The Atlanta Braves know baseball. They scout as well as any team and they build up their farm systems repeatedly despite there always being a new rookie or two to help out the big league team.
Therefore, I trust the Braves organization as much as anyone. While some may complain about their trades or free agent signings, at least when it comes to drafting and picking up international talent, the Braves are very, very good.
The Braves came into the 2011 MLB Draft with a mindset to draft players that would sign for slot, and they did just that. This may make for some boring picks to some, but it also means you trust your scouts about these players, as well as your minor league coaches to get them MLB ready.
Because of my trust for the Braves, I can't really dog any pick, though some people might. So let's now take a look at their first five picks of this year's draft.
Sean Gilmartin, the Florida State Seminoles ace this season, isn't the most exciting draft selection, as he projects to be a back-of-the-rotation pitcher that relies more on his control that his stuff.
The 28th pick in the draft sits in the upper-80s mostly with his fastball, but could become a low-90s pitcher as he gets stronger. He has a decent curveball, but his best pitch is a plus-changeup that could get him to the majors pretty quickly.
With their second pick, 85th overall, the Atlanta Braves took Nick Ahmed, a shortstop from the University of Connecticut.
One of the captains for the Huskies, Ahmed hit .333 this season with two homers, 35 RBI, 23 stolen bases and an .880 OPS.
Ahmed, unlike many of his college brethren, has the tools to stick at shortstop and is likely to stay there. His strengths are his arm and his speed, while he projects to have a solid bat, he won't hit for much power. He realizes this though, and uses his speed to his advantage and will work pitchers very well.
It was a bit of surprise for me with Tyler Pastornicky waiting for his chance to play, but its a good pick as far as adding depth and giving you a guy to fall back on. He's a hard-working, all-out type of player, and Ahmed's defense should be solid enough to make him at least a utility guy if the bat comes around like many think it will, though his upside could be higher than that.
With the 115th pick the Braves took Kyle Kubitza from Texas State. Kubitza comes in as a pretty good pick to this point, as he addresses one of the bigger questions for the Braves future: who will replace Chipper Jones?
After hitting .358 with 11 homers as a sophomore in 2010, Kubitza hit .310 with 10 homers this season, showing that he does have good power. He's also a patient hitter, as his OBP in 2010 was .449 and .446 in 2011.
He should be a good professional hitter with a solid plus power tool, but his bat is hit biggest strength to this point. His fielding percentage this season was a paltry .872, which is horrible by any measure.
While he may have a good enough bat to reach the big leagues and provide some plus power, will he be able to handle third base defensively?
Grade: C+, A- if he can make a good bit of improvement with the glove.
The Atlanta Braves took J.R. Graham from Santa Clara University with the 146th pick of the draft.
Graham was the closer in college, and should continue to be a back of the bullpen guy at the professional level. He throws in the upper-90s despite a small frame at just 6-foot, 185 pounds. He struck out 45 batters in 62 innings this season.
Seems to fit the Craig Kimbrel-mold as a pitcher, except for the crazy K/9 stats Kimbrel has, that could rise quickly through the system due to overpowering guys in the minors. He also has solid pitches with his slider and changeup.
I think Graham will make his way to the big leagues faster than any other of the Braves first five picks. His electric stuff makes him a good candidate to take over one of the setup role for the Braves in the next few years.
The Atlanta Braves fifth-round pick was Nick DeSantiago, a catcher from Blinn College.
DeSantiago originally went to college at the University of Texas before transfering to Blinn. He is listed by mlb.com at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds.
DeSantiago hit .313 this year with three homers, four doubles, 19 RBI, and an OBP of .477.
He has a solid eye at the plate and may have an above average-hit tool, though he doesn't appear to have a ton of power in his bat. None of his stats really stand out to me, so this is one of those where I'll have to trust the Braves scouts.
From what I can see he may end up as a solid backup catcher or an average every day starter.
Grade: C, though I can't really find any scouting reports on him.
The Braves have a team full of guys that they drafted, and there is a pretty good chance that these players will make it to the big league level, the chances of some more than others.
I thought it was interesting how all of them were college players, as the Braves have historically gone for high school players. They still got a group though, and they may have been thinking about the relatively close future with these selections.
Overall Grade: B- or B+ depending on Kubitza.