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Braves buck their usual trend
06/07/2004  7:42 PM ET
ATLANTA -- Although they've been labeled as an organization that prefers high-school talent, the Braves have always contended that they simply seek the best talent available.

Braves director of scouting Roy Clark and his staff proved this by selecting nine college prospects during the opening day of this year's First-Year Player Draft. But continuing their tradition, they nabbed Indiana high school star Eric Campbell with their first selection.

"The strength of this draft wasn't necessarily at the high-school level," Clark said. "There was a lot of high-school talent that just didn't fit our needs. But we're certainly happy to get a big bat in Campbell. We're thrilled to have him in our organization."

Campbell, a power hitter who is projected to make the move from shortstop to third base, became just the second non-pitcher the organization has taken with their top selection in the past seven years. He made his best impression, while winning co-MVP honors in a tournament that Clark attended in Marietta, Ga., last summer.

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"He's a good athlete," Clark said of Campbell, whom he compares to Matt Williams. "He was one of the best basketball players in Indiana. We've had our eye on him for a long time." The Braves' decision to sign John Thomson, who had been offered arbitration by the Rangers, in December cost them their first round selection. Thus they were happy to see Campbell still available with the 71st overall selection.

Furthermore, they were excited to see speedy LSU center fielder John Holt available when they made the final selection of the third round. Holt, who the Braves project to be a second baseman, won MVP honors in last summer's Cape Cod League.

"He's a Brett Butler type of player," Clark said. "He can really fly and while we feel he'll be a real good second baseman, he can play center field, too. He's got the ability to be a real exciting player."

It didn't take the Braves long to make a run at pitching. They took James Parr, a left-hander out of LaCueva High School in Albuquerque, N.M. in the fourth round, with their third selection.

Of the 17 players the Braves took on Monday, nine were pitchers. Just two of those hurlers were high-school products. This was somewhat surprising, considering they have often stockpiled pitchers in the early rounds.

"There were a lot of big bats out there," Clark said. "We feel we got a lot of offensive players with Major League talent. But we're also very excited about the pitchers we selected."

Another Braves' recent trend has to select talent from Georgia. In between 2000-02, they used their top pick to select Adam Wainwright, Macay McBride and Jeff Francoeur, who all were high school stars in the Peach State.

This year's five home state selections included University of Georgia catcher Clint Sammons, Brewton Parker College left-handed pitcher Johnnie Wiggins, Gardner Webb right-handed pitcher Jeffrey Long, Gainsville High School left fielder Jon Ark Owings and East Coweta High School shortstop, Bradley Emus.

Wiggins hails from Stockbridge, Ga., and Long from Smyrna, Ga., both suburbs of Atlanta.

"We drafted several Georgia guys that we really liked," Clark said. "It doesn't matter where they came from. We're just looking for Major League talent and we still believe there's still more out there."

Clark and his staff will reconvene at Turner Field on Tuesday to complete their selections in this year's Draft.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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