USA Today

Atlanta executives meet with two Florida Gators who might be draft candidates

The Braves met with two Florida Gators who might be candidates for the third overall pick.

The Braves, who have the third pick in the amateur draft on June 9, recently met with two players from the University of Florida who might be candidates for their top pick.

Sources have told Scout.com that John Coppolella, Atlanta’s general manager, and Brian Bridges, Atlanta’s scouting director, recently met in Gainesville with Gators’ outfielder Buddy Reed and Florida left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk.

Coppolella has recently said the Braves would prefer to draft a college hitter with the third pick, which is not a surprise considering the large number of pitchers Atlanta took last year in the draft. The Braves took pitchers with 20 of their first 26 draft picks in 2015.

Plus, the strength of Atlanta’s farm system is with pitchers, as the team has focused on acquiring arms in trades over the past 16 months. Twelve of Atlanta's 16 top prospects by MLB.com are pitchers, and all but one were either drafted or acquired in trades by the Braves since the new front office took over in October, 2014.

Reed will turn 21 in April. He is a switch-hitter and is listed at 6-3 and 200 pounds. Last season for the Gators Reed hit .305 with four home runs, 47 RBI and 18 stolen bases. Reed has drawn comparisons to Bernie Williams and George Springer.

The Braves are in dire need of more position player prospects. They are good in the infield, particularly after drafting third baseman Austin Riley last June and acquiring shortstop Dansby Swanson in the Shelby Miller trade in December. But the outfield needs a player with the skill set of Reed, who would likely immediately become Atlanta’s second-best position player prospect behind Swanson if taken by the Braves.

Puk is a tall (6-7) left-handed pitcher who has been compared to David Price and Chris Sale, two other college lefties who were taken high in the draft. Puk was 9-4 in 2015 with a 3.81 ERA, with 104 strikeouts in 78 innings.

This year’s pick will be the highest for the Braves since 1991, when they took, coincidentally, another college outfielder – Arizona State’s Mike Kelly.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.


Atlanta Dugout Top Stories