A look to the future for how John Coppolella and the Atlanta Braves’ front office may draft next year’s potential prospects.
Over the last few years, the Atlanta Braves rebuilt their farm system through the MLB Draft. The records end up as frustrating for fans at the end of the season, but the future is still bright. The 2018 MLB Draft is still about 9 months away, but draft talk is shaping up already.
With the end of the season near, the Braves sit pretty as far as selection level goes. It appears they will draft in the top 10, most likely at 8. There is potential to move up – as high to 6th overall – but they’ll need a lot of help (and some wins).
With the end of college summer leagues, such as the Cape Cod and Northwoods Leagues, and high school showcases, like the Perfect Game All-American Classic, amateurs are establishing themselves as frontrunners for a high draft slot.
The 2018 class of high school prospects is one of the best in recent history. There is also a strong group of college players of which the Braves should notice.
The Cream of the Crop
There is a solid group of talent in the draft, and I see the potential for the Braves to pull significant talent from both the high school ranks as well as from colleges.
Thus far, the top four players eligible for this year’s draft, in no particular order, are Kumar Rocker (RHP, North Oconee HS), Ethan Hankins (RHP, Forsyth Central HS), Seth Beer (1B/OF, Clemson), and Brady Singer (RHP, Florida). Unlike the NBA or NFL, there are no clear-cut favorites for #1 overall, but these four show significant talent above others.
Rocker, at 6’5″ and 260 lbs, has the body of a football lineman, which is fitting as his dad Tracy coached for the Tennessee Titans and Georgia Bulldogs. However, it looks as if Rocker made the right decision by playing baseball, as his fastball sits 94-96 MPH with movement. He complements this velocity with a power slider and a changeup.
Hankins has similar numbers as Rocker, but the big difference with him is his projectability. Rocker has almost surely filled out, but Hankins has plenty of room left to grow with a lanky 6’6″ frame, which means there is more velocity potentially left in a body producing 94-97 MPH. Hankins solidified his draft stock at the WBSC U18 tournament. He struck out 14 batters in 6 innings of work against a loaded Team Korea.
Beer and Singer are different than the two high schoolers since they play on the big stage each weekend. Singer has been dominant in the SEC with a 3.21 ERA and 129 strikeouts as a sophomore. Beer had one of the most dominant freshman campaigns in 2016 but tapered off a little bit in 2017. Nevertheless, his bat and power potential helps the Braves if he is drafted.
The Best of the Rest
Granted, the Braves only have 1 or two top picks, so they need to look at other options. Triston Casas (1B/INF, American Heritage HS) would be a wonderful pickup if he falls out of the first round. Casas, who reclassified from 2019 to 2018, didn’t lose a beat after his reclassification. The 6’5″, 240 lb Miami commit consistently mashes, even against some of the premier arms in the country. He would be a good replacement for Freddie Freeman when the time comes.
Patrick Raby (RHP, Vanderbilt) would complement the Braves’ rotation well if he declares for the draft this year. He would join fellow Commodores in Dansby Swanson, Kyle Wright, and Philip Pfeifer as members of the Braves’ organization.
Raby was questionably as good as Vanderbilt’s ace Kyle Wright this year, going 10-4 with a 2.73 ERA and 87 Ks this past year. This past summer, he was a member of Team USA’s Collegiate National Team. He went 3-0, allowing only one run which was unearned. His stuff is as good as any collegiate pitcher, and any team could use elite level pitching.
Speaking of Vandy, there’s another name coming up that could be familiar – Ryan Weathers, a lefty pitcher from southern Tennessee (#8 on Baseball America’s high-schooler list, 6-2/210)… he’s the son of former major leaguer David Weathers, and there’s some rumblings that he could very well end of being better than his Dad. That said, word is that he’s going to be heading to Vanderbilt and not taking advantage of the draft.
Of course, bonus money has changed minds before.
The Final Word
While it’s still early, there’s always time to sit and look at the future of the Braves. This year’s draft class has potential to impact all teams, especially the Braves.
John Coppolella and the Braves’ front office have made the right moves in the draft, and fans can only hope this year proves to yield similar results.