Pitching-rich Braves load up on arms in Draft
Club also favors multi-sport stars to beef up ranks
ATLANTA -- As the Braves progressed through the 2015 First-Year Player Draft, they stuck to their plan to place a heavy emphasis on pitchers and multi-sport high school athletes with high upside.
"We had a plan going in and that's kind of what we stuck with," Braves scouting director Brian Bridges said. "Pitching is hard to find. So, we wanted to go that route right from the start."
It did not take long to realize where the Braves had placed their emphasis. They took pitchers with 12 of their first 14 selections, with nine of those coming from the collegiate ranks. But by the time the three-day Draft concluded on Wednesday, they also felt good about the possibility that some of the position players they drafted could help strengthen their need for power at the lower Minor League levels.
The Braves began their draft Monday by selecting a pair of 17-year-old pitchers -- Kolby Allard (14th overall) and Mike Soroka -- in the first round. They coveted third baseman Austin Riley's power power potential in the third round and then took Allard's San Clemente (Calif.) High School teammate Lucas Herbert with the belief that he might have been the best defensive catcher available this year.
Like Allard, seemingly dropped because he missed most of his senior season with a stress fracture in his back, the Braves' fifth-round selection A.J. Minter likely would have gone much earlier had he not undergone Tommy John surgery in March. In fact, some Braves officials believe Minter might have been ready to immediately join Atlanta's bullpen if he was healthy.
Minter, Allard, Soroka and third-round selection Anthony Guardado will now simply strengthen the pitching stable that the Braves enhanced via a few significant trades completed this past offseason. MLB.com's Top 30 Braves prospects list already includes 19 pitchers.
But with this year's Draft crop rather weak in terms of position players, the Braves jumped at the opportunity to add more pitching, an element that has traditionally had longer-term value both on the field and in the trade market. An old baseball adage says, "You need 10 [pitching] prospects to get two pitchers."
"I think [pitching] is something we will attack every year," Bridges said. "You never can have enough pitching. It puts our front office in a good position moving forward with the organization. I think [pitching] is the lifeblood of an organization. The more pitching you have, the better off you are."
The Braves mixed in some athletic position players as they filled the final 30 rounds of the Draft on Wednesday. In the 12th round, they took center fielder Justin Ellison out of Western Oklahoma State, the same school that produced Andrelton Simmons.
Though highly rated football recruits DJ Neal and Terry Godwin will likely stick to their commitments to play in the fall for South Carolina and Georgia, respectively, the Braves provided a glimpse of the kind of versatile, hard-nosed athletes they will continue to target over the next few years.
"Multi-sport athletes tend to adapt and deal with failure better," Bridges said. "You're going to fail in this game. If you have that tough background, it just allows you as a person to deal with things."