ATLANTA -- As this year's MLB Draft approached, the Braves placed Vanderbilt University pitcher Kyle Wright at the top of their wish list, with the expectation they would not have a chance to select him. But approximately an hour before the first selection was made, they gained a sense they would get their guy, and they would have to alter some of their plans for the picks that would follow.
Once they couldn't reach an agreement with University of Louisville's Brendan McKay, the Twins took Royce Lewis with the top overall selection. The next two picks were essentially a given, as the Reds took Hunter Greene and the Padres grabbed Mackenzie Gore. So once the Rays selected McKay, the Braves gladly took Wright, who was arguably the best available player this year.
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
"Going into the first pick, we had a lot of scenarios we were working with, even up until the hour before the Draft," Braves director of scouting Brian Bridges said. "But when Royce Lewis went number one, we felt confident we could get one of the two -- McKay or Kyle Wright. So, once Wright fell to us, it kind of changed our outlook."
The Braves stayed the course when they used their next pick (41st overall) to take outfielder Drew Waters, a physically gifted suburban Atlanta product who was named Georgia Player of the Year after leading Etowah High School to a state championship. With Wright set to get a generous over-slot bonus, the Braves will likely end up giving him somewhere near $7 million, with Waters expected to get something near his $1.7 million suggested slot value.
Combined, the two youngsters are expected to receive approximately $8.5 million. The sum of the bonuses the Braves give to players taken within the first 10 rounds must remain below $10,375,260 to avoid harsh taxes and penalties.
Thus, with the possibility that Wright and Waters could account for 80 percent of this figure as long as they both sign, the Braves had to tread lightly through rounds 3-10. They took a couple high-projection, late-blooming pitchers -- Freddy Tarnok and Troy Bacon -- before concluding this span of the Draft by selecting six straight college seniors, who do not have negotiating leverage because their eligibility has expired.
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Before the Draft concluded with rounds 11-40 on Wednesday, the Braves attempted to satisfy an organizational need by placing a focus on catchers. They used their 11th-round selection on Drew Lugbauer, who will begin his pro career as a catcher after spending the past three years primarily serving as a corner infielder at the University of Michigan. The 12th-round selection was used to take Hagen Owenby, a catcher from East Tennessee State who garnered attention when he won the Home Run competition during last year's College World Series.
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This Draft might not have gone exactly as the Braves originally envisioned, but once they grabbed Wright, they were glad to make any necessary adjustments.
"We feel very happy about what we've done," Bridges said. "It's not every day you have a chance to go after a college pitcher who has top-of-the-rotation stuff."