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.