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Battery powered: Arms likely Braves' Draft focus

Club has taken pitcher with 1st pick last 4 years. Will Rutledge extend trend?
@mlbbowman
June 3, 2019

ATLANTA -- Dana Brown will oversee the MLB Draft for the Braves for the first time since being named the team’s vice president of scouting in January. In eight seasons (2002-09) overseeing the Draft for the Expos/Nationals, two of Brown's key selections included Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman. Now he’ll

ATLANTA -- Dana Brown will oversee the MLB Draft for the Braves for the first time since being named the team’s vice president of scouting in January.

In eight seasons (2002-09) overseeing the Draft for the Expos/Nationals, two of Brown's key selections included Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman. Now he’ll attempt to further enrich a Braves system that includes seven of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects. Five of these seven players were drafted by Atlanta within the past four years.

The Braves will have two first-round picks because they received a compensation pick after last year’s first-round selection Carter Stewart did not sign.

The 2019 Draft will take place tonight through Wednesday, beginning with tonight's Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 6 ET. MLB Network will broadcast the first 41 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 78 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m. ET. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on Day 3, beginning at noon ET.

Go to MLB.com/Draft to see the Top 200 Prospects list, mock drafts from MLB Pipeline analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying.

Here’s how the Draft is shaping up for the Braves, whose first selection is the ninth overall pick.

In about 50 words
Ronald Acuna Jr.
, Ozzie Albies, Mike Soroka, Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley and Max Fried are among the best 25-and-younger players at the Major League level, and the Braves still possess one of the game’s top pipelines. With many of their prospects either at the MLB level or approaching it, this seems like a good time to begin attempting to create a wave of prospects that could make an impact during the second half of the next decade. But some scouts believe the Braves will use many of their early picks on college players who could have a more immediate impact.

What they’re saying
“As all clubs will say, we’re looking for the best player available when it’s our turn to pick. The landscape changes so quickly at the Major League level that it makes no sense to consider drafting for need relative to your big league club, especially considering the fact that most of these players take several years before they can factor for you at the Major League level.” -- Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos

Who might they take?
Callis and Mayo have both said the Braves could use their first pick to take right-hander Jackson Rutledge out of San Jacinto Junior College. Within his first mock draft, Callis also predicted this pick could be used on Baylor University catcher Shea Langeliers.

Money matters
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $125,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.

Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

This year, the Braves have $11,532,200 to spend on picks made through the first 10 rounds. They have the sixth-highest bonus pool, which includes $4,949,100 slotted for the ninth pick (compensation for Carter) and $3,132,300 slotted for the 21st pick.

Shopping list
The Braves organization is loaded with pitching, but the best long-term value is usually found in the form of arms. If a first-round position player like Cody Johnson (2006) or Braxton Davidson (2014) busts, you’re left with no value. If a first-round pitcher like Lucas Sims (2012) busts, you may still end up with a chance to gamble on Adam Duvall. While the Braves will definitely add arms to their pipeline, look for them to also target catchers and convertible shortstops.

Trend watch
The Braves have taken a pitcher with their first pick each of the first four years. Kyle Wright is the only member of this group to come from the collegiate ranks. But 10 of their first 11 picks last year were college players, some of whom were seniors who had little negotiating power. The savings from these kinds of selections allow teams to go over-slot with early picks and remain within the constraints of their bonus pool.

The Braves’ recent top picks:
2018: Carter Stewart, RHP, (Japan)
2017: Kyle Wright, RHP, (Triple-A Gwinnett)
2016: Ian Anderson, RHP (Double-A Mississippi)
2015: Kolby Allard, LHP, (Triple-A Gwinnett)
2014: Braxton Davidson, OF (currently injured, Class A Advanced Florida in 2018)

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.