1. PITCHING It doesn't matter how many solid-pitching prospects this organization has in its system, this will always be the main priority going into the draft. The Braves are trying to stagger the years they concentrate on pitching early on in the draft. Two years ago the Braves took pitchers with 12 of their first 14 picks. So after taking position players with five of their first seven last year, expect pitching to once again be a priority. The trades of Dan Meyer, Jose Capellan, Alec Zumwalt, Matt Merricks, Bubba Nelson, Jung Bong, and Andy Pratt over the last fourteen months also contribute to the need for additional pitching. With two extra draft picks, expect many of the top ten picks to have "P" by their name.
2. SECOND BASE
Even though the Braves drafted a second baseman with a high pick last year with J.C. Holt, they'll probably look in that direction once again. Holt has struggled in Rome, and the only other legit starting candidate in the system is Myrtle Beach's Martin Prado. Mississippi's Jonathan Schuerholz is more of a reserve candidate if he continues to develop. So even with a young starter at the major league level with Marcus Giles, the Braves would do well to get another candidate for second base.
3. FIRST BASE
Ok, so the club has a young first baseman in Atlanta (Adam LaRoche) and solid prospects in Richmond (James Jurries) and Mississippi (Scott Thorman). So why in the world do they need a first baseman? Well, Mark Jurich, who has just been moved to first this season in Rome, has yet to fully prove he can play the position. Larry Williams, a draft and follow player from 2004, will probably play in Danville this season. But the Braves need a young high school first baseman to develop and take several years to possibly be ready. Remember, a trade of a player at a position can create a lack of depth real quickly. So compared to other positions, the Braves could use a first baseman. They did not sign a single first baseman from the 2004 draft. One name to keep in mind is Iain Sebastian, a two-way player from Columbus High School who has drawn comparisons to Scott Thorman.
The Braves signed only three outfielders from the 2004 draft, including recently signed draft and follow player Trevion Griffin. Even though the system is stocked full of quality outfielders, several could be used in the Gulf Coast League this season. Jon Mark Owings was the first outfielder taken last year, in the 17th round. So expect an outfielder to be taken a bit earlier this season. Alabama prep star Colby Rasmus may be a possibility with the 41st overall pick
The Braves signed Phil Britton as a draft and follow player a few weeks ago, so this will not be a high priority. However, there are several Braves scouts that believe it is always wise to draft a catcher somewhere in the first ten rounds. The Braves have stocked up with Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Clint Sammons in the last three drafts, and all three are developing very well. But don't be shocked if there's another receiver selected somewhere in the top 12 rounds or so. Remember, the catchers are in charge of the most important piece of property the Braves own: the pitchers. So it's extremely crucial to make sure those young arms are placed in good hands.
Did we say the Braves need pitching? Remember, YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH.
Bill Shanks has a new book out on baseball scouting and player development with the Braves as the main focus. "Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team"
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