While baseball season is well underway for the Atlanta Braves, things behind the scenes are starting to shift their attention towards the 2023 MLB Draft. With most of the high school and college players having some actual games under their belt now, we are going to start seeing more and more information about how this draft class is likely to break down in the coming weeks and hopefully some mock drafts as well (although those are mostly so we can all laugh about them later on).
This isn't exactly a banner draft class especially for where the Braves pick (#24) in the first round. Once you get past pick 18 or so, you really have to squint your eyes to see actual first round talent. The college pitching class is not deep at all and given that, we could see a real run on college bats ahead of the Braves' pick or we could see the prep ranks get more bottom of the first round love than we are accustomed to. Definitely will be interesting to see how it unfolds.
We decided to take a look at a few players that could be in player for the Braves at this moment in time. Early draft rankings are all over the place and things can change, but these 8 players are generally in the realm of possibility of being there at 24 as options for the Braves based on existing rankings (with some notes on why they wouldn't be as needed).
Kevin McGonigle - INF
This is a fringy option because McGonigle is generally ranked higher than this, but I am trying to account for the fact that prep bats (especially once you get out of the top 10) are often undervalued by teams. McGonigle is an advanced hitter with good bat to ball skills and some sneaky power who has been one of the more consistent performers among the prep bats. His arm may make it where he wouldn't be a shortstop everyday and that could push him down a bit, but getting a bat of this quality at 24 would be a boon and may also require a bit of luck.
Colt Emerson - INF
This is another guy who may require some good fortune to be available, although most of the draft rankings as of today (4/26) have Emerson in this range or lower. Emerson's stock has gone up as he has proven to be an athletic, toolsy infielder who has added more strength this spring to his already impressive hit tool. Another guy that may not stick at shortstop, but if he hits like it looks like he can, his position will become a whole lot less relevant. I am getting more and more of an impression that Emerson won't be available when the Braves pick, but we will just put a pin in him for now.
Bryce Eldridge - 1B/RHP
There might not be a guy with more upside amongst these options than Eldridge as he has a projectable 6'7 frame and he is already throwing in the low to mid 90's. He is also a legit hitting prospect with his big time raw power getting some attention as well. The issue with Eldridge is that he is particularly risky to pick he has a long ways to go in terms of refining his game, his long levers could create problems repeating his delivery down the line, and his floor if he doesn't project out is very low.
Brock Wilken - 3B
It wouldn't be a Braves draft season without at least talking about a Wake Forest guy. With Rhett Lowder likely long gone and Teddy McGraw hurt, Brock Wilken gets the nod. Wake Forest jokes aside, Wilken does also fit in terms of the rankings as well as he profiles as a power-hitting third baseman that is going to have to make some progress with his hit tool. His 1.276 OPS this season with 19 homers so far is good news and he works a lot of deep counts, but can get beat by quality breaking stuff right now.
Thomas White - LHP
This is based purely on previous draft rankings, but I am going to go ahead and say White isn't going to be there at 24 for the Braves in all likelihood. This draft class in the first round already isn't deep and White has a ton of buzz as a high-end prep lefty who could be a top 10 talent. His fastball is already hitting the mid 90's and most are projecting that he will end up throwing harder than that. Secondaries are fine, but will need refinement as a pro. Would be sweet if he made it to 24, but I think the helium he has is real and that could make it tough to get him to get there.
Tanner Witt - RHP
This one is a trickier profile, but the Braves haven't been afraid to take a guy who went under the knife and Witt is the sort of college performer with upside that the Braves like. He is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but it sounds like he has a chance to return to Texas really soon and that will give him a chance to showcase his stuff before the draft. If he is throwing mid 90's four-seamers at the top of the zone and that hard breaker of his, he'll be in play.
Travis Sykora - RHP
This is a nod to the Braves' recent propensity to like two-way guys with big upside not unlike Spencer Schwellenbach and Owen Murphy. Sykora is already touching 101 mph with his fastball and has shown some feel for a splitter. He doesn't really have much of a breaking ball, though, so it will be curious if he manages to develop a good one as a pro. A bit more of a boom/bust pick than one would like in the first round, but Sykora's upside might be hard to ignore.
Colin Houck - SS
I wanted to throw in a local Georgia guy and Colin Houck out of Parkview is an interesting option although 24 may be a bit of a reach for him at the moment unless there are some underslot shenanigans. Houck is a two-sport star which is the kind of guy the Braves like given the athleticism required and he also has a more reasonable floor than many prep guys as he should be a plus defender with a good hit tool. If he grows into some more power, then he could be a steal near the bottom of the first.