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The Best of the Atlanta Braves' 2012 Draft

Matt PowersCorrespondent IIJune 7, 2012

The Best of the Atlanta Braves' 2012 Draft

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    With the 2012 MLB Draft now officially in the books, it is time to take a look at some of the highlights of the draft for the Braves. I have already given a report on top pick Lucas Sims, a local prep right-handed pitcher, and will now review the rest of the Braves' draft.

    This article is broken down to evaluate the picks by their positions, to see what areas the Braves decided to focus on.

Right-Handed Pitcher

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    The Braves drafted 15 right-handed pitchers this year, including Kevin McKague, who could also get a look at first base. Of those 15 pitchers, nine were from college, two from junior college and four were from high school. The highest pick of the bunch was local prep star Lucas Sims, who may have the highest upside of them all.

    These six players are the most interesting picks of the group.

    Lucas Sims, Georgia high school—Sims is a potential top end of the rotation starter, or at worst a late-inning reliever. He has three potential-plus pitches, including a fastball that can hit 97 MPH.

    David Peterson, College of Charleston—Peterson is a closer for a college team that made the NCAA Tournament. He has a mid-90s fastball and a solid curve, so he could move quickly as a reliever. He could someday be a setup man. 

    Nathan Hyatt, Appalachian State—Hyatt is another college closer for a team that made the NCAA Tournament. His biggest asset is a fastball that gets up to 97 MPH,

    Shae Simmons, Southeast Missouri State—Simmons was a successful college pitcher, with three pitches that look like they will grade out as big league average in the future. For that reason, if it doesn't work out as a starter for him, he could have a promising future in the bullpen.

    Matt Kimbrel, Southern Polytechnic State—The younger brother of Craig Kimbrel and a former Braves' draft choice, Kimbrel is a guy that organization obviously wants.

    Sean McLaughlin, Georgia high school—McLaughlin was selected in the 38th round, and because of that may be hard to sign. McLaughlin is committed to play for Georgia next year, and with the new draft rules he could be tough to bring in. Still he has plenty of value for this spot in the draft, despite being under 6'.

Left-Handed Pitching

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    The Braves didn't go as heavily with left-handed pitching as they did with right-handers this year, only drafting three this year. All three pitchers were college prospects, with the highest drafted being second rounder Alex Wood from Georgia.

    Here is a quick look at the three left-handed pitchers the Braves took this year.

    Alex Wood, University of Georgia—Wood is an unusually hard-throwing lefty prospect who has had a significant amount of success pitching in the SEC. The only reason he lasted until the 85th pick of the draft is because of concerns about his his delivery, though he has already had Tommy John surgery. Wood could potentially be a steal here depending on his development.

    David Starn, Kent State—Unlike Wood, Starn is a soft tosser with great command. While it may concern some that Starn doesn't hit 90 MPH with his fastball, Oakland rookie left-hander Tom Milone is a similar pitcher and is having a good deal of success this year.

    Brandon Rohde, Central Washington—Rohde transferred to Central Washington from the University of Washington, and in his career went 8-10 with a 3.99 ERA with a strikeout-to-walk ratio just over 4-1.

Catcher

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    The Braves drafted four potential catchers this year, though a pair of them could end up in the outfield for defensive reasons. Of the four, three were college players and one was drafted from high school. The highest drafted was Bryan de la Rosa, the high school pick who originally came from Puerto Rico before moving to Florida.

    Here is a look at three of the four draftees, as I listed Chase Anselment with the outfielders.

    Bryan de la Rosa, Florida high school—De La Rosa is an undersized prospect, with different sources listing him between 5'8" and 5'11", but the third round pick could have been a first rounder if he was a little bigger. De La Rosa is an excellent defensive catcher with a very good arm for throwing out base runners. His bat isn't as advanced as his defense, but he does show some potential to develop power. To me, he seems a little like current prospect Christian Bethancourt.

    Josh Elander, TCU—Elander was a value pick in the sixth round, as he could have gone as high as the second or third round. Elander has some questions about his ability to stay behind the plate, but he does move well for a catcher, so if it doesn't work out he could play in the outfield. Elander is a very good college hitter with some power. He has a chance to be a real steal.

