"We had a great draft."
It's a line that every coach, GM, and scout in any sport uses directly after the draft, so why should it be any different for the Braves and their scouting honcho, Roy Clark.
"Today, there are 29 other scouting directors telling their bosses they had a great draft," laughed Clark after the first 20 rounds were completed on Tuesday.
Of course time will tell...a lot of time. But for now, it's another year, another huge crop of starting pitchers for the Braves.
The Braves continued their insatiable thirst for starting pitching by selecting thirteen in the first 20 rounds.
Most of this year's haul came from the high school ranks, bucking the recent trend league-wide trend of going for starting pitchers.
"We prefer to grow and nurture our own kids," said Clark, responding to the college/high school debate.
There are two main reasons that teams favor taking a collegiate pitcher over a high school pitcher:
1. They can have an impact faster than that of a high school pitcher.
2. There is a perceived higher failure rate with high school pitchers that with college pitchers.
The Braves aren't in any dire need for pitching, so they can afford to grow and nurture their draftees through the system because the depth is so steeped in quality.
Also, the Braves don't fall into the traps that can lead to a high school pitcher failing, like the 100-mph pitcher with no control.
As Clark says, the radar gun can get you drafted, but you have to be able to pitch to go anywhere. In fact, the Braves look at three things when drafting players: ability, makeup, and signability.
This year's crop played in perfectly with that philosophy, as many of the young arms throw in the 90-93 range, have multiple pitches, have an excellent approach to their craft, and most importantly, want to be Braves.
Their first pick was Luis Atilano, a RHP from Puerto Rico. Atilano is a player that the Braves have been watching closely for over a year. In that time, according to Clark, Atilano has steadily improved.
"Luis was not the type of riser that goes from 85mph to 95mph," explained Clark. "He continuously improved his speed as time went on, from 87 to 89 to 91, and so on, it was a gradual improvement."
Clark also told a story about Atilano coming up to meet the team and work out. While some potential draftees can be starstruck, Clark said that there was "a fire burning in his eyes." A player that Atilano is often compared to is Javier Vazquez of the Expos.
As the rest of the league took mostly college pitchers, the Braves continued to pick high school players high off their own list.
Jo Jo Reyes is another one of those pitchers that the Braves were impressed with, immediately comparing Reyes approach to that of current Atlanta starter Horacio Ramirez.
"He throws a little harder than Ramirez," clarified Clark. "But he is very competitive, and like the other guys, is not a one-dimensional pitcher."
Paul Bacot, Jacob Stevens, Matthew Harrison, Chris Vines, Asher Demme, Ryan Basner, Sean White, Adam Stanley, Bradley Nelson, Glenn Tucker, Keith Weiser, and Kyle Bakker are all players who fit that same profile.
Bacot continued the recent Braves trend of picking players from their own back yard, but only he and 20th round pick Bakker of Georgia Tech could be considered local players.
"Bakker was a pitcher we thought the world of," said Clark about the 6'9 lefty, who was considered a first round possibility right before this last season. "We think he can be an asset to the organization as he has always pitched well in bigger matchups."
Bakker did best Top 3 pick Kyle Sleeth in a head to head earlier this season, and posted an outstanding 40 to 4 K/BB mark for Team USA, best on a team that had both Sleeth and Top 15 pick Brad Sullivan.
As for Weiser, he was considered to be a 4th-5th round talent, but scared teams away with reports of signability issues with him. But according to Clark, he's ready to be a Brave, as were almost all of the draftees.
Beyond the usual massive infusion of pitching, the Braves also selected three catchers, including one they took in the supplemental round at pick #36, Jarrod Saltalamacchia from Palm Beach.
"He was, in our minds, the best catching prospect out there," said Clark. "He hits for power and we believe will be an excellent catcher."
In addition to Saltalamacchia, whom they call "Salty Dog", the Braves took two other catchers, Cole Armstrong and Andrew Barden, two guys who Clark says aren't just there to fill out levels.
The Braves also made another trek into the Great White North, procuring 3B Jamie Romac from London, Ontario. Last time, the Braves selected Scott Thorman, and the reviews have been positive.
"We think that Jamie can be Thorman from the right side," noted Clark. "He has handled the wood bat really well."
Romac also put on a hitting display during a last Thursday workout at the Ted. Clark said that Romac "punished the left field seats" with a number of blasts with the wood bat.
The Braves took outfielders with the 13th and 14th round picks, both from major colleges; Casey Spanish of Kansas, and Mark Jurich from Louisville.
In the 15th round, the Braves again selected an outfielder, this time going with a JUCO talent, Steven Doetsch from Indian River CC in Ft. Pierce, FL, who was considered another Top 5 round talent.
Doetsch was a draft and follow of the Phillies last season, but caught the Braves eye when they were following their own player at Indian River, Danny Collins. The more they went to see Collins, the more they (more specifically scout Alex Morales) were impressed with Doetsch. And when the Phillies couldn't sign him, and he was available in the 15th round, the Braves snapped him up.
Benjamin Thomas and Keith Eichas rounded out the position players that were drafted Tuesday.
There were several players like Doetsch and Weiser that dropped due to their signability issues, some of which likely included players like Landon Powell, a highly regarded junior catcher that wasn't selected despite many catchers being drafted in the first 20 rounds.
Also, pitchers Scott Maine (Mariners, 15th) and James Barthmaier (Astros, 13th) were two pitchers whose talents would have assuredly landed them much higher draft positions, possibly with the Braves.
So just like those other 29 teams, the Braves feel they can be happy. And even without taking the plunge into the world of risky signability, the Braves ended up with a draft that was typically them, and a first day they can smile about.
Look for the complete transcript of BravesCenter.com's exclusive interview with Roy Clark later this week. Clark will break down each of the Braves selections with BravesCenter.
Jason Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the Fanhome/BravesCenter Message Board.
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