Grading the Braves Draft

Bill Shanks grades the work the Braves did in day one of the MLB Draft.

Tom Batista has been waiting for this draft. It's his first one back with the Braves after a five-year absence. He never wanted to leave, but that doesn't matter now.

All that matters is the Braves are once again following his advice. Batista has been good before. He scouted and signed Kris Medlen, Tommy Hanson and Freddie Freeman for the Braves.

Monday night I peered through the door leading into the Braves draft headquarters. They won't let me get too close. I saw Batista and then he smiled and pumped his fist.

That was all I needed to know. Batista got his man.

Kolby Allard was the first high school pitcher taken in this year's draft. Yes, the Atlanta Braves got the first prep pitcher. Think about that for a moment. A team known for developing high school talent got the first one, the top one in the country.

In a way, that's all we need to know about this draft. The Braves got the top player on their board, a player they thought was a top five value pick if not for a back issue that popped up on Allard in the spring. This organization wants to slowly develop pitching talent, like it did 25 years ago, and this is the perfect pitcher to be part of the process.

To think the Braves then grabbed a second 17-year-old high school pitcher with Mike Soroka is scary. The scout who saw Soroka, former pitching prospect Brett Evert, raved about Soroka's potential.

Soroka is a big framed kid that is mature, according to Evert. He hit 90-94 mph on the radar gun and the Braves believe his upside is tremendously high.

So two top high school arms, one lefty and one right-hander... yeah, that's just what the Braves need. They needed to continue to build on the pitching depth that has been accumulated through the offseason trades. The pitching depth is already ten times better than it was late last season. Now, adding Allard and Soroka makes it even better.

The Braves needed some hitters, and they grabbed two kids they love in third baseman Austin Riley and catcher Lucas Herbert. Riley plays a position the Braves are obviously trying to fill, while having Herbert accompany his good friend Allard will only be a positive.

Scouts believe Herbert has great defensive skills now and they do believe he will hit. When a scout like Roy Clark tells you the Braves believe they got the best catcher in the draft, you pay attention.

Finally, the Braves gambled on college pitcher A.J. Minter, who will come back from Tommy John surgery. Scouts believe he has great ability to return and be stronger than ever. They loved the power arm from the left side he showed before his injury, and the Braves are confident he can regain his status as a top prospect.

This is an A. How can you complain? To have Clark and Batista back in the organization, with new scouting director Brian Bridges leading the way, is a huge plus. And to have pitching at the forefront is exactly what the Braves needed to do as they continue the process of fixing something that was badly broken.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill at and email him at

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