Braves aim to make most of Draft sans first-round pick
Rotation injuries forced club to sacrifice selection upon signing free agent Santana
ATLANTA -- The Braves' rotation has thus far exceeded any expectations that were set when Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy were lost in March. But the consequences created by the season-ending elbow injuries of these two pitchers will extend beyond this year.
After Medlen and Beachy exited Grapefruit League starts on consecutive days, the Braves acted quickly by signing Ervin Santana to a one-year, $14.1 million contract. Along with making a significant financial investment to fill an immediate need, they also sacrificed their first-round selection in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft because Santana had rejected the Royals' qualifying offer in November.
If Santana regains the form he had when he posted a 1.99 ERA in his first six starts, the Braves will likely be happy with their decision. But if the veteran right-hander extends the struggles he experienced during the latter half of May, Atlanta will regret having lost the 24th-overall selection in today's Draft.
The Braves' first pick will be the 32nd overall selection in the Competitive Balance Round A, which they received in compensation for Brian McCann's decision to decline their qualifying offer and sign with the Yankees as a free agent in November. Their only other Day 1 pick will be in Round 2, 66th overall.
"You hate to lose a pick, because the most practical way to build a team is through the Draft," general manager Frank Wren said. "But if we were going to compete this year, we had to get a guy that we could trust in the rotation."
The 2014 Draft will take place today through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network tonight at 6 ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Braves director of scouting Tony DeMacio and his scouts met with Wren and other club executives at Turner Field this week. As they developed this year's Draft board, they targeted some of the best available players and maintained the mindset that the Draft's overall value comes via its depth.
The Braves currently have two homegrown players -- Evan Gattis (23rd round in 2010) and Shae Simmons (22nd round in '12) -- on their Major League roster who were selected after the 20th round. Gus Schlosser, a 17th-round selection in 2011, began the year in Atlanta's bullpen.
"We take the philosophy that you can find a variety of talent through the first 10 rounds," Wren said. "But we've also got to get the players down the line -- like Gattis and Schlosser -- who have helped us at the big league level. You want to have depth in your Drafts."
Below is a look at what directions the Braves might go in this year's Draft:
In about 50 words
This will be the latest the Braves have picked in the first round since 2010, when they used the 35th overall selection on Matt Lipka. While Lipka has not yet lived up to expectations, five other members of that Draft class -- Andrelton Simmons, Todd Cunningham, Joey Terdoslavich, Phil Gosselin and Gattis -- have already played in Atlanta.
With an abundance of talent in their backyard, the Braves have seldom shied away from taking some of Georgia's best products. Infielder Michael Chavis from Marietta's Sprayberry High School and right-handed pitcher Spencer Adams from White County High School seem to be the most likely in-state products to land with the Braves, if either is still available near the end of the first round. Gainesville High School's Michael Gettys is a high-risk, high-reward toolsy prospect who is drawing at least some interest from Atlanta.
MLB.com's latest Mock Draft has the Braves taking UNLV right-hander Erick Fedde with their first selection. Other outlets have predicted that left-hander Foster Griffin from The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.). Griffin, who has been likened to Steve Carlton, could be gone by the time Atlanta selects. The same could be said of Chavis or Adams. But each of these three high school products are certainly high on the Braves' Draft board.
The Draft pools cover the top 10 rounds and any bonus money in excess of $100,000 given to players taken in rounds 11-40. If a player selected in the first 10 rounds doesn't sign, his assigned value is subtracted from his team's pool.
Braves bonus pool
A club that exceeds its Draft pool by 0-5 percent pays a 75-percent tax on the overage. The penalties get much more severe at higher thresholds: the loss of a first-round pick and a 75-percent tax for surpassing it by more than 5 and up to 10 percent; the loss of first- and second-rounders and a 100-percent tax for more than 10 and up to 15 percent; and the loss of two first-rounders and a 100-percent tax for more than 15 percent.
The Braves have been allotted $4,557,700 to account for the 10 picks they have through the first 10 rounds. Because they are picking low in each round and do not have any compensation selections, this pools ranks 28th among all Major League clubs. The value assigned to their first-round selection is $1,705,400.
In their attempt to acquire high-upside bats and arms, the Braves will prioritize players with tools. They will continue their recent trend of placing a higher emphasis on speed. Middle infielders, third basemen and outfielders will draw interest among position players. There is also a need to stock the system with catchers, but there have been a lot of misses -- namely Bryan De La Rosa (third round in 2012) and Nick DeSantiago (fifth round in '11) over the past few years.
When DeMacio first headed the Braves' Draft in 2010, they used six of their first seven selections on position players. The past three years, he's extended the organization's tendency to use the first selection on a pitcher, two of whom have come from the college ranks. With this year's crop heavy in the pitching department, don't be surprised if the Braves extend their trend of filling their early selections with an abundance of arms.
* RECENT DRAFT HISTORY *
It appears the 2012 Draft could prove to be fruitful to Atlanta's pitching staffs for years to come. Second-round selection Alex Wood reached the Majors less than a year after being drafted, and first-round selection Lucas Sims stands as the organization's top overall prospect. While Sims could join Wood in Atlanta's rotation within the next two years, Simmons has already added to this Draft class' value by reaching the big league level two years after being an obscure 22nd-round selection.
Gattis' Cinderella story began when the Braves opted to take a chance on him as 23rd-round selection four years ago. Few teams knew much about the powerful catcher, who had spent the previous five years on a spiritual journey during which he cooked, cleaned, parked cars and stayed away from baseball. Fortunately for the Braves, veteran scout Gerald Turner delivered both Simmons and Gattis in 2010.
In The Show
Tommy La Stella became the latest homegrown talent to reach the Majors when he debuted for the Braves on Wednesday in Boston. Since being selected in the eighth round in 2011, La Stella has displayed advanced plate discipline and the ability to consistently get on base. He has now been given a chance to serve as Atlanta's starting second baseman.
Braves' recent top picks
2013: Jason Hursh, RHP, Double-A Mississippi
2012: Sims, RHP, Class A Advanced Lynchburg
2011: Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Double-A New Britain (Twins)
2010: Lipka, OF, Mississippi
2009: Mike Minor, LHP, Atlanta
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.