This week, we are running a series where we run down each position and what the Braves may or may not do at each position when the 2022 MLB Draft kicks off on July 17. If you want to get a sense of what we have covered so far, here is a link to our second base draft preview that ran earlier this week.
The way this works is that we are going position by position for each draft preview, running down the early round options and why they may or may not work for the Braves, and then giving a few names to keep an eye on for days two and three at each position. No, this is not meant to be exhaustive as that would take forever and be tedious to both read AND write. Below, you will find our thoughts on the Braves’ outfield options in the 2022 MLB Draft.
Why the Braves could pick an outfielder early
Unlike some positions in this year’s draft, the Braves may actually have some real options and decision amongst the outfielders in this class when the 20th overall pick rolls around. The top outfielders in the class (Druw Jones, Elijah Green, Gavin Cross) are certainly not going to be available unless something bizarre comes up in medicals, but the Braves have been connected to prep outfielder Justin Crawford in at least one mock draft and it wouldn’t be completely insane if a guy like that or another prep bat like Jett Williams or Cole Young fell to them who could theoretically be converted to the outfield down the line. It wouldn’t be crazy for the Braves to nab a guy like that if they fell in their laps.
That does mean, even if a prep bat doesn’t get to them or they aren’t interested in that route, that some number of college outfielders like Chase DeLauter, Jordan Beck, Drew Gilbert, and/or Dylan Beavers should be on the board at 20. There are some really productive bats in that group, in particular DeLauter and Beavers, that would give the Braves’ minor league system a real boost and who could, in theory, help the big league club within their window of contention.
Why the Braves won’t pick an outfielder early
First and foremost, the Braves have been connected to starting pitchers particularly from the college ranks. The Braves’ preferred strategy the last few years has been to sign an arm they like to an underslot deal and then spread the money around in later rounds to maximize value. Any prep bat that fell to them wouldn’t likely be underslot and would undercut that strategy and its hard to see any of the college outfielders that would be available cutting a deal either.
Moreover, everything that is out there as well as what we have heard so far is that the Braves just aren’t in on any of the guys that are projected to be available. The team is still getting their board together and things can change quickly once medicals are reviewed and workouts happen, but amongst that crop of college outfielders mentioned above...there just doesn’t seem to be any traction there.
Day Two/Three Targets
Understandably, there are going to be a lot of outfielders available on days two and three and the Braves really need to fill out their depth in the minor leagues in the outfield. Below are a wide range of options from overslot options if the Braves find themselves with money burning a whole in their pockets down to senior sign/money saving options.
Ryan Clifford, Pro5 Baseball Academy - Big corner outfield prep bat who hits from the left side. Clifford has hit well the entire time he has been on the high school showcase circuit. It definitely seems like he would have to an overslot signee, though, and buying him out of a Vanderbilt commitment will not be cheap.
Gavin Turley, Hamilton HS - If you like tooled up prep bats, Turley is definitely your kind of player as he has elite raw speed and hits the crap out of the ball. There are definitely concerns about his approach at the plate, though, and heading to Oregon State may be the best move for him long-term. Another overslot option if the Braves want to spend early on day two.
Tommy Specht, Wahlert HS - Another overslot type of guy, but probably wouldn’t be as pricey as Clifford or Turley. Specht has put on some strength this year, but could still stand to add some more. He drives the ball with authority from the left-hand side and has a shot to stay in center and be a good defender at either corner spot. His commitment to Kentucky isn’t as scary as some other college programs.
Chris Newell, Virginia - Newell was a top hitting prospect coming out of high school, but has struggled the last couple of years to make consistent contact. If the Braves think they could fix his swing and approach, he could be a really great value as he hits the ball hard when he makes contact, can run a bit, and is a very solid defender.
Brett Johnson, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville - This one is a bit of a flyer on a guy that could help save some money late on day two. He has hit a ton in a small conference including 23 homers and is a legit centerfield prospect.
Anthony Hall, Oregon - Hall had a breakout campaign in the Cape Cod League and put together a good season for Oregon in 2022 with some power showing in games. He is likely destined for a corner spot so he will have to hit, but he could be an interesting guy with some upside with some pro coaching.