Braves eye talent with potential for immediate impact
Atlanta likely to use abundance of early picks on pitchers, local players
The 2015 Draft will take place from Monday through Wednesday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 75 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of Day 2 begins with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, with exclusive coverage of Day 3 beginning at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of over 1,700 Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Here's how the Draft is shaping up for the Braves, whose first selection is the 14th overall pick.
In about 50 words
The Braves have five of this year's first 75 selections and six of the first 89. They will be targeting high-upside players and shying away from some of the "safe picks" they made under different leadership the past few seasons. The last time the Braves had the 14th overall selection, they took Jason Heyward.
The Braves' Draft will be overseen by first-year scouting director Brian Bridges and Roy Clark, his mentor, who rejoined Atlanta's organization as a special assistant to the general manager in October. When Clark drew high regard as the Braves' scouting director from 2000-09, he consistently targeted local talent and pitching. Such will likely be the case this year.
Though Atlanta gained an impressive pitching crop with the trades it made during the offseason, it is expected to target high school pitchers during this year's early rounds. This seems to be a Draft in which some of the top arms are projected to be relievers at the Major League level. But the Braves will still attempt to grab some of the high-ceiling hurlers who have the potential to start.
While pitching will likely account for most of Atlanta's early picks, the Braves have their eyes on a couple local high school position players -- catcher Tyler Stephenson (Kennesaw Mountain High School) and shortstop Cornelius Randolph (Griffin High School) -- who are both expected to go in the first round.
"We're looking for high-upside, championship-caliber players that can impact our system immediately," Bridges said.
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 $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to 5 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.
Over the past few years, the Braves have shied away from providing an over-slot bonus to their selections. While they will likely attempt to extend this trend, Clark has proven to be very aggressive throughout this career. Because the Braves have 13 selections through the first 10 rounds, they have a generous bonus pool of $10,684,100 -- the fourth largest in the Majors. The value assigned to Atlanta's first pick is $2,842,400.
Though the Braves will attempt to further strengthen their pitching crop, they have a need for catchers and power-hitting outfielders. Braxton Davidson, last year's top selection, has the potential to fill that role, but he's the only true power-hitting outfield prospect in Atlanta's system.
This year's Draft will more likely mirror those previously run by Clark, who coveted Georgia's talent and extended the tradition Bobby Cox and Paul Snyder started back in the 1980s -- stockpiling pitchers.
RECENT DRAFT HISTORY
Lucas Sims has had to make some adjustments since being selected out of suburban Atlanta's Parkview High School in the first round of the 2012 Draft. The Braves were encouraged by what they saw, as Sims' fastball sat between 94-97 mph during the latter part of April and early May. But just when the righty was about to get promoted to Double-A Mississippi, he was sidelined after the bus crash involving Class A Advanced Carolina. Sims has not yet resumed pitching, but when he does, he has the potential to move through the system quickly.
Right-hander Steve Janas pushed himself into the top six rounds of the 2013 Draft after posting a 1.14 ERA and going 9-1 with Kennesaw State during his junior year (one year after recovering from Tommy John surgery). After he was selected by the Braves with the 193rd overall pick, Janas struggled in Rookie ball and Class A, posting a 5.79 ERA and a 4.52 ERA, respectively. This year has been a different story for the 6-foot-6 hurler, who has posted a 0.56 ERA in five starts with Carolina.
In The Show
After trading away Heyward and Evan Gattis during the offseason, the Braves' Major League club features fewer homegrown talents than previous seasons. Freddie Freeman (2007, second round) and Andrelton Simmons (2010, second round) have become faces of the franchise, while Alex Wood (2012, second round) is establishing himself as one of the game's top young starters.
The Braves' recent top picks
2014: Davidson, OF, Class A Rome
2013: Jason Hursh, RHP, Double-A Mississippi
2012: Sims, RHP, Class A Advanced Carolina
2011: Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Mets
2010: Matt Lipka, CF, Double-A Mississippi