The Atlanta Braves, owing to their playoff finish a year ago, will not be picking until the 25th position in the first round of the 2020 Major League Baseball draft. This year’s draft will be a highly unusual one due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Major League Baseball teams voted to have only five rounds in this year’s draft as opposed to the usual 40 rounds. And because of their free agent signings this past offseason, the Atlanta Braves have forfeited their second round draft pick in this year’s draft. Therefore they are left with only four picks in this year’s draft, which will be in rounds one, three, four, and five.
Draft prognosticators have indicated that the Braves are likely to take a number of high school prospects in this year’s draft. However, this draft plan is felt to most likely occur in the context of taking a college player with their very first pick, and then choosing high school players thereafter. This was a strategy employed for the first time last year by the Braves new, at the time, amateur draft player personnel department. Last year they had two first round picks and took college players with both of them, catcher catcher Shea Langeliers out of Baylor, and shortstop Braden Shewmake from Texas A&M. But the rest of their draft was littered with high ceiling high school talent that was signed at a lower cost than it would have been in the first round.
Georgia On My Mind
The way this year’s draft is likely to shake out, there is a plethora of high college pitching talent that is likely to be available where the Braves are picking. This year’s draft is very strong in the area of college pitching in general, and there are a couple of distinct tiers of college pictures in the upper half to mid first round. The first tier includes 4 pictures who are likely to be gone before the Braves pick. In that group of four sits University of Georgia right hander Emerson Hancock. If there was any possibility of the home-towner Hancock falling to Atlanta’s pick then they would likely jump all over him. Hancock, a six foot four right hander, would be quite a prize , but alas he will likely be gone.
The next tier consists of about four to six college pictures. Another University of Georgia pitching stud sits in this second tier. He is Cole Wilcox, is 6 foot 5 right hander. He has not exhibited the same consistency that his pitching mate Hancock has exhibited but nonetheless he comes with some of the best stuff of any pitcher in this draft, reaching as high as 100 mph with his fastball. There are however some concerns about his delivery, as well as his possible relegation to the bullpen. Nonetheless he would be another hometown plum should they snag him, and he appears much more gettable then his teammate Hancock.
Looking for a Volunteer
The most intriguing pitcher in this tier is University of Tennessee pitcher Garrett Crochet. Crochet is a 6 foot 6 left hander who has one of the highest ceilings of any pitcher in this draft. He even has a repeatable delivery, which is especially difficult for a man his size. But he has been inconsistent, and his command does wane at times. There are also some concerns that he may end up in the bullpen. Nonetheless, he would be very intriguing high ceiling choice late in the first round where the Braves are picking.
A Sooner Rather than Later
Another stud right hander in this grouping is Cade Cavalli of Oklahoma. There are very little concerns with his pitching motion as he is able to generate velocity without much effort. He also shows a tremendous curveball to keep hitters off balance. He does have some health concerns however as well as command issues. But he is another sturdy college pitcher who could be a real horse in In the rotation. Ironically he was originally drafted by the Atlanta Braves coming out of high school in 2017 with their 29th round pick. He obviously chose to forgo signing with the Braves at that time and joined the University of Oklahoma pitching staff, which appeared to be the right choice as his stock has soared ever since.
All Hail the Duke
Bryce Jarvis is the name most associated with the Atlanta Braves in mock drafts. In fact he achieved the trifecta of having been the mock draft selection associated with the Braves by Keith law of The Athletic, Jim Callis of mlb.com, as well as the espn.com mock draft. Jarvis is a guy who has created ten additional mph on his fastball since his sophomore year at Duke University. He stands at 6 foot 2 and 195 pounds, and even prior to boosting his fastball velocity he already exhibited a top tier curveball and very effective slider. But ironically his changeup is graded as his best secondary pitch. So, when you add an improved fastball to that pitching arsenal you have a very well-rounded starting pitcher. In addition he is already 22 years old, so that slightly advanced age is felt to reduce his negotiating power when it comes to a contract, thus making him a possible candidate for accepting a lower signing bonus as a first round pick, which would allow for additional money to be allocated to the later round picks. Thus, this should make Bryce very popular in the mid to later first round of this year’s draft.
Finally, there are two intriguing arms on the University of Miami pitching staff. The first is Chris McMahon a 6 foot 2 205 lb right hander who was also originally drafted by the Braves in the 33rd round in 2017. However, I am more intrigued by his teammate Slade Ceccone, a s6 foot 4 219 pound right hander. Slade has a big and durable frame to go along with a high-end fastball and slider combination. The question will be how well his changeup can develop to ensure that he remains a starter and not a reliever.
A Couple of Prom Kings
Thus, I do believe that the Braves will be picking amongst college pictures such as those listed above, in the first round this year. There is of course the slight chance that highly regarded high school players could slip to the Braves pick and they be unable to resist picking one of them, namely high school outfielders such as Robert Hassell or Peter Crow-Armstrong. However, picking a high schooler early would not fit in financially with their overall draft plan and is thus less likely to occur