The Atlanta Braves seem hellbent on a specific draft strategy, where they prioritize arms early in the draft and then fill out the position player ranks on Days Two and Three. While it would be nice to see them go after some higher-end position talent, they have had some success with this strategy, with picks like Michael Harris II, Vaughn Grissom, Justyn-Henry Malloy, and Ignacio “Nacho” Alvarez paying dividends for the team. One player that the team hopes to add to that list is 2022 12th rounder Justin Janas.
Preseason Report Card
Given that Janas was picked in this year’s draft, he wasn’t on our radar from the Braves’ side. Janas had put up a strong freshman campaign at Illinois with a .955 OPS for the Illini in 42 games, so he wasn’t a complete unknown, and his sophomore slash line of .343/.489/.531 certainly got some notice going into the draft.
What we saw in 2022
The Braves drafted Janas in the 12th round of the 2022 draft based primarily on the strength of his hit tool. He has a bit of a weird profile for a 1B/DH-only guy, as he doesn’t have a ton of power, but if the hit tool plays up enough, it could work in theory.
After being drafted, Janas first went to the FCL Braves for a brief four-game stint before heading to Augusta to finish out the season. Overall, his 2022 debut line of .228/.314/.315 wasn’t exactly inspiring, but it isn’t atypical for college draftees to struggle in their draft years given that they’re coming off the college season and have to get settled in to the grind of playing pro. We like the bat enough to wait and see in 2023, but he needs to show that he can hit pro pitching relatively quickly.
Janas is a bit of a flyer pick by the Braves with some upside. There is not a lot of first base depth in the organization whatsoever, and while it is unlikely that Janas turns into a stud prospect, he has some real value and could surprise people. His bat performed well in the Big 10 and while that isn’t as impressive as, say, the SEC, he at least has some track record of real performance. Our best guess is that he starts the 2023 season back in Augusta and if he hits, he could move up to Rome quickly to see what he’s got. The smart bet is that he ends up as interesting organizational depth, but the bat is intriguing enough that he could end up overachieving.