Part 2: What do the Braves need in the draft?

Here's part two of the series looking at what the Braves may need in next week's amateur draft.

CATCHERS

Okay, so the Braves have two terrific young catchers at the big league level. Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are unmatched for their potential. But that does not mean the team has to stop drafting catchers.

As long as the team drafts pitchers, they're going to have to have catchers. And with ‘Salty' now in Atlanta, the Braves are going to have to get another prospect. Brayan Pena is in Richmond. Clint Sammons is in Mississippi. The Braves have Jose Camarena in Myrtle Beach, while Phil Britton is in Rome. Pena could be a candidate to be thrown into a trade, either this summer or this winter. And if Sammons does well for the rest of the season in Mississippi, it's not out of the question that he could move up next year. Yeah, Sammons could also return to Double-A to start next season, especially with no one really pushing him from Myrtle Beach. But Sammons is someone that could become a candidate for a reserve role in Atlanta in a few years, especially if ‘Salty' moves to another position.

Britton could go to Myrtle Beach next season, but he could also return to Rome and team with Bubba Garcia. The Braves like both catchers, but they need long-term development. Therefore, another young catcher could be targeted in the first five rounds to groom for 2008 and beyond.

The Braves might prefer to draft a college catcher, like Sammons, this June. Then if the college catcher does well this summer in Danville, it might not be out of the question for that player to skip Rome next spring and head straight to Myrtle Beach. Camarena is a decent prospect, but only marginal. So the Braves may want someone to push Garcia and Britton.

Expect a catcher to be selected in the first five rounds.


FIRST BASE

This will definitely be a position the Braves will look at for the draft. Again, Scott Thorman is a young first baseman in Atlanta, and there's a chance Jarrod Saltalamacchia could move there as well. But at the lower levels of the minors the depth is just not there.

Barbaro Canizares is at Richmond, but he's been troubled by visa problems this season. So that makes his status somewhat uncertain for the future. Isaiah Ka'aihue will probably move up to AA Mississippi next season. He's doing okay in Myrtle Beach now but needs to get his batting average up. Tyler Flowers is off to a decent start in Rome. If he keeps this up, there's an excellent chance he could get promoted to Myrtle Beach next season.

But then there's a drop off. Josh Morris struggled in Rome and is now in Extended Spring Training. Ernesto Mejia has not yet turned the corner. Right now there is no clear- cut candidate for first base at Rome next season. Morris might return there, but he's an older player that so far has been a disappointment.

The Braves will be looking for a first baseman in this draft.


SECOND BASE

Kelly Johnson could be the Braves' starting second baseman through 2011, when his contract runs out. He might be there longer than that, but it shows that he's a young player with potential seasons as the Braves' starter at second.

The depth behind Johnson is solid. Martin Prado is currently on the big league roster as a reserve. He's a natural second baseman. J.C. Holt is now in Richmond after a solid start in Double-A. Holt might return to Mississippi if Prado goes back down.

One of the best surprises this season has been Diory Hernandez, who has blossomed in Myrtle Beach and Mississippi. Is Hernandez a potential starter or just a reserve? Either way, he does provide depth at the position, even if he is a natural shortstop.

Then you have Chase Fontaine, a top pick last year who has moved from short to second, which is where the Braves believed he would be eventually. Fontaine is having a decent season in Rome, but he has yet to break out.

After that the depth is a little thin. Cole Miles struggled in Rome, and while he has speed he's a marginal prospect. So right now it's hard to say who might be Rome's second baseman next season, which might necessitate drafting a young second baseman. Brandon Monk has been suspended for taking his ADD medication, but he's still a marginal prospect as well.

The Braves could look for a second baseman in the draft.

Thursday: Shortstop, Third Base, and Outfield.


Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.



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