoid the risk. Video of Roache.
Travis Jankowski is one of the few solid bets as a college hitter in the draft. He’s a 6’3, 190-pound outfielder at Stony Brook University. Jankowski plays with above average speed and hitting ability. He has a smooth, upright swing that shows the ability for gap power, and his strength is shooting balls up the middle and the other way. Jankowski has good plate coverage and should be a solid top-of-the-order hitter with on-base ability and speed as a legit center fielder. He isn’t getting a ton of attention as a first-rounder, but the Braves would do well to reach down for him. Video of Jankowski.
Pierce Johnson has been linked to the Braves by Law as a possibility for the first round. He’s a 6’3, 180-pound right-hander out of Missouri State. Johnson was seen as cemented in the first round prior to a forearm strain this season, and some believe it may be a sign of things to come. His long stride prevents him from completely following through, and his elbow travels a long distance through its motion. However, he was able to recover his velocity following the strain and appears fine now. He is said to have a good curve/change combination and a fastball that sits in the low-90s with the ability to touch 96. Video of Johnson.
If you want the equivalent of a Mike Minor/Sean Gilmartin/Brian Johnson/Pierce Johnson pick on offense, Tyler Naquin is the Braves’ man. He’s a safe college hitter out of Texas A&M who projects as a batting average guy with no great tool. He has good speed, a good glove and arm, and no power. He stands at 6’2, 175 pounds as a left-handed hitter. The key to Naquin’s value is the ability to play center field, which is in question right now. If he can’t stick in center, popping him at 21 would be a waste. Selecting him at 21 would be too high regardless, in my opinion. Video of Naquin.
Stephen Piscotty is a bit of a question mark as a college hitter out of Stanford. He has a quick, short swing, but it’s not known how he will react after leaving Stanford and develops more power. Building off that, it’s also unknown how much power he truly possesses. Some say he won’t produce enough power to have value at first base if needed, while some say he’s a lock for 25 home runs a year. His swing shows the ability to cover the plate and avoid high strikeout totals, though. Reports on Piscotty’s defense aren’t good, as he shows below average footwork at third base. He does have a good arm, but it’s 50/50 right now as to whether he can stick at third. In my opinion, the Braves would do well to avoid the risk and uncertainty surrounding Piscotty. Video of Piscotty.
May 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm by David Lee under Atlanta Braves, Draft
In this morning’s blog post, Buster Olney broke down the Top 10 picks and what they’re worth, as well as what each team spent in last season’s first 10 rounds.
I decided to use the comparison to see how the bonus pool might affect draft spending this year. Below is what I have (totals are Top 10 picks only):
|Teams||Last year||Difference between last year and pool (red=pool is smaller)|
The first thing you may notice is not every team has the same number of picks or had the same number last year. I realize this, so some of the comparisons aren’t worth taking a ton of value from. But you do see some differences in the bigger amounts.
The Pirates and Nationals went above and beyond the other teams in spending, and they will see the biggest difference in dollar amounts between last year and this year. The Pirates gave Gerrit Cole an $8 million bonus as the No. 1 pick, but their slot is going for $6,563,500 this year. Their second-rounder, Josh Bell, received a $5 million bonus, and their slot for the second round is now $746,300. (They have two first-rounders and a comp, so their first three picks are obviously much higher than the second round amount).
This is why multiple draft picks in the early rounds are more important than ever. Teams can no longer rely on big spending to nab the waffling first-round athlete. Therefore, they need those extra picks to make up the difference. So you will see teams such as the Pirates, Nationals, Rays and Royals, who rely on draft spending, getting hit with the impact of bonus pools.
What does this mean for the Braves? It never really meant much. They spent around $2.5 million on the first 10 rounds last year, and their bonus pool is a little more than $4 million, so it’s not a big difference. They have gone the way of easy signings, high floors and experienced college players. Having a pretty low bonus pool compared to other teams just plays into their strategy.
The Braves’ first round pick at No. 21 is going for $4,030,800, and the second-rounder is going for $1,825,000. Last year, the Braves gave first-rounder Sean Gilmartin a bonus of $1,134,000. As the chart shows, their pool allows for greater spending for the same number of picks.
Another thing to keep in mind for this year is that the class is projected to be weaker than in years past. The spending is always increasing naturally over time, but last year may have seen a larger increase than usual due to a strong top of the class. So the comparisons between last year’s spending and the bonus pools may be exaggerated slightly because of this.
Olney mentions that the assumed weaker class could result in smaller bonuses in the first few rounds, saving money for later picks. This doesn’t add up to me because the biggest spending will be in the early rounds, and teams don’t generally save money for later picks, because the only talent worth overspending for is in the first round or two. If a team targets a player in the first round or two and he falls to that team, it will likely pop him with the recommended amount. I don’t expect to see teams saving money for later rounds, nor do I expect to see many teams going over the recommended amount and attempting to cut back in later rounds.
How teams handle the bonus pool is an intriguing aspect to this year’s draft, because teams will be forced to look at spending in a new way. However, if you were expecting the Braves to change their ways because of it, you may be disappointed.