The thirtieth and final part of my draft preview series is on the Atlanta Braves and their new scouting director Tony DeMacio. DeMacio has been involved in too many drafts to count for different teams, but I’ll focus on the last three years with Atlanta’s drafts, as DeMacio was a special assistant in the Atlanta front office.
Owner: Liberty Media Corp., bought club in 2007
General Manager: Frank Wren, first season was 2008
Scouting Director: Tony DeMacio, first draft will be 2010
2007 Draft: Special Assistant with Atlanta Braves
1. Jason Heyward, OF, Henry County HS (GA), #14 Overall: Heyward was easily a top half of the first round prospect in the 2007 class, and the Braves were lucky to get him so far back in the top half of the round. Heyward featured plus-plus power and polished instincts for the game. Following players selected: Devin Mesoraco, Kevin Ahrens, Blake Beavan. Signing bonus: $1,700,000.
2. Jon Gilmore, 3B, Iowa City HS (IA), #33 Overall: Gilmore had faded somewhat in the eyes of scouts over his senior year, and the Braves picked him earlier than expected when they got him so early in the supplemental first round. He was thought of more as a second to fourth round prospect on the basis of power and his hit tool. Following players selected: Todd Frazier, Julio Borbon, Clayton Mortensen. Signing bonus: $900,000.
3. Josh Fields, RHP, Georgia, #69 Overall: Fields entered the spring as a possible first round pick on the basis of a plus two-pitch mix, but he never regained that stuff as a junior. He was still a solid second to fourth round relief prospect, but the Braves misread his signability, and he returned to school to become a first round pick in 2008. Following players selected: Jake Smolinski, David Kopp, Brian Rike. DID NOT SIGN.
4. Freddie Freeman, 1B, El Modena HS (CA), #78 Overall: Freeman was a two-way prospect in high school, and a number of teams favored him as a pitcher. However, he featured plus power and a plus arm in the field, and he was a solid second to third round prospect as a hitter. Following players selected: Zack Cozart, Matt West, Eric Sogard. Signing bonus: $409,500.
5. Brandon Hicks, SS, Texas A&M, #108 Overall: Hicks featured a solid set of tools that included defensive tools that projected for him to stay at shortstop at the pro level. He also had average to above-average power, but he struggled to make contact as a possible third to sixth round prospect. Following players selected: Neftali Soto, Evan Reed, Derek Dietrich. Signing bonus: $283,500.
Other Notable Selections: RHP Cory Gearrin (4th), Mercer, $186,750 bonus.
2008 Draft: Special Assistant with Atlanta Braves
1. Brett DeVall, LHP, Niceville HS (FL), #40 Overall: DeVall stood as one of the best left-handed prep pitchers in a 2008 class short on lefty prep arms. He featured an average pitch mix with above-average command, and he was a solid supplemental first round arm, making this a solid first pick if you believed in his projectability. Following players selected: Ryan Flaherty, Jaff Decker, Wade Miley. Signing bonus: $1,000,000.
2. Tyler Stovall, LHP, Hokes Bluff HS (AL), #64 Overall: Stovall was another projectable left-handed prep pitcher that actually featured better raw stuff than DeVall. However, his command wasn’t as good, making him a second or third round arm instead of an earlier arm, and his development path was longer. Following players selected: Aaron Shafer, Dennis Raben, Cody Satterwhite. Signing bonus: $750,000.
3. Zeke Spruill, RHP, Kell HS (GA), #70 Overall: Spruill is another projectable arm that went to the Braves, but he threw from the right side. He featured a plus fastball and smooth mechanics, along with projectability as good as Stovall, making this a solid selection of a second or third round arm. Following players selected: Jason Knapp, Charlie Blackmon, Bryan Shaw. Signing bonus: $600,000.
4. Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Wallace State CC (AL), #96 Overall: Kimbrel featured better raw stuff than any of the above pitchers, but he was only considered a relief arm. He had a plus-plus fastball with a usable slider, and he looked like a possible setup man or closer with some refinement. Following players selected: Chris Carpenter, Aaron Pribanic, Scott Green. Signing bonus: $391,000.
5. Braeden Schlehuber, C, CC of Southern Nevada, #130 Overall: Schlehuber featured better raw tools than an average catching prospect, but there was concern that he didn’t look like a starting catcher at the next level. As a result, he was a solid fourth to sixth round prospect instead of an earlier prospect. Following players selected: Matt Cerda, Steven Hensley, Brett Jacobson. Signing bonus: $240,000.
Other Notable Selections: RHP J.J. Hoover (10th), Calhoun CC (AL), $400K bonus.
2009 Draft: Special Assistant with Atlanta Braves
1. Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt, #7 Overall: Minor was considered more of a late first round to second round arm, but the Braves loved his pitchability and makeup, thinking he featured enough stuff to be a mid-rotation starter in a very short amount of time. Following players selected: Mike Leake, Jacob Turner, Drew Storen. Signing bonus: $2,420,000.
