Overall this is a strong outfield class that is getting talked about a lot, but the Braves won’t have any chance to see those guys causing this class to be talked about - Dylan Crews, Wyatt Langford, Max Clark, or Walker Jenkins. They probably won’t see Enrique Bradfield either. Bradfield and the first four guys written about here are the start of the second tier of outfielders - or third tier if you put Crews in his own tier, and each of them should be among the players the Braves consider when they get on the clock.
Why the Braves will draft an outfielder early
It’s been pretty widely discussed in mock drafts and draft talk that the Braves are taking a hard look at bats with their top pick. That makes sense not only because the system can use more bats, but that is expected to be the strength of the board when the Braves get on the clock at 24.
Outfielder just happens to be one of the positions of hitters where there should be some options for the Braves who the team could consider the best player available. In fact two of the names on the list below have been tied directly to the Braves in mock drafts recently.
Why the Braves won’t draft an outfielder early
There is no reason. Despite having Ronald Acuna Jr. and Michael Harris II, the Braves don’t presently have a third long term outfield solution. Marcel Ozuna has seen a resurgence this year, but I don’t think anyone considers him, or even Eddie Rosario to be that when they are each on the other side of 30. Among prospects Luis Guanipa has shown some promise early in his pro career, but he is still years away in the DSL and has a wide variety of potential outcomes.
The biggest case against taking an outfielder early is that really only two of the guys below wouldn’t be considered at least slight reaches with the 24th pick. If one is gone and the other doesn’t rate quite as high inside the front office, it could make sense to focus on another position instead.
Early round targets
Chase Davis, Arizona - One of the two names who have been tied to the Braves in recent mock drafts, Chase Davis has an interesting tool set. He’s a plus power and arm guy with above-average speed and defense. He’s also a lefty bat, which never hurts as it seems like the Braves have had some need for one for the last decade. There are two questions with Davis, though one is less significant than the other. That less significant question is where he ends up defensively. There is some chance he can stick in center, but his arm and speed would allow him to profile well in a corner if he can’t handle center. The bigger question is just how well he will hit. While he has plus power, he comes with swing and miss concerns. The strides he made this year in cutting his strikeouts to walk more times than he struck out while hitting for even more power than he did last season provide some hope that he’ll be able to hit enough to tap into his power.
Jonny Farmelo, Virginia HS - Jonny Farmelo is the type of player that ranks a bit below where the Braves are picking, but at the same time could be a guy who goes in that 20-30 range as teams will value what he is. Farmelo is a former prep shortstop that is likely to move to the outfield as a pro thanks to his legitimate plus speed. He’s a guy also known for his bat, and while he isn’t plus with any of his grades at the plate he is average to above across the board and makes good contact with his barrel. He projects to hit for some average and power with that plus speed. The biggest question for him is he is committed to his in-state school in Virginia, which is always a tough opponent when trying to sign kids.
Dillon Head, Illinois HS - The other player the Braves have been linked to in recent mock drafts is Dillon Head. The easiest way to describe what Head is would be a throwback prototypical leadoff hitting centerfielder. You could say he’s an even more talented version of Braves 2021 overslot pick Tyler Collins. Head is a potentially plus hitter with 80 grade speed and should be a plus defender in center. This is how he compares to Collins (pre-injury version of Collins), though he looks like a more advanced hit tool at the same stage. Head also has a bit more power than Collins, and while he won’t ever he a big power threat he should reach double digit homers.
Jack Hurley, Virginia Tech - Jack Hurley is a guy who might rank a little below where the Braves pick if you look at prospect rankings for this draft, but is another player like Farmelo who could outperform that ranking on draft day as teams like his skill set. Hurley is an average or better player across the board with plus speed. After seeing his power start to come on last spring he went ahead and showed it is real this year while also moving to his natural centerfield position defensively. Hurley has a good feeling for making contact, though does strikeout more often than you’d like which is the biggest reason his hit tool projects as more above-average than plus, but with above-average power. Defensively he should have little trouble sticking in center and getting the job done there, though he also has enough arm to play the corners if needed.
Aidan Smith, Texas HS - Aidan Smith is more of a second round type of target, but there is a lot to like about this Mississippi State commit. Smith is a player who outside of power projects to be above-average to plus across the board. That includes a plus arm and speed grades. The hit tool is an above-average to plus tool itself, and the biggest draw for him as a player who takes good quality at bats and makes solid contact. The power gets an average grade, but I think there is a little more in there - just that he is a guy who prioritizes hitting and making contact over power. If he was to change his approach there could be a little bit more power in there. Defensively he has the glove and speed for center, but enough arm to play in the corner as well.