When in doubt, take a pitcher.
I’ve been writing pre-draft posts here for eight years and always remind readers that the Braves philosophy since the draft began hasn’t changed; unless the position player is clearly superior, take the pitcher and trade for everything else.
Someone asked McDaniel why so many mock drafts have the Atlanta Braves taking pitchers. I have to condense his answer, so I’ll paraphrase.
McDaniel believes the Atlanta Braves prefer a pitcher, not necessarily because he’s a pitcher, but because, like most teams, they see college pitchers as a safe demographic. He went on to explain why.
In every draft, there are points where the quality of players available flattens out. After that, teams must select someone but don’t feel great about anyone. They view high school pitchers as extremely risky and when all of the good college position players are gone, teams decide to make a safe signing; the college pitcher.
When that decision becomes universal, college pitchers move up in the draft for no reason except GMs feel safe signing them. This is particularly true this year when there aren’t many consensus college bats alongside groups of college arms with a similar ceiling. The pitchers get divided into groups, and everyone sticks their hand in a metaphorical bucket and pulls out a name.
The 2021 landscape
The Atlanta Braves select 24th — long after the decision point happens. In this year’s draft, two college pitchers set themselves apart; Rocker and Leiter. The next college arms come at number 11 or 12; then comes the unspoken decision. From the the12th pick through number 25, there are six or seven college pitchers who fit anywhere in that range; (alphabetically) Will Bednar, Bubba Chandler, Gunner Hoglund, Ty Madden, Michale McGreevy, Jordan Wicks, and Gavin Williams.
For those reasons, McDaniel feels the Atlanta Braves will take a pitcher if one falls to them, and at least one should. Alternatively, the Braves may negotiate with a pitcher from the second tier who would normally earn selection in the middle of the second round to sign under slot at 24, allowing the club to go over-slot in a later round.
All that talk we hear from the draft room after a selection is an effort to make the player feel that the team really wanted him more than anyone else. The team did want him or another guy just like him because they had to select someone, and the college arm is safe.
See? It isn’t all metrics and brilliant baseball minds coming together; gut feelings and hunches are involved. Comforting, isn’t it?