So what will the Braves do? They signed 19 players drafted last June, with 15 of those players being pitchers. Therefore, you can expect the Braves to have a more balanced class this week.
The Braves signed seven draft-and-follow players this spring, which will help in the strategy for the draft. Four of those seven were pitchers, including Cole Rohrbough. The Braves believe he could have been a late first round pick if he had gone back in the draft, so that's excellent value for a kid the Braves took in the 22nd round in 2006.
The Rohrbough signing allows the Braves to concentrate more on position players with their first few picks. Plus, with all the pitchers drafted a year ago the Braves need to get those kids some innings. So they can't go out and go heavy on pitching again this year, at least not early in the draft.
Scouting Director Roy Clark will be picking 14th in the first round Thursday, his highest pick in the eight years he's been in charge. Usually the Braves are near the end of the first round, so this is a new ballgame for the Braves.
But the higher pick really only complicates the process. It makes it harder to predict what might happen. The Braves have to go through numerous scenarios to see who might be available at number fourteen.
The player the Braves have been linked to more than any is outfielder Jason Heyward, who is from Henry County south of Atlanta. He's arguably the best high school outfielder in the draft. Comparisons have ranged from Fred McGriff to Derrek Lee.
Washington (at six), Colorado (at eight), and Florida (at 12) have also been linked with Heyward. But Baseball America's Jim Callis said Wednesday on my radio show that he believes the Braves will get Heyward at 14, and I agree.
Heyward will join Cody Johnson to give the Braves two outstanding long-term outfield prospects. That'll also be two solid lefty power-hitting prospects.
If Heyward is off the board, who knows what might happen. It does not seem the Braves will turn to lefty prep pitcher Josh Smoker, also a Georgia kid. He's projected more in the 20-25 range of the first round.
The Braves will then select at number 33 in the Supplemental (Sandwich) first round. If Heyward or another position player is the choice at 14, the Braves might be tempted to pick a pitcher. Do not expect Smoker to still be around, however.
North Carolina prep shortstop Justin Jackson has the Braves intrigued, but he might go to the White Sox at 25. Michael Burgess, an outfieldre from the Tampa area, could be an option at 33 unless Heyward is the Braves pick at 14.
The Braves could see a prep pitcher fall to them at 33, with Jack McGeary a possibility. McGeary is a prep pitcher from Massachusetts, and the Braves have historically liked pitchers from that area of the country. Chris Withrow, a 6-3 right-hander from Midland, Texas could be another name to keep in mind.
So here is a complete guess of what will happen:
1. Tampa Bay – David Price – LHP
2. Kansas City – Mike Moustakas – 3B
3. Chicago Cubs – Josh Vitters – 3B
4. Pittsburgh – Devin Mesoraco – C
5. Baltimore – Matt Wieters – C
6. Washington – Phillippe Aumont – RHP
7. Milwaukee – Jarrod Parker – RHP
8. Colorado – Casey Weathers – RHP
9. Arizona – Daniel Moskos – LHP
10. San Francisco – Ross Detwiler – LHP
11. Seattle – Nick Schmidt – LHP
12. Florida – Matt Dominguez – 3B
13. Cleveland – Blake Beavan – LHP
14. Atlanta – Jason Heyward – OF 15. Cincinnati – Pete Kozma – SS
16. Toronto – Julio Borbon – OF
17. Texas – Matt Harvey – RHP
18. St. Louis – Rick Porcello – RHP
19. Philadelphia – Michael Main – RHP
20. Los Angeles Dodgers – Madison Bumgarner - LHP
21. Toronto – Travis d'Arnaud
22. San Francisco – Beau Mills – 3B
23. San Diego – Aaron Poreda – LHP
24. Texas – Matt LaPorta – 1B
25. Chicago White Sox – Neil Ramirez – RHP
26. Oakland – James Simmons – RHP
27. Detroit – Tim Alderson – RHP
28. Minnesota – Kevin Ahrens – 3B
29. San Francisco – Josh Smoker – LHP
30. New York Yankees – Andrew Brackman – RHP
31. Washington – Joe Savery – LHP
32. San Francisco – Jon Gilmore – 3B
33. Atlanta – Justin Jackson – SS
OTHER ATLANTA PICKS
70. Atlanta – Danny Duffy – LHP
79. Atlanta – John Tolisano – 2B
109. Atlanta – Cory Gearrin – RHP
139. Atlanta – Reynaldo Navarro – SS
169. Atlanta – Austin Bailey – RHP
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.