Draft position not daunting Braves
Atlanta looking to nab high school, junior college prospects
ATLANTA -- Three seasons ago, when the Braves won their 14th consecutive division title with the help of Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann and the rest of the Baby Braves, they provided the reminder that they have drafted and developed talent as well as any other organization over the past two decades.
Now as they attempt to build another dynasty with Francoeur and McCann standing as the cornerstones, the Braves are still looking to build their big league roster with homegrown talent that they've drafted and developed.
When this year's First-Year Player Draft begins on June 5, Braves director of scouting Roy Clark will have to wait before building his new crop of prospects. His first pick will be the Draft's 40th overall selection.
MLB.com will carry every pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively at MLB.com, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo.
Several of the top amateur prospects are expected in attendance in Orlando for Day 1 of the Draft, and each of the 30 Major League clubs will be represented by front-office executives and baseball luminaries. Fans are welcome to attend Day 1 of the Draft, and admission to The Milk House is free with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis.
Day 2 will get under way at 11:30 a.m. and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com.
Here's a glance at what the Braves have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
Because they signed Tom Glavine, the Braves don't have a first-round selection. But with four of the Draft's first 96 selections (40, 64, 70, 96), they feel they still might be able to find some gems. Keeping with tradition, most of their selections will likely be athletes from high schools or junior colleges.
"I'm not sure what's going to be there with the 40th pick. I'm hoping that there are some surprises in front of us so that we can get some of the players that we want. But I doubt we'll be able to get another Jason Heyward." -- Clark
The Braves have taken Georgia high school products with their first selection in four of the past eight Drafts. This year, they'll simply be looking for the best available player. But if Zeke Spruill, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound right-hander out of suburban Atlanta, is available, they may go with yet another Georgia boy.
There is a definite need to add depth to the catcher's position in the Minor League system. But with McCann and Clint Sammons in place for at least the next five years, the organization may not try to get many catchers early in the Draft. Instead, the Braves will continue to search for arms and middle infielders.
While many organizations have chosen to put a large emphasis on collegiate talent, the Braves still want to find the best player from the high school and junior college ranks. They want to develop and protect their young arms and thus are always willing to draft a surplus of high school pitchers.
Recent top picks
When he took Heyward with the 14th overall selection in last year's Draft, Clark said the Braves had just gained the best position player in the Draft. Based on what the 19-year-old Heyward is doing in the South Atlantic League, there's no immediate reason to dispute Clark's claim. The 6-foot-4, 232-pound outfielder has power, range and a strong arm.
Cody Johnson, who the Braves took with their first pick in 2006, has regressed with Class A Rome this year. His strikeout total is alarming and the Braves are now having to remain patient as he attempts to find more control with his long and potentially powerful swing.
The Braves surprised many when they went the collegiate route and took Joey Devine with their first pick in 2005. He made it to the Majors a couple of months later. His first three professional seasons included multiple injuries and some mentally-scarring events. The right-handed reliever is enjoying a change of scenery and impressing in the A's bullpen.
Jordan Schafer, the club's third-round selection in 2005, was on top of the world before landing a 50-game suspension for using a performance-enhancing substance. The 21-year-old center fielder will return to Double-A Mississippi's roster in a few weeks and could be in the Majors by the start of next season.
The Braves have had some success with their draft-and-follows over the past few years. But they may have truly struck the jackpot with Thomas Hanson, who was taken in the 22nd round of the 2005 Draft and then signed the following May. The hard-throwing right-hander dominated the South Atlantic League to begin this season and has already been promoted to Double-A Mississippi.
In The Show
It took Devine just two months to make it to the Majors. But the gem of the 2005 Draft for the Braves was Yunel Escobar, who was taken in the second round with the 75th overall selection. He was available only because many teams didn't have any information about his Cuban background. The Braves did because Brayan Pena grew up across the street from Escobar.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.