It’s Wednesday – less than 36 hours to go, and it still seems that no one has a really good feel for which way the Braves will go with their early picks. This year’s draft class doesn’t have a clear-cut handful of players that have separated themselves from the pack, but it appears that there should be several solid players available when the organization makes its first three picks at #3, #40, and #44. As it seems most draft pundits and followers are in the dark with less than a week remaining before the show starts, here’s the way we’d approach things Thursday…
First Round (Pick 1.3 – #3)
Corey Ray – OF – Louisville
There’s no MLB organization that needs offense more than the Braves. While Ray doesn’t protect as the right-handed “masher” the big club could really use, he projects to be the best all-around collegiate OF available. With the Braves’ available pool money to try to sign picks, Ray would make lots of sense if they could get him signed for around $4.5 million – not to mention he’d quench Coppy’s rumored desire to land a college bat early.
Lottery Round A (Pick 1.40 – #40) (Acquired From Miami)
Ian Anderson – RHSP – Shenendehowa HS, NY
The Vanderbilt commit has a fastball that already sits between 91-95 with projection left as he grows into his 6’3″, 170 lb. frame. He also throws an above-average slider/slurve that projects as plus with some work as well as feel for a solid changeup. He’ll require mid-First Round money (or a little more) to buy him out of his commitment – and the Braves could accommodate that if they’re able to save a little money with Ray. The Braves had several evaluators present at his final start this spring, and he left them with plenty to think about – his fastball sat between 94-97 and he struck out 16. If they could sign him for ~$4 million, they could land two of MLB Pipeline’s current Top 13 players.
Second Round – (Pick 2.3 – #44)
Alex Speas – RHSP – McEachern HS, GA
Speas is exactly the type of young, high-upside arm the Braves have been targeting during the rebuild process. Built much like recent acquisition Touki Toussaint (6’4″, 190 lbs.), Alex has the most explosive fastball in the current high school class – sitting comfortably between 92-96 with late life and projection for more as he grows into his frame. He also already has a 60-Grade curveball and has drawn loose comparisons to a young Dwight Gooden. Like Toussaint he struggles to throw strikes at times, but if he can harness his stuff and develop a passable changeup, the Auburn commit has all the makings of a top of the rotation starter.
Lottery Round B (Pick 2.35 – #76) (Acquired From Baltimore)
Jesus Luzardo – LHSP – Stoneman Douglas HS, FL
Luzardo is the classic “pitchability” lefty – no real loud offering, but deceptive and always around the plate. He showed the ability to change speeds with all his offspeed offerings before succumbing to Tommy John surgery. The belief is that it was simply a result of overthrowing – he was working in the mid-90s after previously sitting 89-91 and touching 93 with his fastball. The current regime hasn’t shied away from Pitchers who slide due to injuries, opting to believe that the medical staff and player development departments can still get the best out of them once they get them into the Braves’ program, and Luzardo could be another name to add to that group.
Third Round (Pick 3.3 – #80)
Braeden Ogle – LHSP – Jensen Beach HS, FL
Ogle is the opposite of Luzardo – a lefty with a big fastball (up to 96) with control issues but lots of projection remaining. The Florida commit stands 6’2 “, 170 lbs, leaving plenty of room to add velocity and strength as he continues to grow. Scouts feel his control issues can be overcome since they typically come from mechanical issues that keep him from repeating a relatively smooth and effortless delivery. If he can make those adjustments, he has a hard curve and has shown the makings of a solid changeup to back up his fastball.
Fourth Round (Pick 4.3 – #109)
Logan Ice – C – Oregon State
The switch-hitting backstop doesn’t possess quite the offensive upside of some of the Catchers in this year’s college crop, but he’s solid defensively and his defensive skills make him a better candidate to remain behind the plate than some of the names that will come off the board before him as they begin to face tougher competition. While he’s not a huge power threat, he has shown the ability to hit the ball in the gaps and walked more often than he struck out this season.