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After Stewart, Braves stockpile college players

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- Despite the many questions the Braves had about the effects of the penalties put on the organization back in November, Atlanta feels that, overall, the selections made in the 2018 Draft will be successful ones.

• Braves Draft Tracker

ATLANTA -- Despite the many questions the Braves had about the effects of the penalties put on the organization back in November, Atlanta feels that, overall, the selections made in the 2018 Draft will be successful ones.

• Braves Draft Tracker

"We were able to do the best with what we had," Braves scouting director Brian Bridges said. "I think as a group, collectively with the leadership of Alex [Anthopoulos, the general manager and executive vice president], the calming demeanor that he has to get us in the position to make the best available picks that we could, I totally agree with that 100 percent."

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

MLB penalized Atlanta at the end of 2017, when it found that the Braves had circumvented the international signing rules during each of the past three signing periods.

The penalties included taking away 13 of the Braves' international prospects and Atlanta's third-round pick in the 2018 Draft. MLB also prohibited the signing of any international player by the Braves for more that $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, and Atlanta's international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.

With the restrictions put on the Braves, the 2018 Draft came with its challenges, not the least of which is signing as many players as possible to fill the hole left by the forfeited international prospects.

"When you are not expecting to lose 13 players, then you lose 13 players, it's tough to make up the ground," Bridges said. "It sets your organization back, so what you do is you try to jump-start it and infiltrate it with players who have the ability and upside."

This meant going after college players. When the dust settled on the 2018 Draft, 34 out of the Braves' 39 picks were college players. After taking Carter Stewart with pick No. 8, the Braves selected only one high school senior before the final three rounds: right-handed pitcher Victor Vodnik from Rialto High School in California, in the 14th round.

Video: Draft 2018: Stewart on being 8th overall pick

It was a fully planned strategy.

"What we did is we went with college guys that had some upside," Bridges said. "It's not every year you can go the prep way so you kind of have to deal with the hand you're dealt."

And while drafting big names like Stewart in the first and Greyson Jenista in the second round -- as well as adding a few solid college arms on Wednesday -- the highlight of this year's Draft for the Braves came on Tuesday.

Video: Draft 2018: Braves draft OF Greyson Jenista No. 49

Being able to call out right-handed pitcher Tristan Beck's name in the fourth round was not just a moment for the Braves' organization -- it was the moment, made all the more nerve-racking and satisfying after not having a pick in the third round.

"Sitting and waiting and watching 33 players getting drafted before you can draft again and to have the talent like Tristan Beck available -- who wouldn't be excited?" Bridges said.

Video: Draft 2018: Braves draft RHP Tristan Beck No. 112

Overall, the Braves selected 22 pitchers (17 righties and five lefties), four catchers, four outfielders and nine infielders to complete their 39 picks in the 2018 Draft.

Below are some of the highlights from Rounds 11-40 on Wednesday.

Rounds 11-20
The Braves opened up the last day of the Draft by selecting their first left-handed pitcher of 2018, Jake Higginbotham, a starter from Clemson University. Higginbotham's 2016 season was cut short after a stress fracture which required surgery was found in his left elbow. The injury caused the southpaw to go 666 days without an appearance on the mound, missing the entirety of the 2017 season. He re-emerged in 2018 to go 6-1 through 16 starts, with an ERA of 3.47.

Greg Cullen was drafted in the 15th round by the Braves. The Niagara University shortstop posted a .458 batting average in 2018, good enough for the top spot among NCAA Division I players. The Braves also took a pair of right-handed relievers in the 18th and 19th rounds in Cameran Kurz, of the University of California-San Diego, and Zach Daniels, of the University of Iowa. By the end of Day 3 of the Draft on Wednesday, the Braves had accumulated 12 right-handed pitchers to add to the five they'd drafted in the earlier rounds on Monday and Tuesday.

Rounds 21-30
Atlanta took a pair of catchers in Ray Soderman from the University of Oregon in the 22nd round and Rusber Estrada from Faulkner University in the 24th round. They also added another left-handed starter in Zach Guth from Harford, who went 10-0 through 11 starts while tallying 65 strikeouts in 2018.

Rounds 31-40
To round out Wednesday's selections, the Braves took Duke lefty Mitch Stalling, who is only the 15th pitcher in Duke's history to amass over 200 strikeouts in his college career. They added a right-handed hurler in LSU's Zack Hess in the 35th round. Baseball America voted Hess as the No. 10 prospect in the 2017 Cape Cod Summer League.

The Braves closed out the 2018 Draft in the 40th round by selecting Pinecrest Academy catcher Micky Mangan, son of longtime Braves groundskeeper Ed Mangan.

Tori McElhaney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta.

Atlanta Braves