In one of my last articles I discussed how the Braves picked in the last two drafts to apply it to what we may be able to expect in the 2017 MLB Draft. With that in mind it's now time to take a look at some guys who fit the player profile of what the front office is looking for.
Note that the we’ve already discussed guys for the first round pick previously- and will do so again before June. So you won't see an Austin Beck, JB Bukauskas, Kyle Wright, or any other potential Top 5 pick discussed here. Rather this article is to start talking about some names that you could see in the second, third, or even fourth rounds. That means you also won't see any guys below who as of today don't have much chance of being around for the second round pick.
At the end of the piece there is a short update on the guys in consideration for the fifth pick.
Examples-Kolby Allard, Joey Wentz, Kyle Muller
Its no secret that the Braves love pitching, but they definitely have certain types of pitching they prefer. Lefties are high up on the list of priorities for the Braves front office as evidence by the last few drafts and trading for guys like Sean Newcomb and Max Fried. There are only three here because Jacob Heatherly(listed further down) fits into this profile as well.
Jake Eder, Florida high school-My favorite prep lefty after the top tier(Trevor Rogers, DL Hall, MacKenzie Gore). Eder is a big, projectable lefty with a promising fastball, curve combination. He's still got some work to do before he reaches his upside of a potential #2/3 starter, but he's also a Vandy commit which could make him a tough sign.
Shane Drohan, Florida high school-An upside lefty moving up this spring, Drohan hits 90 MPH with his fastball though it's his curve that is his best offering.
Mitchell Stone, Oklahoma high school-Stone is enormous at his listed 6’9” 240 pounds. While he's not a hard throwing arm and he doesn't have much projection left, he's still intriguing. His fastball is in the low 90s but he's got much better mechanics than you would expect from a young pitcher with his size. He's also got a very nice curve and knows how to use his size to pitch downhill. He could be a solid #3/4 starter.
Advanced Prep Arms
Examples-Allard, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson
Another thing the Braves love in their pitchers are young arms who are already advanced in their pitching feel and/or command. That's not to say these are low upside guys as much as they are guys with upside that is likely to be reached. There is a reason the Braves have passed up guys like Riley Pint and AJ Puk last year when they took Ian Anderson- he was the guy they felt had the best combination of upside and ability to reach it, rather than just a talent who may end up in the pen longterm.
Jacob Heatherly, Alabama high school-Heatherly is more of a pitchability than stuff arm, though it's not as if his stuff is lacking. He's been comped to Braxton Garrett, a similar lefty prep pitcher from Alabama last year. He's a guy that may not be there in the second round, but if he is then he's certainly a name that will be considered.
Hagen Danner, California high school-Danner is tough to list as an advanced arm because he's split so much time as a catcher as an amateur. However he knows how to attack a hitter with locating his fastball and throwing a curve for strikes to go with a change that's a capable pitch. Taking the time to focus on pitching will help him progress quicker there as well.
Kyle Hurt, California high school-Hurt is a projectable right handed arm with a low 90s fastball and an advanced change, as well as an above average curve. He can tighten things up on the mound, but I expect that to happen as he gets more work and adds more to that projectable body.
Jeremiah Estrada, California high school-Estrada is a guy with three pitches, solid command, and a change that more advanced that a typical prep pitcher with his stuff would have. He fits the profile of an advanced arm even though he's got a mid-90s fastball and a curve which is projected as above average to plus. He's also got more room to grow into velocity, though at just 6’1” his height does factor in against him.
Big Stuff Arms
Examples-Wentz, AJ Minter, Patrick Weigel, Bryse Wilson
The Braves certainly value pitchers with dynamic stuff as well. Guys like Weigel and Wilson weren't heavily on my radar for where they were taken since each had concerns(Weigel’s command and Wilson’s arsenal minus the fastball), but the Braves saw something in these guys that some others didn't see in scouting them- and obviously they have both worked out well thus far.
Blayne Enlow, Louisiana high school-There’s no guarantee that Enlow is around for the second round- I had him listed in my initial group of 10 prospects to track heading into the spring, but he's in a spot in the media rankings and mock drafts where he's not solidly in the first round. He's projectable with two plus pitches, a fastball up to 94 MPH and a very good curve.
Tanner Burns, Alabama high school-A prep arm from the Southeast with an upper 90s fastball and a potentially plus slider, Burns fits right into the categories the Braves love.
Riley Thompson, Louisville-Thompson is one of the wild cards of the draft. He's got first round talent in his arm, but he's a redshirt freshman who missed his first year with Tommy John surgery and has very few innings on his arm. The stuff however is electric with a fastball that hits 98 as just one of his three pitches. Scouts won't get a long look at him before the draft and he's got plenty of leverage with the fact he’s draft eligible every year going forward. That said the stuff is undeniable.
