The Braves lost their original first-round pick after signing free-agent pitcher Ervin Santana, but gained a pick at the end of the first round as compensation for losing free-agent catcher Brian McCann to the New York Yankees.
Predicting who the Braves will choose with their first pick is a challenge. With so many picks in front of Atlanta’s selection there are many ways in which the draft could unfold.
Here’s what we know about Atlanta’s draft tendencies given their first picks from the past decade:
- Atlanta generally takes the player they deem as the best available on their draft board. However, the Braves will occasionally draft a toolsy player they can dream on. This has led to some big misses in recent drafts such as Cody Johnson (2006) and Matt Lipka (2010).
- Starting pitching is a priority. There are several prep starters from the South who are expected to be available around the time the Braves pick. Baseball America has repeatedly predicted that the Braves will pick Orlando prep left-handed pitcher Foster Griffin.
- The original Southern team likes to draft from the South. Of the top 40 prospects ranked by Baseball America, 16 are from Georgia or a neighboring state. This will give the Braves plenty of “local” talent to choose from.
- The Braves prioritize signability. This used to be an even bigger deal, but since baseball instituted recommended bonuses based on slot, signability of players is a bit more predictable.
Let’s take a look at the latest mock drafts from various prospect sources and see who the experts think the Braves will take.
In their first three mock drafts Baseball America pegged the Braves to take Griffin, but they changed their mind in their most recent mock draft. They mocked the Braves to take prep shortstop Ti’quan Forbes from Mississippi—one of those toolsy athletes that the organization thinks is projectable.
This mock selection of Forbes is part of a larger trend among mock drafts that believe the Braves will select a non-pitcher.
MLB.com’s Jim Callis' latest mock draft has the Braves drafting a prep shortstop even closer to home. Michael Chavis is from Sprayberry High School in Cobb County—the home of the Braves' new stadium. Atlanta may want to take a local product from Cobb to help give a public relations boost in the wake of some unpopularity with the large portion of public financing for the new ballpark.
Bleacher Report’s Adam Wells also has the Braves staying in Georgia, and away from pitching, by selecting Gainesville prep outfielder Michael Gettys.
In Bleacher Report’s preview of the Braves draft last week, I suggested that Atlanta might try to select an outfielder who could be ready to take over in 2016. That's when outfielders Jason Heyward and Justin Upton could become free agents, should the Braves fail to re-sign them.
A high school selection in this year’s draft would not be ready for major league action by then, so one of the top college outfield draft prospects would have to fit that need. That theory will need some help though, as the top two or three collegiate outfielders are all projected to be selected by the time the Braves pick.
The best chance the Braves have at getting one of these college hitters is if University of Virginia outfielder Derek Fisher drops to Atlanta at No. 32.
The Braves will also have a second pick on the first day of the draft with the 66th overall pick in the second round. We'll find out Thursday night who the two newest members of the Braves organization will be.