Grading the Atlanta Braves’ 2019 draft: picks 20-11
By Clint Manry
Braves’ 2019 draft: picks 20-11
|OF, Kadon Morton||GCL||C|
|1B, Mahki Backstrom||GCL||A|
|RHP, Alec Barger||Danville||B|
|RHP, Joey Estes||GCL||C|
|OF, Connor Blair||Danville||C|
|RHP, Jared Johnson||GCL||A|
|RHP, Tyler Owens||Danville||A|
|LHP, Andy Samuelson||GCL||B|
|SS, Vaughn Grissom||GCL||A|
|OF, Brandon Parker||Danville||B|
(listed ages are for 2020 season)
No. 20, Kadon Morton, OF
19-years-old — 6’2″, 195 lbs.
2019 stats: 32 games, .152 AVG, 1 home run, 5 doubles, 9 RBI
Despite his first pro season being sort of bland, there’s a ton of upside with Morton, who many have projected to be a five-tool outfielder (he can also pitch). He just turned 19-years-old in November, so obviously he’s still super young; but he was definitely overmatched in the GCL in 2019, striking out 40% of the time in just over 30 games. Morton has good size (6’2″, 195 lbs.) and as he fills out he should start living up to his projections.
No. 19, Mahki Backstrom, 1B
18-years-old — 6’5″, 220 lbs.
2019 stats: 23 games, .300 AVG, 2 home runs, 5 doubles, 8 RBI
Many expected Backstrom to go in the first round of the draft, though vision issues reportedly caused him to struggle in his last prep season. This is you prototypical first baseman, big in size (6’5″, 220 lbs.) while wielding a big swing. Backstrom, just 18-years-old during the 2019 season, showed off his skills by hitting for a strong average and even popping a couple of homers while with the GCL team. He will need to keep a hold on his strikeouts, though (32.9 K%).
No. 18, Alec Barger, RHP
22-years-old — 6’2″, 201 lbs.
2019 stats: 13 starts, 40 innings, 5.85 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, 7 home runs
Home runs hurt the 21-year-old Barger in his first pro season with the Danville Braves (1.6 HR/9), though he still struck out 43 batters in 40 innings worth of work. Barger was actually drafted higher in 2018 (16th RD by the Brewers), but chose to transfer from Northern Illinois to NC State instead, where he was able to work on his three-pitch repertoire that features a 96 mph fastball.
No. 17, Joey Estes, RHP
18-years-old — 6’2″, 190 lbs.
2019 stats: 5 starts, 10 innings, 8.10 ERA, 7.2 K/9, 6.3 BB/9
On draft day Estes was a 17-year-old flamethrower (95 mph fastball) already blessed with four pitches, including a wicked slider. Unfortunately, his stuff didn’t play well in the GCL as he ran into trouble in his second professional start, surrendering five runs and walking four in just 1.1 innings; that after striking out three in a two-inning one-hitter in his first pro outing. Estes still has plenty of time to develop and should bounce back with a full season in 2020.
No. 16, Connor Blair, OF
22-years-old — 6’0″, 215 lbs.
2019 stats: 43 games, .194 AVG, 4 home runs, 6 doubles, 21 RBI, 3 stolen bases
The expectations aren’t too high for Blair, as he is seen as being more of low-contact corner outfielder with some potential in the power department. He wasn’t too great in his first stop at Danville (.206 AVG) and then got even worse once moved up to Single-A Rome (.105 AVG). The hope is that Blair can manage his strikeouts and perhaps unlock some power in the next few seasons.