talked with John Manuel, Co-editor of Baseball America, the "end-all" for baseball coverage from high school to the minors about the Braves picks.Just days after the draft, experts and fans have been pouring through each teams picks and have looked favorably thus far on the Braves picks. AJC's Carroll Rogers
Q. What did you think of the Braves' first-round pick, outfielder Jason Heyward from Henry County? A. We're big Heyward fans. He's right up the Braves' alley. He's a Georgia kid who's got athleticism but doesn't quite have the polish maybe to have gone in those first five, six or seven picks for some teams. But if there's any team that's going to know Jason Heyward inside and out, it's the Braves. That was a player we knew they coveted. The Braves are feeling good that the guy they really wanted came to them at No. 14. Q. Baseball America lists Heyward as the player with the biggest upside in the draft. Does that have something to do with his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame that he will grow into? A. Yes. Physically there aren't a whole lot of things this guy can't do. And he does love the game. I think he's a baseball rat. He just needs to get out there and do it, and that's what professional baseball is all about. And the Braves, whether it's [Jeff] Francoeur or Latin-American guys like a [Rafael] Furcal or whomever, their track record is pretty good for taking raw young guys and getting them to the big leagues. Yeah, they've had some failures. Will this guy be George Lombard [a former second-rounder who never stuck in the big leagues]? I don't know. He could be. That was 12 years ago. Whether it's Ryan Langerhans or Francoeur, it seems like the Braves have gotten better at getting these athletes to get to the major leagues. I think Heyward was a good pick. I like everything about him. Q. Where do you see a question mark in these first few picks? A. Some scouts like Brandon Hicks [of Texas A&M]. Some didn't. Some weren't quite sold on the bat, a bat that would translate to wood. Q. Who's your darkhorse pick? A. I'm a big Cory Gearrin fan, the kid from Mercer. I think that's a nice draft pick. He dominated the Cape Cod League last summer. He was quite good this spring [for Mercer]. ... Gearrin is not that different from Joey Devine, and Devine went in the first round [two] years ago. He's unconventional and sidearm. I like him a lot. Q. Where did the Braves make a wild-card pick? A. If you're going to take a high-upside, high-risk, high-reward guy, Dennis Dixon sounds like the guy to take. We had him ranked 35th on our high school list in 2003. We had him as the second-best athlete in the high school class coming out the 2003 year. He's Oregon's quarterback and he hasn't played [baseball] in three years, but I think he's a guy worth taking a chance on because the upside is significant. Q. Is there a pick you're not so sure about? A. Freddie Freeman is a guy I'm fascinated by. Huge power potential. Left-handed hitter with long arms, a leveraged swing. But I've heard scouts who like him better on the mound. [A Braves scout] insisted the Braves like him as a first baseman. But if he doesn't work out, say two years from now he's still in [rookie league] Danville and can't hit, you put him on the mound and he's 90-92 [mph] with a power slider. ... I didn't know they had to take him that high. I'm more sold on him as a pitcher than a hitter.I agree on some of this and disagree on others. I loved the Heyward pick as you all well know and I think that he has the potential to be the best hitter to come out of this draft but I think people don't give him enough credit for just how polished he is. Very little do you find a power hitter with great plate discipline but finding a high school power hitter that controls the strikezone well? He only needs to fill out and should have no problem in my opinion hitting in the minors. Dennis Dixon is another guy I like. He didn't get to play in college because Oregon doesn't have a baseball program but the tools are certainly there to make him a standout player. His numbers probably aren't going to be all too impressive when he leaves to play football again next season, but he is a work in progress. Someone who'll take a lot of time but the payout could be huge. Freeman is probably the biggest point where I don't see eye to eye with Manuel. I loved this pick and love him as a hitter. He has a quick line-drive swing, makes contact, and the power potential is just too much to give up. It is nice to have a backup plan but I think he'll be just fine staying on the offensive side of the ball.