SHANKS: Can you talk about Devine and his chances for being up later this season?
CLARK: It just gives John (Schuerholz) a lot more options. I think we've figured out that we've traded 10 or 11 pitchers in the last couple of years, so it was time to reload and that was the strength of this year's draft. The strength of this year's draft was power pitchers. I think that we've added some depth in that department. Joey Devine was a guy that all of us, to every guy in the room, didn't feel would be there based on the success he's had in college. I just saw him in the ACC tournament sitting on 95 and 96 with good life and command and a sharp breaking ball. He's got an unorthodox, almost a sidearm delivery, but he's got a power sinker and slider. I wouldn't want to hit off of him. Not many right-handed hitters are comfortable to hit off him. He's a very advanced pitcher. Most of the projections had him going in the first round with other clubs. I'm sure we surprised a whole lot of people. I talked with Paul Snyder and he can't remember the Atlanta Braves ever taking a college right-hander (with the first pick). And I can't remember it happening since I've have been since 1989. He's a good one though. We feel like he's very advanced. In international competition last year with Team USA he had a lot of success. He's got a power arm and he throws strikes. I think it just depends on them. Obviously, they can compete at a higher level right now. They are advanced. If they go out and do what they are capable of, I think they can move very quickly. Now is that quick enough to get here to Atlanta in September or earlier? I can't tell you that. But I can honestly tell you that we wouldn't have drafted him unless we didn't think they're going to be in Atlanta soon. Now if that's this year or next year or whatever. Realistically, he's such a talent I thought he'd be long gone before we picked. In the back of our minds, he's real close. He's got heavy sink on his pitches. He's had success throughout his college career. He's just too good to pass up. Obviously, he's close. How close? That depends on him. We've been tracking him at N.C. State since he was a freshman. It's a good fit for us. I'm sure in draft rooms all over the country there was a bit of a surprise, but hey, we took the best guy. We took the best player available and I'm very happy with that.
SHANKS: You also drafted several other college closers, with Will Startup (5th round), Michael Nix (11th round), and Rudy Quinones (12th round).
CLARK: Will Startup and Joey Devine have both been winners all their life. Startup was a big reason behind the Georgia Bulldogs' success last season. I just think he's a winning-type guy. I think there are a lot a lot of similarities with his stuff and makeup to John Foster. I think if you have that desire that he shows, then he can be successful in the major leagues. Nix and Quinones both touch 94. Both were closers.
SHANKS: You picked a high school left-hander in the supplemental round, Beau Jones.
CLARK: We love Beau. I personally felt he was the best left-handed high school player in the country. He's the total package. He's 90-93 with a good curve ball and a good change up. We feel real good about him. At the beginning of the year his second best pitch was his change up, but as the year went on he used his breaking ball more and he kind of lost his feel for his changeup. Still, he's just a heck of a competitor. When you compare him, he reminds me of that other Louisiana kid. He's sort of like an Andy Pettitte-type guy. You're always comparing the picks to a major leaguer. Pettitte if I'm not mistaken was born in Louisiana and raised in Texas. Hopefully, we'll be able to raise Beau through our minor league system. He's a good-looking kid. I saw him for the first time last year in the AFLAC game. When I walked out of there it was no question that it was our kind of guy. He's been very consistent. I bet we've had ten or twelve of our scouts see him. We were just about at every one of his games. He was just consistent. 90-93, good breaking ball, good change, and a good competitor.
SHANKS: Tell me about Yuniel Escobar, the second round pick (75th overall).
CLARK: I went to see him twice. We've got great reports on him from our scouts. We've done a lot of intelligence work. It's tough with a kid like that. We have scouts that scout across the world and in international tournaments. We've got reports on him. I saw him up to last week. He's a strong kid. He can throw. He can field. I don't know whether he's going to stay at shortstop or whether he'll move to third or whether he'll be a utility player. But I can tell you he has the tools to play in the big leagues and be successful. He defected in October of last year. One of the reasons he was not on the National team, from what I understand, was the fear of defection. Most of the time the Cubans will go to Costa Rica or someplace like that. He grew up two houses down from Brayan Pena. They played together on all those junior national teams growing up. He knew him exceptionally well. That meant a lot to us. We've done as much research as we possibly can and we feel good about that selection. He's been based down in the Miami area. Some very established scouts in other organizations loved him just as much as we did. We would have considered him at 27. We think the guy is a real player. He's going to be fun to watch and is real advanced.
SHANKS: Jeff Lyman, the second round pick out of California.
CLARK: He's touched 96. He's a power arm. He's real aggressive. The breaking ball will be more consistent in time, and that's what we'll work on right away.
SHANKS: Can you talk about third round pick Jordan Schafer?
CLARK: He's a big, strong kid that had signed with Clemson. He was a prospect as a pitcher as well. He was just too good to pass up. We were going to pound with pitching this year because that was the strength of the draft, but he was just too good to pass up. He's a strong, left-handed hitting power guy that's an athlete.
SHANKS: Michael Broadway, 4th rounder.
CLARK: One of the areas we wanted to address this year was power-arms. The draft had that. We've had Devine touch 97. Lyman has touched 97. Broadway has touched 95. Bullock has a power arm. With the amount of pitchers we've given up over the last few years we felt we needed to go with the strength of the draft.
SHANKS: You've had your eye on Brandon Monk, whom you took in the 7th round.
CLARK: The Monk kid is a lot like watching that second baseman out there we've got. He can really hit. But he's got a good arm and he can play all over the infield. He throws 90 from the mound. He's also a winner. He's been a winner at every level.
SHANKS: You took a kid from Alabama in the 8th round, righty Kyle Cofield.
CLARK: He's had a lot of success over here at East Cobb. He's signed to go to Alabama. We've been watching him for several years. We had him here at the stadium. He's got a solid to average fastball and a nasty breaking ball. Big kid – 6'3 kid.
SHANKS: Georgia wasn't as big an option for you this year, was it?
CLARK: Everything runs in cycles. We scouted the state of Georgia very heavily. It just didn't fit this year for what we were looking for with the strengths of the draft. We went all over the world, California, Cuba, and a lot of different places. But for Georgia this year, it just wasn't a good fit. We take the best guys. It doesn't matter to me whether they are college or junior college or high school. I want the guy that has the best upside, the guy that can help the Atlanta Braves win championships. That's the guy we're going to take whether they are high school, college, junior college, or a Cuban defector.
SHANKS: How do you rate this draft?
CLARK:I think we had a great draft. I told John Schuerholz that before I went in there. Thirty scouting directors are going into their General Managers today and telling them they had a great draft. I'm not going to be any different than any one of them. I think we'll know realistically in the next four or five years. I can go back to the 2000 draft when we said the same thing, and now some of those kids are finally touching the surface. I think you're going to see more and more of our kids coming up, and hopefully being effective and helping us win championships. That's what it's all about. We're looking at the whole picture, and it's all about winning at the major league level, and to do that you've got to sign championship type players. I feel pretty good about this draft. I always feel good. The harder you work, the luckier you get, and our scouting department has that philosophy. We feel good.
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 features the philosophies employed by Roy Clark and the Braves' organization. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roy Clark Interview
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