The Braves would love for Chris Volstad, arguably the best high school pitcher in the draft, to fall to them at number 27. But with that probably unlikely, they have several other projectable arms high on their list. Mark Pawelek, a lefty out of Utah, is being advised by Scott Boras and will probably be gone by the Braves pick, although some have him falling a bit into late in the first round.
Chaz Roe, a tall, lanky right-hander from Kentucky, has been mentioned several times as a possibility for the Braves. He is very similar to former Braves' farmhand Adam Wainwright, as Roe has a very loose and easy motion. He may be the number one candidate for the #27 selection.
Illinois prep right-hander Michael Bowden has become one of the best prospects in nation with a solid spring. With makeup being a huge positive with him, the Braves are certain to have some interest.
While Volstad is the best pitching prospect in Florida (and perhaps the nation), Tyler Herron is not far behind. The 6'3" righty has an awesome curve ball and an extremely easy delivery. His competitiveness is also strength. Herron might be available to the Braves when they pick at 77 or 87.
There are several other arms in the southeast the might draw the Braves' attention. Bryan Morris is a top right-hander out of Tennessee, but most believe he's going to Motlow Community College, where his dad is the head coach. He might be an expensive draft and follow, and the Braves would prefer to get him in their system. Mississippi prep star Cody Satterwhite has also been linked with the Braves, but his command troubles have them a bit worried.
The Braves have picked a few pitchers out of California in the last few years, and you wonder if Sean O'Sullivan may be another draftee. O'Sullivan was one of the top prep stars before the season began, but his stats suffered and so did his velocity. He rebounded late in the season, but a once sure fire first rounder will now be lucky to be drafted in the second or third round.
Tall Texas righty Craig Italiano has also been linked to the Braves. Matt Belisle and Matt Wright are just two of the tall, hard-throwing righties the Braves have plunked out of Texas over the past few years. But Italiano throws with a lot of effort, and many of the Braves scouts prefer to have their pitchers throw with ease. Italiano has an outstanding fastball, but his jerky motion when he pitches may be a bit worrisome.
The two top pitchers from the State of Georgia, lefty Miers Quigley and righty Buster Posey, should be considered serious options by the Braves. Quigley has some injury questions after some more tendonitis, while Posey is being pursued heavily by FSU to start his college career this year. But would a call from the Braves change that?
Josh Wall has been compared to a young A.J. Burnett for the physical similarities, and there's no doubt when you watch his video his rangy body is similar to the Marlins' young ace. Wall throws hard with an easy motion, and he may be a candidate for one of the Braves' two second round picks.
Iain Sebastian is a Georgia product to watch out for in the 4th or 5th round. He was the most consistent of the Peach state pitchers this spring. He's a right-hander with a good two-seam fastball, curve, and slider. He's been clocked as high as 96 mph. At 6'4", 230, he also has solid size.
Don't be surprised if the Braves take a college pitcher early on. They've done that frequently over the past couple of years. Plus, with the trade of Dan Meyer to Oakland, they may want to "replace" him with a draft pick that might be ready in two years or even less. Chris Mason was a top high school pitcher that has flourished at UNC Greensboro the last few years. The Braves have a rich history in North Carolina, so there's little doubt they've followed Mason closely. He might be a candidate for the third round.
Another name to watch is Cesar Ramos, a lefty out of Long Beach State that was overshadowed by Abe Alvarez and Jared Weaver before this season. He would have to be a candidate for the pick at #41 to be considered.
Georgia College has two pitching stars that might be options for the Braves. Matt Goyen is a tall lefty who did well in the Cape Cod League last summer. He also turned down a ton of money from the Devil Rays. Goyen could be a 4th or 5th rounder. And Brandon Durden has surpassed Goyen on some prospect lists, but the lefty may have more questions with his breaking stuff.
And Micah Owings was the Southern Conference Player of the Year after transferring from Georgia Tech to Tulane. But his stock has slipped a bit and could be had in the fifth round. Owings' brother, Jon Mark, is an outfielder in the Braves' system, and Micah would love to join his younger sibling in a Braves' uniform.
I've identified two middle infielders that look like Braves' type players. Drew Thompson is a high school second baseman from Florida that has drawn comparisons to his father, former Giants' second sacker Robbie Thompson. The Braves have picked sons of former big leaguers before (Adam LaRoche, Aaron Herr, Tony Pena). And the University of Texas has an interesting prospect in Seth Johnston, who has excellent makeup and can play either second or short.
The Braves could use an outfielder, and their top choice may be Alabama prep star Colby Rasmus. He's got a powerful left-handed bat and great makeup. The Braves may have to take him with their 27th pick to get him, but their priority with that pick might be pitching. Rasmus might not be around when the Braves select at #41.
Eli Iorg is the son of former big leaguer Garth Iorg, and the brother of former Braves' farmhand Isaac Iorg. Eli is a bit bigger than his brother (6'3") and has solid tools across the board. He could be a candidate in the 3rd round.
The Braves may draft a first baseman within the first ten selections since they didn't sign one last year. A top candidate might be Trevor Pippen, who improved his stock with a solid spring at McIntosh High School south of Atlanta. His left-handed swing has even drawn comparisons to Jeremy Hermida, another former Atlanta prep star. Pippen might be a good pick in the 5th or 6th round.
