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Looking for 'diamond' in Day 206/09/2004 12:37 AM ET
By Jon Cooper / Special to MLB.com
The Braves had success in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft before they'd even made a pick, despite having surrendered their first-round pick, which they lost when they signed free-agent pitcher John Thomson last Dec. 9.
But losing one pick doesn't intimidate the Braves organization, not with 49 other picks at their disposal and with their draft history.
"The bottom-line is that it was a different type of year because we didn't pick until 71," said director of scouting Roy Clark. "But it was a great year to sign John Thomson as a first-round pick."
Thomson is 5-2, second among Braves starters in wins.
With the other 49 picks, Atlanta did what it is known for doing, loading up on pitching. They used 27 of their picks on pitchers, 18 of them right-handers. They also drafted eight middle infielders (seven of them shortstops), five catchers, three third basemen, two first basemen and five outfielders.
"I was happy the way that everything fell," said Clark. "Basically we took the best players on the board. It was a good mix.
"Our scouting staff never cuts corners, and when the preparation is there I think you'll see success," he added. "What's the old saying? 'The harder you work, the luckier you get.' I feel good about it because we work hard."
Among those who Clark feels has a chance to quickly make an impact on the Major League level is former LSU second baseman J.C. Holt, the team's second pick, chosen with the final pick of the third round (101st overall).
"He was the MVP of the prestigious Cape Cod League, where the top college players from across the country play," said Clark. "You would think that with his success in that advanced league, if you had to look at the draft, you'd probably say he's probably the closest guy [to reaching the Majors]."
Of course, as scouts from every team will tell you, there is nothing taken for granted in the draft.
As the scouts from the Braves, especially, will tell you, there is always a good chance to find that "diamond in the rough" on the second day. Their roster contains such late gems as Marcus Giles (53rd round), Nick Green (32nd round) and Adam LaRoche (29th round).
"We prepare the second day of the draft the way we prepare the first day," said Clark. "When you don't cut corners, you're going to come up with a Marcus, and Adam LaRoche and the guys like that. So we take the second day of the draft very seriously."
Among the first players who Clark sees signing with the organization are a pair of catchers, Scott Brazeale (19th round) from Berkeley High School, in Moncks Corner, S.C., and Gary Harp, from Middle Tennessee State (22nd round).
The Braves selected 10 junior college players, 10 college grads and 29 high school players, and stayed closed to home, drafting several local products.
Included among them were University of Georgia catcher Clint Sammons (sixth round, 191st overall), Brewton Parker College left-hander Trae Wiggins (seventh, 221), Gainesville High School (Sharpsburg) outfielder Jon Mark Owings, (17, 521), East Coweta High School shortstop Brad Emaus (18, 551), Marietta High School righty Austin Hyatt (23, 701), Blessed Trinity High School (Marietta) Catcher/1B Tyler Flowers (27, 821), and Seminole High School (Donaldsonville) right-hander Joshua Ward (37, 1,121).
While Clark wouldn't go as far as to predict who will end up in Atlanta, he did admit there is a tell-tale sign of continued successful drafts from the organization named "Top Organization" by Baseball America at last year's 20th Anniversary Gala.
"As long as John Schuerholz is our leader and Paul Snyder is in this draft room along with Dayton Moore, I feel very confident that we can carry on that legacy," Clark said.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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