Braves getting leg up on 2016 Draft research

Atlanta has 4 of the first 80 selections, including No. 3 overall

January 22nd, 2016

ATLANTA -- With the beginning of the college baseball season around the corner, the Braves have started to pinpoint some of the impact players they could target with the third overall selection in the 2016 Draft.

Braves scouting director Brian Bridges welcomed approximately 30 of his scouts to Turner Field earlier this week to analyze some of the Draft prospects and discuss what the club will attempt to accomplish with four of this year's first 80 selections, including three of the first 44.

2016 Draft order

"This is a big Draft for us," Braves general manager John Coppolella said. "We just wanted to get everybody on the same page, During the Draft, everything is so fluid. But it's something where we want to make sure we all know what we're after this year. We really want to build off the great Draft we had last year."

The Braves are currently positioned to have the third, 40th, 44th and 80th selections. This will be their earliest selection since they took Arizona State's Mike Kelly with the second overall pick in the 1991 Draft.

When Atlanta had five of the first 75 selections in last year's Draft, it took left-handed pitcher Kolby Allard (14th overall selection), right-hander Mike Soroka (28th), third baseman Austin Riley (41st), catcher Lucas Herbert (54th) and left-hander A.J. Minter (75th).

Minter is the only member of this group who is not ranked among's Top 30 Prospects for the Braves. But the Texas A&M product stood as one of college baseball's top left-handed prospects before undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. ranks Allard as one of baseball's Top 10 left-handed pitching prospects.

"I think we had the best Draft in baseball in 2015," Coppolella said. "I couldn't be happier with what we have received from [special assistant to the general manager] Brian Bridges, Roy Clark and all of our amateur scouts."

Special assistants Fred McGriff and Greg Walker were present to lend their expertise during this week's meetings. Both McGriff and Walker have impressed the Braves with the passion and knowledge they have brought while scouting amateur talent over the course of the past year.

"I've learned more about hitting in one year of hanging around those guys than I ever knew before," Bridges said. "It's been a real pleasure and benefit to have them around."

Though Atlanta has long been recognized as a club that prioritizes pitching during the Draft, it could use that third selection to take Nick Banks (Texas A&M), Corey Ray (Louisville) or one of this year's top collegiate position players.

Along with attempting to find quick success like the Mets and Cubs did after taking Michael Conforto and Kyle Schwarber, respectively, from the college ranks in 2014, the Braves could go this route to fill their obvious need to enhance their farm system with power-hitting prospects.

But there will also be some chatter linking the Braves to Robert Tyler (Georgia), A.J. Puk (Florida) and some other top collegiate arms. This was the route Atlanta took in 2009 when it last had a pick this early. With Clark leading that Draft, the choice was Mike Minor (Vanderbilt) with the seventh overall selection.

"We are ready to get out there and compete to find the best available players," Bridges said. "We went over a number of things this week and we just talked about players. I don't think any of us can ever do that enough. We look at everything from all perspectives, including analytics."