The 2011 MLB First Year Player Draft is just around the corner -- it's next Monday, in fact. The Atlanta Braves have a late first round selection on the first day (number-28), and that's it for day one. Nothing like the ten picks that Tampa Bay will have on the first day (in the first 60 picks)!
The Braves focused on hitters last year, taking bats with their first four picks. In 2009, their focus seemed to be on college pitchers, as they selected Mike Minor number seven overall, and followed that up with college reliever David Hale. The 2008 draft saw Atlanta go with the tried (or tired) and true strategy of selecting high school pitchers, though top pick that year, Brett DeVall, has already been released from the organization.
Three different strategies in three years leaves us little clue what direction the Braves will go in this year. This is supposed to be a very deep talent year, and that usually plays into the Braves hand, as they are adept at turning later round selections into quality Major League prospects.
The Braves rarely draft out of need, though they appeared to go that route last year when they selected a large number of polished college hitters and immediately put them in full season ball. If there are any needs in the system this year they seem to lie in the area of speed, catching, and power bats at the corners. Though the Braves have a hard time passing up high school pitchers.
If the Braves go the traditional route of high school arms, the prep pitcher they are most often linked to is California left-hander. He's a big-framed kid with a good feel for pitching and improving velocity. Should Atlanta go the college route with a pitcher, they could have their eye on Florida State left-hander . He offers a similar profile to Mike Minor, that of a refined no-frills safe college pick who could move quickly through the system.
Though the Braves have a plethora of shortstops in their system, they have been linked to Texas prep shortstop Trevor Story, a potential five-tool player. A pick like this could signal the Braves plan to move some of their existing shortstop inventory to other positions (something long rumored with Edward Salcedo, and hinted at with last year's top pick, Matt Lipka).
If Atlanta goes the college hitter route, they could look to Miami-Dade Juco outfielder Brian Goodwin. This is the same school they drafted Mycal Jones out of, and Goodwin has had a similar history to Jones of going from a university program to a Juco. Goodwin is a fringe-five tool athlete with good across the board skills, and the added bonus of having hit well in the Cape Cod League (a la last year's second round pick Todd Cunningham).
Whoever the Braves pick in the first round, Talking Chop will bring you all the info we can muster on them. Of course, we'll do that with every pick, so prepare yourself. The draft starts next Monday night at 7pm for the first round, and continues the following two days at noon.