Justin Smoak would have to go higher than the 5th or 6th round, and the product of Goose Creek, South Carolina might entice the Braves to pick him earlier than that. Smoak is not a power threat, but has good footwork and instincts around the bag at first base. Does that sound familiar?
Catching is not a high priority, with the recent signing of Phil Britton as a draft and follow and the tremendous depth already in the system with Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Clint Sammons. But there are two players that might be tempting to Atlanta. Jonathan Egan is a local kid that is one of the top prep receivers in the nation. However, there are questions whether he can remain behind the plate.
A better candidate might be Ralphie Henriquez, the son of Braves' minor league catching instructor Ralph Henriquez. He's a switch-hitter with good catch-and-throw skills. The Braves know he's gotten good instruction, as his father has been seen throwing BP to him over the last four years before his team's batting practice. Henriquez could be a steal for the Braves in the 6th or 7th round, and would be another good receiver that could be brought along slowly and not be rushed considering the depth in the system.
I've identified those names by looking over the prospect lists and seeing which players "look" like Braves-type players, whether it's a region they're from that the Braves have concentrated on before, or a certain type of player that fits the Braves' mold.
Since the Braves pick so late, it's hard for them to even know at this point whom they are going to get. They have their favorites, of course, but there's little chance in knowing exactly what they'll wind up with on Tuesday afternoon.
I'm going to offer my predictions, and please believe me when I say this is not any inside info from the Braves' draft board. The area in the bowels of Turner Field is guarded more carefully than Saddam Hussein. This is just an educated guess at some players that might fit the Braves profile as their type of player.
1st round – 27th overall – Chaz Roe - RHP
He's just too perfect for the Braves. They want a high school pitcher early, and Roe hits every criterion for the organization. There are other candidates, but for me, his video is the most impressive. The Braves like pitchers with very easy motion in their delivery, and Roe fits the bill.
Supplemental First Round – 41st overall – Colby Rasmus - OF
This might be a pipe dream. Rasmus has an excellent chance to be gone by this selection. However, I'm going to be positive and hope he'll be on the board. He's a very solid player that would be an excellent long-term prospect for the Braves.
2nd round – 75th overall – Tyler Herron - RHP
Call this my favorite choice. Of all the video I looked at on MLB.com, Herron stood out. I like his delivery. It's clean and easy. He has an excellent curve ball, looks very athletic, and is supposedly very competitive. His makeup sounds like the perfect match. Volstad would be a dream come true with the first pick, but the Braves might not regret losing him if they can grab the second best Florida prep star in the second round.
2nd round – 77th overall – Josh Wall - RHP
Wall is a tall, rangy pitcher from Louisiana that draws comparisons to A.J. Burnett, a pitcher the Braves absolutely love. Wall might be gone by 87, but he would be a good pick here.
3rd round – 107th overall – Chris Mason – RHP
A college pitcher early on should be expected, and Mason just seems like a perfect fit for this pick. He's athletic and has good stuff, and with our history of looking closely at pitchers from North Carolina and Mason's comparisons to Tim Hudson, he might be a top candidate.
4th round – 137th overall – Iain Sebastian – RHP
The Braves may be tempted to take a lefty here, notably Miers Quigley if he falls this far, but I'm going to go with Sebastian, who really had the most consistent all-around season of the Georgia pitchers. If the Braves are going to take pitchers, you know one of the early picks will come from Georgia. Here's my choice.
5th round – 167th overall – Micah Owings – RHP
Here's another college pitcher and another pitcher that would love to be a Brave. Owings continued to prospect on the mound at Tulane, and hey, if he doesn't work out on the mound he could be switched to a position player. But it will be interesting to see him on the mound in a Braves' uniform.
6th round – 197th overall – Trevor Pippen – 1B
I expect the Braves to take a first baseman somewhere in their first top ten picks, and Pippen may be a good candidate in this area. His swing is very smooth, and he had a very solid season at McIntosh.
7th round – 227th overall – Ralphie Henriquez - C
Do we need a catcher this high? Probably not, but Ralphie is too hard to pass up. His dad is an excellent catching instructor, and he's been around the Braves since he was 13. Don't underestimate someone knowing ‘the Braves way' of doing things.
8th round – 257th overall - Blake Nation – RHP
A tall, projectable right-hander with solid stuff, Nation would be a good selection in the 8th round. The pitching talent in Georgia is not great this season, but it would almost be a shock if we didn't see one or two pitchers from our backyard in the top ten picks. Let's throw Nation in there to round out our top ten guesses.
The draft is a crapshoot. We might see a couple of those predictions come true or none at all. But the one thing we should all have is faith in the Braves' scouts, just like Scouting Director Roy Clark has, which is his strength. These scouts get out and beat the pavement every year to find the best talent. They get to know the players personally, get to know the parents, and get as close to the situation as possible to see if the player is a "Braves guy." They know, from their personal observation, whether or not a player fits the Braves' mold. This organization has done an excellent job over the last five drafts, and there's no reason to think they won't do it again Tuesday and Wednesday.
Bill Shanks has a new book out on baseball scouting and player development philosophies, with the Braves as the main focus. "Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team" is out on the bookshelves now. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Who could the Braves be looking at for the draft?
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