The countdown is down to five, and in that many days the Atlanta Braves and all other 29 teams will be making their picks in the 2023 MLB First Year Player draft. The state of Georgia is typically one of the country’s biggest hot beds for talent, but it is surprisingly weak this season with only one projected first round pick. Still, there is plenty of athletic depth and I’ve prepared seven players that could go to the Braves at various points in the draft.
Colin Houck - Houck is the consensus top prospect from the state for this year’s draft, and the only one that is fairly likely to never be an option for the Braves. While dropping to 24 isn’t completely out of the question, it’s probably not going to happen and the Parkview High shortstop has a good shot to go to a lottery team. Houck is a fine prep shortstop, with the ability to be above average or better across all five tools. If he did fall to 24 he would be a wonderful, and almost no-brainer of a pick, but a fall like that would be more likely an indicator of a high bonus demand a team like Atlanta may not have the flexibility for.
Tai Peete - Think back to the last time the Braves selected an athletic two-way prep player from their back yard, and you’ll come up with the Braves current center fielder. Peete plays shortstop and the hallmark of his game is his pure athleticism. If not for an undisclosed injury this fall he had quite the hype as a pitching prospect, but he hasn’t pitched this spring giving him time to further impress on offense. His hitting ability is a question, but he has the raw power and speed combination to be a potential impact shortstop and could possibly slip to day two. Peete could provide one of the higher ceilings the Braves will have an opportunity to jump on, and the risk of his hit tool makes it so he could come with out the cost of a first round pick.
Luke McNeillie - McNeillie may be best served to go to college and try to improve his stock that way, but he could also provide teams an interesting project. McNeillie has high level athleticism and high spin rates, but his velocity is at the lower end among draftees. He has plenty of room in his frame to add strength, and that combined with mechanical tweaks to get his momentum moving towards home plate more efficiently could unlock better velocity. The Braves have taken many of their better prep pitchers in later rounds, and he could fit the Adam Shoemaker mold of a guy you try to slip to day three and go overslot in the 11th round. In that case the Braves wouldn’t be risking a draft slot if he ultimately went to Florida, but they could still give him plenty of money to possibly entice him to professional ball.
Jaden Woods - Woods is seen as a likely reliever at the professional level, but the Braves are not shy at all about taking players with a high reliever risk. Woods has struggled at Georgia, but has high level athleticism and has shown flashes of mid-90s velocity. If there is anything the Braves look for when trying to find pitching gems it’s athleticism and velocity, and Woods should be able to bring both. Woods has a loose, quick arm action and throws a slider and changeup that have both shown flashed average potential. Command is his biggest struggle, but Atlanta has been willing to bet on athletes in the past.
Kristian Campbell - Campbell is a phenomenal contact hitter with the speed to play anywhere on the diamond, but his ultimate defensive home is a question mark. Campbell could fit a utility role at the professional level and his hit tool makes him an instantly intriguing option. His drawback is his lack of in game power, but he has the frame to hit for power and the Braves could hope to unlock that at the next level. Campbell has a quick swing and can hit the ball to all fields, and mechanical tweaks may be all it takes to unlock average power. He gets very little drive from his lower body at the plate but the natural strength to hit for power is there.
Parks Harber - There is one thing the Braves value over all else, and that is power. Parks Harber fits that bill as a player with plus or better raw power that he displays in game consistently. There are certainly limits with Harber, as he isn’t a good contact hitter and will likely have to move to first base long term, but Atlanta values power in the mid-to-late rounds and he could be a player worth taking a flyer on. In all likelihood he never gets past Double-A, but if the Braves or any other organization can get Harber hitting he would be an immediate steal.
Jake DeLeo - DeLeo is an athlete that projects well to all three outfield positions, and has the raw power to be an impact hitter at the next level. Again, this is a mold the Braves have consistently targeted and in the later rounds he would be a huge value for them despite his risk. DeLeo may not be able to handle professional offspeed pitches, but he has the toolset to develop into a major league starting outfield as a potential day three pick. He could also return for another season at Georgia Tech and hope to improve on his breakout junior season.