Tough to guess who the Braves might select
Welcome to Phoenix, where the temperatures are actually a little hotter than the Braves have been over the past month and where Kelly Johnson is awaiting the opportunity to see his former teammates for the second time in less than a month.
Ten years ago, the Braves used a sandwich selection (compensatory picks made between the first two rounds) to take Johnson with the 38th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft. Tonight, when they make their first pick with the 35th overall selection, they can only hope to land a prospect that proves as valuable as Johnson did during his time in Atlanta.
Yes, Johnson had his share of struggles over the course of the past two years and was non-tendered in December. But it’s safe to say he certainly provided more dividends than some of the other gambles the Braves have taken on sandwich round selections.
In fact if recent history holds true, there’s a good chance that the Braves will end up trading whoever they take with their only selection during today’s portion of this year’s Draft.
Dating back to the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, the Braves have made 11 sandwich round selections. Kelly Johnson and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are the only members of this group who made their Major League debuts with Atlanta. Saltalamacchia is also one of the six members of this group to be traded by the Braves.
Heading into this evening’s Draft, the Braves are hoping to utilize their first selection to find an everyday player who can enhance the limited power potential that currently exists in the lower end of their Minor League system.
But it’s obvious that they are among the many clubs just hoping to find some serviceable talent after Bryce Harper and some of the other less-risky players are selected. In other words, Braves director of scouting Tony DeMacio and his 29 other counterparts are entering the next three days just hoping to make some sense out of what is truly an inexact science.
The Braves took Johnson with the 38th overall selection and Aaron Herr with the 40th overall selection in the 2000 Draft. While Johnson was enjoying his status as one of Atlanta’s Baby Braves in 2005, Herr was finding it difficult to find employment in the baseball world.
When the Braves took Richard Lewis with the 40th overall selection in the 2001 Draft, they didn’t know that his greatest contribution would be to serve as a trade piece that brought Juan Cruz to Atlanta’s bullpen. The same could be said regarding Dan Meyer, who was taken with the 34th selection in 2002 and then used as the marquee piece that brought Tim Hudson to Atlanta before the start of the 2005 season.
The last time the Braves owned the Draft’s 35th overall selection was 2004, when they used to take Luis Atilano, who would undergo Tommy John surgery and later be traded to the Nationals in exchange for Daryle Ward.
Saltalamacchia was chosen directly behind Atilano with the 36th overall selection in 2004.
One year later the Braves would take Beau Jones with the 41st overall selection. Both of these players were part of the blockbuster trade that brought Mark Teixeira to Atlanta in 2007.
Jon Gilmore, taken with the 33rd overall selection in 2007, was part of the package the Braves provided the White Sox in exchange for Javier Vazquez.
While many of these sandwich selections taken over the course of the past 10 Drafts never
made it to Atlanta, the Braves at least used almost all of them to produce some kind of value.
The only definite bust among was this group was Steven Evarts, the 43rd overall selection in 2006. Evarts’ off-the-field behavior ruined what had the makings to be a promising career.
It’s hard to project who the Braves might take with tonight’s 35th overall selection. With the likelihood that East Tennessee State’s Bryce Bentz will likely be long gone, they could choose to take a chance on Clemson’s Kyle Parker, whose signability is clouded by the fact that he has three years of eligibility remaining to serve as the school’s starting quarterback.
But having already signed Dominican shortstop Edward Salcedo to a $1.6 million deal in March, the Braves likely aren’t going to take a gamble on somebody like Parker, who will be looking for a signing bonus higher than Major League Baseball’s recommendation.
The Braves could select West Virginia shortstop Jedd Gyorko, who will likely end up as a second baseman, or Texas high school star Matt Lipka. Both of these signable talents could also still be around when the Braves make the 53rd and 69th overall selections.
A couple of local talents drawing interest from the Braves are Mill Creek High School right-hander Matt Grimes, who has committed to Georgia Tech, and South Forsyth High School infielder Zach Alvord
I’m heading down to the ballpark. Stay tuned for updates throughout the evening.
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