Sluggers headline Braves' high-ceiling picks on Day 2

July 18th, 2022

ATLANTA -- After replenishing their farm system with quality arms during the first day of this year’s MLB Draft, the Braves targeted some power bats during Monday’s portion of the three-day event.  

Here are three takeaways from Atlanta’s Day 2 selections (Rounds 3-10):

The DH effect
With the universal designated hitter in place, National League teams can now also take chances on players who might carry some concerns from a defensive perspective. Teams aren’t likely going to select players with the intention that they will become a DH. But just as starters can become relievers, teams now have the safety net of transitioning some position players to the DH role.

The Braves took Missouri State catcher Drake Baldwin and UNC Charlotte third baseman David McCabe with their first two selections on Monday.

Baldwin made great strides behind the plate over the past year and is no longer viewed as a bat-only catcher. In 232 at-bats this year, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound slugger hit 19 homers (12.2 AB/HR) and produced a 1.094 OPS.

With the addition of the left-handed-hitting Baldwin, the Braves will replenish the organization’s catching depth. All-Star William Contreras’ emergence has softened the loss of SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game MVP Shea Langeliers, who was the centerpiece of the Matt Olson trade made with the A’s in March.

The Braves announced McCabe as a third baseman when they picked him in the fourth round. But the 6-foot-4, 230-pound switch-hitter played just nine games at the position over his three years at UNC Charlotte. His value comes via the power he showed while hitting 30 homers in 283 at-bats (9.4 AB/HR) over his past two collegiate seasons.

“With a guy like McCabe, he’s a switch-hitter with power, which is more intriguing,” said Braves vice president of scouting Dana Brown. “[Baldwin] has some work to do defensively, but he can really throw. He has big left-handed power and hits for power to all fields. It’s very difficult to find catchers with that kind of power, especially from the left side.”

Like Baldwin, McCabe’s odds of making it to the Majors should be enhanced with the existence of the DH.

Never too many
Scouting directors repeatedly say things like “high upside,” “great makeup,” “great family” and “we got exactly who we wanted” this time of year. But the most common phrase might be “you can never have too much pitching.”

After selecting three high-quality high school right-handers (Owen Murphy, JR Ritchie and Cole Phillips) and a potential future closer (Blake Burkhalter) on Sunday, the Braves added three more pitchers on Monday. There’s a need to replenish a system that currently counts Kyle Muller, Bryce Elder and Tucker Davidson as its top pitching prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Muller, Elder and Davidson do not have the great upside that Kyle Wright and Spencer Strider have shown in the Majors.

The three right-handed pitchers added on Day 2 were Seth Keller (Hanover High School, Va.), Adam Maier (University of Oregon) and Jason Franks (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo). Franks and Keller both have been clocked in the upper 90s. Maier has shown great stuff but pitched on a limited basis. The Braves liked what they saw when he recorded 27 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings during last summer’s Cape Cod Baseball League.

Maier transferred from the University of British Columbia to the University of Oregon before the start of the 2022 season, but he made just three appearances before being sidelined by an elbow injury that has not yet required surgery. Even with Tommy John surgery being a possibility, the Braves felt it was worth taking a chance on him in the seventh round.  

“We thought he was top-four-round talent potentially,” Brown said. “You get him a little later and buy low while taking on some risk. But with the way guys are coming back from Tommy John, we felt really good about this.”

The Strider effect
As Strider has established himself as a top National League Rookie of the Year candidate, he has given the Braves more confidence to take a chance on guys like Maier and like Phillips, who was throwing 100 mph before undergoing Tommy John surgery in April.

Strider missed his sophomore season at Clemson while recovering from the same procedure and then impressed the Braves with the added velocity he showed when he returned for the COVID-shortened 2020 season. He was taken in the fourth round that year and reached the Majors at the end of the 2021 season.

“Ever since the Strider pick, we look for ways to somehow buy low and maybe get some pretty good return,” Brown said. “This could be a good lesson, and we could get some good talent in the lower rounds.”