Draft Preview: Braves target pop at plate
With talented arms in the system, Atlanta seeks bats
ATLANTA -- When Roy Clark accepted a wider-ranging role with the Nationals in October, the Braves confidently filled his scouting director position with veteran Tony DeMacio, whose celebrated career has included the signings of both Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones. While overseeing next week's First-Year Player Draft, DeMacio will focus on landing some position players who could complement the wealth of pitching talent that exists at the lower levels of the club's Minor League system.
Having forfeited their first-round selection with the free-agent signing of Billy Wagner, the Braves' first pick will be the 35th overall selection. With limited top-level talent available in the Atlanta area this year, it appears they will likely ignore a recent trend to take homegrown talent and attempt to strengthen their crop of position players by extending their reach beyond Georgia.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on Monday-Wednesday on MLB.com/Live. The first round and Compensation Round A will be broadcast live from MLB Network's Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday, beginning with the Draft preview show at 6 p.m. ET.
MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo will join Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds, John Hart, Peter Gammons and Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis on Monday's broadcast.
Coverage for Rounds 2-50 will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live, where Rounds 2-30 will be streamed on Tuesday, beginning at noon, and Rounds 31-50 will be streamed on Wednesday, starting at noon. Host Pete McCarthy will be joined by Mayo and former general manager Jim Duquette.
Here's a glance at what the Braves have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
While it appears the Braves would like to grab a position player early, they won't be able to be picky with the Draft's 35th selection. Before possibly grabbing the best available pitcher, they'll closely monitor power-potential guys like Clemson outfielder Kyle Parker and West Virginia's Jedd Gyorko, a pure hitter who doesn't have a definable future from a defensive standpoint.
While attending the ACC Tournament last weekend, DeMacio had a chance to get another look at Parker, whose signability is clouded by the fact that he still has three seasons of eligibility remaining to serve as Clemson's quarterback. Virginia outfielder Jarrett Parker, who also displayed his skills in front of DeMacio during the tourney, possesses an athletic frame that could project the kind of power the Braves are seeking.
The Braves have plenty of top-caliber pitching prospects in the lower level of their Minor League system and with Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, they feel good about the long-term makeup of their lineup. There seems to be a need to replenish the crop of Major League-caliber infielders. Catcher Brian McCann and Martin Prado are Atlanta's only current non-outfielders who appear to have a solid place in the club's long-term future.
Looking at the limited number of attractive left-handed pitchers, the Braves feel even better that they grabbed Mike Minor with the seventh overall selection last year. Recognized as an organization that has focused many of its Drafts around stockpiling arms, they may grab a couple right-handed pitchers early, but they will focus much of their attention during the early rounds on position players.
Braves' recent top picks
|2009||Mike Minor||LHP||Double-A Mississippi (ATL)|
|2008||Brett DeVall||LHP||Class-A Rome (ATL)|
|2007||Jason Heyward||OF||Atlanta (MLB)|
|2007||Jon Gilmore||3B||Class-A Winston-Salem (ATL)|
|2006||Cody Johnson||OF||Double-A Mississippi (ATL)|
|2006||Cory Rasmus||RHP||Class-A Rome (ATL)|
|2005||Joey Devine||RHP||Oakland (MLB)|
|2005||Beau Jones||LHP||Double-A Frisco (TEX)|
Recent Draft History
Craig Kimbrel, taken in the third round of the 2008 Draft, has quickly proven why many believe he could soon serve as Atlanta's closer. The 22-year-old right-hander spent a couple weeks in the Majors in May and will return once he improves his command and simply completes the normal developmental process. Armed with a plus fastball and an improving breaking ball, he has been labeled a "right-handed Billy Wagner."
Brett Butts, taken in the 18th round of the 2007 Draft, has positioned himself to at least get a chance to join his uncle (Braves bullpen catcher Alan Butts) in Atlanta. The 24-year-old right-hander posted a 1.52 ERA and limited opponents to a .212 batting average in his first 15 appearances for Double-A Mississippi this year.
In The Show
Heyward, the club's top pick in the 2007 Draft, obviously headlines the list of recent draftees who have appeared in Atlanta. Brandon Hicks, taken in the third round of that same Draft, will be an everyday Major Leaguer if he ever shows some consistency at the plate. The exciting shortstop had a two-week stint in the Majors in May. Kimbrel is the only member of the past two Draft classes who has already gotten a taste of the big league scene.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.