2. David Hale, RHP, Princeton, #87 Overall: Hale featured better raw stuff than Minor, but he struggled to get bad hitters out, as his fastball could be straight, and he lacked a solid amount of control. He was a two-way player at Princeton, so some thought he’d take off as a full-time pitcher. Following players selected: Donnie Joseph, Wade Gaynor, Ben Paulsen. Signing bonus: $405,000.
3. Mycal Jones, SS, Miami Dade CC (FL), #118 Overall: Jones was an excellent athlete with a lot of upside, but the downside of being 22 as a junior college sophomore. He had plus-plus speed, and a solid hit tool, and he looked like a good third to sixth round prospect. Following players selected: Mark Fleury, Edwin Gomez, Kent Matthes. Signing bonus: $252,000.
4. Thomas Berryhill, RHP, Newberry (SC), #148 Overall: Berryhill was a surprising early pick here, as he seemed like more of a seventh to twelfth round prospect as a college closer. He had good raw stuff, but didn’t have a track record against any sort of good competition. Following players selected: Daniel Tuttle, Austin Wood, Joe Sanders. Signing bonus: $160,000.
5. Ryan Woolley, RHP, UAB, #178 Overall: Woolley’s situation was unique, in that he had been sitting out the year following transferring in to UAB for his junior year, so he was ineligible to play. He had good raw stuff, but he was rusty and was shelled in the Alaska League as the Braves followed him over the summer, leading to him not signing. Following players selected: Mark Serrano, Daniel Fields, Chris Balcom-Miller. DID NOT SIGN.
Other Notable Selections: None.
Tony DeMacio was named as the Braves’ scouting director shortly after Roy Clark left for the Nationals at the end of the 2009 season. Clark and Paul Snyder had combined to run 24 of the past 29 drafts, with Chuck LaMar handling the first five drafts when John Schuerholz became the general manager for the 1991 season. As a result, it really feels like it’s the end of an era for the Braves. Schuerholz is no longer general manager, and longtime mainstays Dayton Moore, Roy Clark, Paul Snyder, J.J. Picollo, Mike Arbuckle, and more have all moved on, having no more ties to the Braves. DeMacio himself was with the Braves in the 1980s, but moved on when Schuerholz became general manager. He has ten years of crosschecking experience, as well as six years of scouting director experience with the Orioles from 1999-2004, so there’s no lack of experience here. I’m not completely positive how critical his special assistant role was with the Braves in the last three years, but I think Clark started to see the writing on the wall, leading to his departure for Washington. I can’t really give you any trends for DeMacio right now, but I do know his previous history. He generally likes athleticism and raw arms, something that the Braves have focused on over the years, as well. I’m not sure what to expect at the moment, but let’s assume that the raw arms and athleticism models stick for this year’s draft.
The main thing that I’m discouraged about is draft budgeting for the Braves. Since Frank Wren took over in 2008, the Braves are in a tie for the 26th-largest amount spent on draft bonuses. For a team that spent solid amounts on the draft back in the day, that’s discouraging. It’s almost as if the team is starting to de-emphasize the draft as a point of player acquisition. They didn’t shoot for high-ceiling talent last year, instead searching for players that project to move more quickly. You can tell the scouting department was hamstrung by draft budgets simply by the number of junior college players they picked. They avoided the more expensive high school prospects, but they didn’t want to drop down to the college level, instead opting for something in-between. Once again, I simply don’t know where they’re headed, but it just doesn’t look like they emphasize the draft like they should. They did that even more by handing away their first round pick in 2010, something I frown up, especially for relievers. They lost their #20 overall pick when they signed Billy Wagner, fitting that criteria. They do own picks 35, 53, 70, 101, 134, and every 30 picks after that. That’s an extra supplemental first round pick and a second round pick, both as compensation for Mike Gonzalez, signed by the Orioles, who have a pick in the top half of the first round, so they handed their second round pick off to the Braves as compensation. I could see the Braves spending somewhere in the range of $5 million for the 2010 draft, which is somewhat acceptable, but it’s not enough to really be successful over the long-term.
Connecting the Braves to specific players is difficult, especially since DeMacio hasn’t run a draft in a long time. My latest mock draft has the Braves selecting Jesse Hahn of Virginia Tech, simply for the big arm that Hahn has. Other possibilities could include Deandre Smelter, Robbie Aviles, Justin Grimm, and Taijuan Walker for that pick. Later picks could include pitchers such as Ralston Cash, Casey Mulholland, Jeff Shields, Austin Wood, and Taylor Morton, which are all speculative. Hitters could include such names as Chevez Clarke, Kevin Jordan, Tyler Austin, Jabari Blash, Michael Arencibia, and Reggie Golden, which are all, once again, speculative. I can’t give you much more than this right now, mainly because I don’t have a handle on how DeMacio might run his first draft back in the director’s chair. He has a lot of experience, so I automatically trust his instincts, but I want to see what he does before I really give him credit. It should be a very important draft for the Braves, who are at a bit of a crossroads, and I’m really looking forward to tracking DeMacio’s picks.
*Bonus information came from BA.
What do you guys think? What will the Braves do?