Garrett “Hunter” Ruth, Florida high school-Ruth is tough to project as he just went for Tommy John surgery and is a Florida commit. That doesn't make him unsignable and the Braves have shown a willingness to take a chance on an injured arm they believe in. Ruth has an upper 90s fastball as well as a big slider.
Blaine Knight, Arkansas-Knight is a draft eligible sophomore still trying to improve on the finer points of pitching like command, but he’s got a pair of plus pitches potentially and is still projectable. Knight can hit 97 currently and with the right instruction may be able to get the command figured out.
Examples-Lucas Herbert, Brett Cumberland
It shouldn't be a surprise that catching is a priority for a team who values pitching. These guys were polar opposites in draft profile, a young elite defender who had questions with the bat and a big college bat who had questions about his glove. I think there's a good chance the Braves spend an early pick on a position you can't ever have enough of, but it's tough to say what kind of catcher they may want.
Luis Campusano, Georgia high school-More in the mold of Herbert than Cumberland, Campusano is a quality defender with good power from the state of Georgia.
Steven Williams, Georgia high school-Another Georgia prep catcher, Williams has the better bat of the two because I think the hit tool is likely to be better. Of course he's not quite the same defender Campusano is, though he is a guy who can stick behind the plate.
Deon Stafford, Saint Joe’s-Stafford is a personal favorite of mine, one of the top college catchers in the draft from Pennsylvania. He's an athletic catcher who is solid all around. I don't see anything that really stands out with him outside of the athleticism for catcher, but he's well rounded and will stick at catcher.
Cody Roberts, North Carolina-Roberts is a draft eligible sophomore with a big arm and improving bat. He's caught some high level pitching at North Carolina and is a guy that Braves scouts would get a good look at when they go to view JB Bukauskas.
Philip Clarke, Tennessee high school-Another well rounded catcher, this time from the prep side. Clarke is from the Southeast and the Braves do love to scout the region hard. He’s a Vanderbilt commitment, so signability could be in question even though it’s not a known factor right now.
Examples-Austin Riley, Cumberland
The Braves have used a high pick in each of the past two years on a guy with a big power bat. It's not a strong possibility they do so again this year.
Alejandro Toral, Florida high school-Toral is a guy who would need to be taken in the second round, and that's tough for a prep first baseman(though he's athletic enough to give the outfield a try). He's got impressive hit and power tools as well as the fact he's a quality defender at first to go along with his track record against high level competition.
Cole Turney, Texas high school-Turney is an athletic prep outfielder who plays center in high school, though he may need to move to right as he continues to develop his body. The power is very real and is in the profile at present. The biggest issue with him is the fact that he's a kid who is prone to swing and miss.
Conner Uselton, Oklahoma high school-Uselton is the one guy here who fits most as a five tool guy than a true power first guy, but I think he can develop plus power with a very intriguing overall tool set.
Terriez Fuller, Georgia high school-Fuller checks a bunch of boxes. He's a Georgia kid, has real power, he's considered a kid with good makeup, and is a multi-sport athlete(SEC football offers). He's still a little raw, and he's likely limited to first base or left field, but the power is definitely in there.
Brent Rooker, Mississippi State-I was a fan of him last year but he's really taken it to another level this year after a slight change at the plate. He's putting up absolutely dominant numbers and would likely need to be taken with the second round pick, as there's no guarantee he drops to the third round after such a prolific year. He's also got a strong throwing arm and could profile well in right field.
Note that this one is nearly impossible to project right now. Teams are picking guys that not only do they like, but guys who agree to sign for a certain dollar amount. As the draft gets closer senior sign profile players will be discussed a bit more.
Top Pick Updates
Hunter Greene-He has shut himself down as a pitcher this spring. According to Baseball America he seems to be wanting to go to the Twins at the top or the Padres at three because of location and their throwing program. There isn't much chance he gets to the Braves at five, but this could impact the board especially if the Twins take Brendan McKay first.
Royce Lewis-He's struggling to hit this spring according to reports. It's still early enough that he can turn things around, and he does have a track record for his ability to hit so it's not out of the question. The reason I liked Lewis so much was his ability to hit since he's not a big power guy, so this definitely is something to monitor in the next month. He’s dropping for me because if this is the real him, it's possible he ends up like a Dustin Ackley type of player- another infielder/outfielder once thought to have an excellent hit tool but not a ton of power.
Kyle Wright-He's right back in the mix for a Top 5 selection. He started poorly, looked to have righted the ship, and proceeded to continue the uneven performance before he's strung together a few very strong starts in SEC play. He's got the size, stuff, and potential that I would have no problem with him at five if he can keep pitching at a high level to finish the year.
MacKenzie Gore-Gore is moving up towards the range of the Top 5, and that makes him the next guy I plan to profile similar to the scouting report on Austin Beck.