Now that opening day has passed, draft talk is starting to heat up a little. Yes this draft does have a lot of power arms and is short on first-round level bats. If you look at who remains in extended spring training for the Braves, there is still an abundance of pitchers. Then factor in they might bring in another five pitchers in as draft and follows. That will give the Braves somewhere between 30 to 40 pitchers they could place on the two short season teams before they even draft a pitcher.
I have been hoping for Andrew Miller to drop from the number college spot in his class since he passed on the Devil Rays offer out of High School. He still remains there, even though he isn't as sure to stay there as he was before the college season started. He has Randy Johnson-type stuff, with a plus fastball and plus slider coming from his long 6'6" frame. He might fall out of the top pick of the draft, but very unlikely to fall from the top five.
The Braves would be foolish not to take a pitcher with their first choice. There will no doubt be a run on college pitcher's in the first round and maybe the Braves will be fortunate enough to have a Jordan Walden or Kyle Drabek fall to them at the 24th pick. Both pitchers can reach the upper 90's and have a plus breaking pitch. Drabek's slider is possibly the best breaking pitch in the high school class. The 6'4" Walden has much more projection than the 5'11 Drabek. But Drabek has better stuff right now.
The next group of pitchers includes right-handers Matt Latos, Chris Tillman, Dellin Betances, Jeremy Jeffress and lefty Brett Anderson. They all can throw in the mid-to-upper 90's.
But my next favorite high school pitcher after Walden and Drabek would have to be 5'11" lefty Kasey Kiker, who pitches at the same school as the Cardinals' first round pick from last year, outfielder Colby Rasmus. The Alabama pitcher has been called a Scott Kazmir clone. He sits in the low-to-mid 90s and has reached 97 this spring, along with a plus change-up, a very good curve, and a bulldog mentality on the mound. Kiker would most likely be there at 24 unless another team really likes him, which would be understandable.
The top pitcher on the Braves' scout team, Shawn Tolleson, had Tommy John surgery and will probably go to college at Baylor.
Nick Fuller out of Georgia has a slider in the same class as Drabek, but he can't throw it with the same command Drabek can. Fuller throws around 92-93. He has been the closer for the East Cobb team for the last couple seasons. Rare to see a top 100 high school prospect be put into a closer role, but he has plus stuff and already excels there. I have heard Brad Lidge-type comparisons because of the slider.
Garrett Johnson – a 6'10" lefty that can throw upper 80s in high school is always interesting. He has a decent breaking pitch as well.
Tim Gustafson, a right-handed pitcher out of Georgia Tech went to high school with Jeff Francouer at Parkview.
Jeff Manship, a righty that had great stuff in high school and was hurt for much of his first two seasons at Notre Dame. Starting to get back to form. He could be a sleeper.
Once you get to the 38 and 43 picks for the Braves a lot of the power arms will be gone. There are just too few bats in the mix to push to many down. There has been some talk about the Braves liking Hank Conger. Conger has a great bat. He could very well hit for average and power in the majors. He has ties to Atlanta area (grandfather). He was on the Braves' scout team, so the Braves had to have some interest. That being said he has the body of a future DH (6'0, 210). He is listed as a catcher now and he does an okay job. He also plays third and has decent mobility for his size, but his future is probably at first if he was drafted by a National League team. I couldn't really see them taking him before their 51st pick.
One hitter from the south who has opened some eyes this season so far is OF Jason Place. Place is finally over an injury that caused him to slip in the player rankings. Place has a big bat and a rifle for an arm. Place may be a great option at the 38th or 43rd pick.
Cody Johnson is an interesting name. Johnson looked like a lock for a top 10 pick but has struggled this spring. Johnson could be an option if the scouts believe this is only a prolonged slump. Johnson seems like he is the type to slide and end up in college to me.
Cedric Hunter, Devin Shepherd, Derrick Robinson and Drew Poulk are a few other outfielders they may interest the Braves. Shepherd and Poulk both played on the Braves' scout team. Both have big time right handed power. Robinson is a switch hitting lead off hitter. He has speed and is the typical athlete/football type. He needs some work on some of the finer points of baseball, but he is slightly more advanced then some of the other players in that mold. Hunter is one of the top position players from Georgia. The L/L, Hunter plays well in center, with a little pop in his bat to go with good speed. Jacque Jones might be a good comparison.
The catching crop this year is horrible. Conger and Max Sapp are listed as the top two catchers in the high school crop mainly because of there bats. Georgia actually has maybe the two top catching prospects destined to stay at the position. Torre Langley was known for his defense, but his bat has shined as well this spring. He will go quickly in this weak class, maybe even in the supplemental picks. Mark Fleury is the other. He has good tools behind the plate and a great left handed bat. His catching tools aren't as advanced as Langley, so he will go later. He might be a nice selection for the Braves somewhere in there top ten picks.
Infielders don't have any sure thing type picks. Ryan Adams has a great bat and will most likely end up at second. Ryan Jackson reminds me of Tyler Greene coming out of high school. The defense is there, but there are questions about his bat. If his body develops like Greene's did, then he could be a star as well. Both Greene and Adams played for the Braves' scout team. Michael Demperio out of Georgia could be very interesting. He has often played 2B for teams he has played on, usually a bad sign in high school. But Demperio is said to be a plus defender there. Demperio is also a lead off hitter with blazing speed. Brandon May, also from Georgia, has been a well known name in the state before he even got to high school. He is similar to Brad Emaus who the Braves drafted two years back and is now at Tulane. May is a baseball rat and is just a solid player. He could play almost anywhere on the field. He might be a great guy to take in the late teen rounds and hope you can sign him. A.J. Wirnsberger also played for the Braves' scout team. Looks like a solid player all the way around. Could be another good pick-up a little ways into the draft. Jonathan Merritt is a 5'8 short stop out of Georgia that is often over looked because of his size, but his tools play much bigger. He most likely will go to college and be a high pick in three years.
I would love to see the Braves take a flyer on Mike Meschke. He is a first basemen out of the state of Georgia. Meschke has plus power and a solid defender.
One player who is a bit of a wild card right now is John Tolisano. Tolisano is one of the top ranked high school players in the 2007 class. Tolisano is a switch hitting short stop with a plus bat out of the state of Florida. Tolisano is also home schooled and there is some rumblings that he could get his GED and enter the 2006 draft. Just something to keep in mind with such a weak crop of bats this season.
Josh Morris had a monster freshman season at Georgia. The 6'5 first baseman has plus power and came off a down sophomore year. Local product might fall in the 3rd to 5th round range after he came out of the gate slow with an injury.
Whitt Robbins (GT) and Andy D'Alessio (Clemson) to first basemen with plus left handed power that will be around with a mid level to late pick on the first day.
Jim Negrych interesting second basemen at Pittsburgh. The 5'9 left hander swings a nice bat.
Some draft names to keep in mind
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