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October 23, 2014

Analysis: Braves pick up lauded draft class

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Posted: Saturday, June 14, 2014 4:48 pm | Updated: 4:50 pm, Sat Jun 14, 2014.

The Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft wrapped up one week ago. As usual, a few local high school and college players were selected.

So, this seems like the perfect time to take a look at the Atlanta Braves’ draft and see how it is viewed among industry insiders.

Atlanta technically did not have its first-round pick in this year’s draft, losing the 24th overall selection after signing free agent pitcher Ervin Santana in spring training. Because the Braves offered Brian McCann a one-year contract after last season and lost him to the New York Yankees, they received a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds. Here’s a look at their top 10 selections, starting with pick No. 32 overall.

First round (32): Braxton Davidson, OF: A prep first baseman/outfielder out of T.C. Roberson High School in North Carolina, Davidson is the first position player the Braves have taken with their first selection since Matt Lipka in 2010.

Davidson was ranked as the No. 16 prospect in the draft by ESPN analyst Keith Law and 17th by Minor League Ball, so it appears the Braves did well to get him at 32.

Davidson is considered to be an above-average hitter who isn’t afraid to use all parts of the field. Scouts report that he frequently makes solid contact and controls the strike zone well. While not considered a power hitter just yet, the feeling is because of the type of contact he makes and his projectable frame, he will become at least a 20-a-year home run threat with high average and on-base skills.

Davidson graduated from high school this weekend and was expected to drive to Atlanta to sign his contract. He is expected to begin his career as a corner outfielder.

Second round (66): Garrett Fulenchek, RHP: A power right-hander out of Texas’ Howe High School, the Braves think Fulenchek’s 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame will allow him to add velocity to his 90 to 94 mph fastball. His secondary pitch is a slider, and he will have to work to add a third pitch to his arsenal to reach the majors as a starter.

Currently, his third pitch is a changeup, and the Braves’ system has a strong track record of helping players develop off-speed pitches. ESPN’s Law said Fulencheck has a maximum effort delivery that concerns him about his ability to remain a starter. Fulencheck signed his contract for about $1 million this past Tuesday.

Third round (102): Max Povse, RHP: Another tall, right-handed potential starter, Povse throws a low-90s fastball from his 6-7 frame. The North Carolina-Greensboro product features a slider and changeup as his secondary pitches, but they need work. Povse has already signed with Atlanta.

Fourth round (133): Chad Sobotka, RHP: Sobotka is another tall, power arm with a mid-90s fastball and a 6-6 frame. Sobotka didn’t pitch for South Carolina-Upstate this season because of a stress fracture in his back. Scouts vary on his potential. Some say he could be a No. 3 starter and others believe he will be reliever, although with the potential to be a very good one. Sobotka has signed with the Braves.

Fourth round (163): Chris Diaz, LHP: Diaz was the ACC Co-Pitcher of the Year for the University of Miami this season. He doesn’t wow with his stuff or velocity according to scouts, but he finds a way to get hitters out. He pitches in the high 80s, occasionally reaching the low 90s and projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Sixth round (193): Keith Curcio, CF: This pick actually mirrors what the Braves did with many of their hitting selections. Curcio is athletic, has good speed and makes contact, walking more than he strikes out. (Sounds the opposite of the current outfield with the big-league club, eh?) Curcio was not ranked by most scouting services.

Seventh round (223): Luke Dykstra, 2B: Like his dad Lenny, Luke plays like his hair is on fire. He ranked as high as 110 on Baseball America’s draft board. Hopefully, he has his dad’s on-field talent and not the off-field baggage.

Eighth round (253): Bradley Roney, RHP: A corner infielder and closer at Southern Mississippi, Roney projects to be a reliever. He has a mid-90s fastball and an above average slider.

Ninth round (283): Jordan Edgerton, 3B: A Division II slugger from UNC-Pembroke, Edgerton hit .369 this season. Scouts say he has a good eye at the plate and doesn’t strike out like at the rate many power hitters do.

10th Round (313): Matt Tellor, 1B: JSU fans may be familiar with the 6-5, 210-pound Tellor who was the OVC Player of the Year in 2014 when he hit .386 with 15 homers and 18 doubles for Southeast Missouri State. Fun fact: New Braves reliever Shae Simmons was one of two players drafted by Atlanta out of SEMO in 2012.

Overall, scouts seemed to be positive when assessing this year’s draft class, something that can’t be said in recent years. ESPN’s Law has been especially critical of Atlanta’s recent drafts, but he was bullish on this year’s class. Davidson enters the system as a top-five Braves prospect, and the depth of the class behind him should add some quality athletes.

“Overall, it was among the strongest Atlanta draft classes in a while, with more polished selections but plenty of upside plays in the mix,” Law said.

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