    Tyler Tewell, Appalachian State—Tewell had a strong year at the plate this year for a team that reached the NCAA Tournament. He hit .357, with six homers included in his 27 extra base hits. He seems like a fringe prospect with a bit more promise than just an organizational filler.

Infield

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    The Braves didn't go heavy on infielders this year, drafting just 10 in their 40 picks, including Kevin McKague, who may also be used as a pitcher. Of those 10, seven came from college, two from high school and the last from junior college. The highest selection was third baseman Mike Dodig in the 10th round.

    Here is a look at some of the better picks the Braves made.

    Mike Dodig, 3B, New York JUCO—Dodig is a junior college player from a cold-weather state, so he may need an adjustment period getting used to the competition. He had a big year this year, hitting .458 with 15 extra base hits in 107 at bats.

    Levi Borders, 3B/SS. Florida high school—The son of ex-Blue Jays catcher Pat Borders could profile at shortstop or catcher as well, but is expected to play third base. He has a solid hit tool with line drive power and appears to be capable of playing solid defense at the hot corner.

    Levi Hyams, 2B, University of Georgia—The local prospect is a very strong defender who has shown some promise with his bat, but did hit only .250 this season. He is a college senior, so he is likely not going to be tough to sign.

    Eric Garcia, SS, University of Missouri—Garcia is a good defensive shortstop, with his best career achievement being winning the Big 12 Conference Tournament's MVP Award.

    Trenton Moses, 3B, Southeast Missouri State—Moses led Division I in both on-base percentage and slugging this year, with a triple slash line of .395/.502/.672 with 11 homers. He is certainly a draft pick worth following if the Braves can get him signed as a 26th round pick.

Outfield

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    The Braves drafted 10 outfielders this year, though many were picked in the late stages of the draft and may be tough to sign. Out of those 10, just two were college players while eight were from high school. The highest selection was Montana high school pick Justin Black in the fourth round.

    Here are some of the more interesting prospects.

    Justin Black, Montana high school—Black didn't play high school baseball in Montana, but he did play for a Canadian travel team. He is a bit raw, but has potential five-tool ability with very good speed. The Braves brought him to Atlanta before the draft for a workout, so they saw something that they liked enough to draft him in the fourth round.

    Blake Brown, University of Missouri—Brown has an interesting combination of power and speed, but is very prone to strikeouts. As a college player from a major conference, he has seen some top competition already and could get through the lower minors quickly.

    Connor Lien, Florida high school—Lien has a good mix of power and speed, which is why the Braves took him in the 12th round.

    Fernelys Sanchez, New York high school—Sanchez is a speedster from New York City who missed the spring due to an injury.

    Sam Gillikin, Alabama high school—Gillikin is a potential five-tool player committed to play at Auburn next year. He is a real steal in the 33rd round, but may not be signable here.

    Braden Bishop, California high school—Bishop is yet another high-ceiling player that slipped, and for that reason may be unsignable.

    Gio Brusa, California high school—Brusa is another steal who may be tough to sign because of how far he fell in the draft. Brusa has very good power potential at the plate, so if he signs he immediately becomes a player to watch.

Overall Analysis

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    The Braves' draft is tough to grade, however, so are most other teams'. The new draft rules have led to some guys, with no business being drafted high, being selected within the first 10 rounds and some more talented players to slip.

    That seems to be what happened with the Braves' draft, as players such as Mike Dodig and Steven Schils were drafted in the first 10 rounds. Then, high-upside guys like Fernelys Sanchez, Sam Gillikin, Braden Bishop, Gio Brusa, Sean McLaughlin and Cullen O'Dwyer were later picks who may be tough to sign.

    The Braves did, however, add a pair of talented pitchers with their first two picks, then added the speed they were rumored to want. That speed came partly in the first ten picks, with high-upside players like Justin Black and Blake Brown.

    The final grade on this draft is hard to give, as it will depend on how many of the above players are signed before the July deadline.

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