Though John Schuerholzs name is no longer on the door of the General Managers office, Atlantas draft strategy doesnt seem to have changed. Frank Wren went for high school pitching early and often in his first draft as the Braves GM a drafting philosophy his predecessor was known for. Though the Braves did not have a first round pick, this draft has to be looked at as an early success. Frank Wren brought in an impressive bounty of signable players and if he can get some of the ones with signability issues, this years draft class could get much better. On to the first five rounds:
LHP Brett DeVall (40)- DeVall was widely considered the top high school southpaw in this years draft so it was a bit surprising he was still there at 40. The 63 215 lb DeVall isnt all that projectable but he is very polished and already showcases an impressive three-pitch arsenal. His changeup is a plus pitch, while his sinking fastball (89-91 mph) and his power curve both have the potential to be plus pitches in the future. DeVall has good, consistent mechanics as well as very impressive command for a high school pitcher. If he can become more consistent with his curve and possibly add a little velocity to his fastball, he could become a middle-of-the-rotation starter. He seems very likely to sign.
LHP Tyler Stovall (64)- Like DeVall, Stovall is a prep left-hander but they are very different pitchers. While the Braves first pick relies on his control and changing speeds to get people out, Stovall just blows hitters away with his power stuff. Though he has an extensive arsenal, Stovall was drafted for his fastball-slider combo. His fastball sits in the low-90s with movement and has touched 96 mph before, while he has a very sharp slurve-like slider, which sits in the mid-to-high 70s. Hes been developing a changeup this past season but it is still very raw. His fastball-slider combo should at the very least, make him an impressive reliever if he can stay healthy. He also happens to be a lifelong Braves fan and seems very likely to sign even though he was a valedictorian and has a commitment to Auburn.
RHP Zeke Spruill (70)- Many believed the Braves would take Spruill with their first pick but Frank Wren snagged him 30 picks later. This Kell (GA.) HS graduate (one of three the Braves took this year) is a raw but very projectable right-hander. His fastball has already been clocked at 94 mph and at 64 and 185 lbs, he has plenty of room to fill out and add velocity. Spruill also features an average slider in the mid-to-upper 80s along with a very raw changeup. His command is average right now. Spruill has easy mechanics but they tend to break down and his velocity decreases late in games. That is something that should go away as he adds more muscle.
RHP Craig Kimbrel (96)- Kimbrel is a junior college reliever in the mold of Joey Devine. Hes a bit undersized at 511 but has a prototypical fastball-slider combo. His fastball sits at 93-94 mph with tailing action and he has a sharp slider at about 83-84 mph. Kimbrels stuff seems just as good as that of the relievers that were taken in the first round so he could be a steal in the third round if he can move through the minors at a decent pace.
C Braeden Sclehuber (130)- This is easily my least favorite pick of day one. Schlehuber reminds me a lot of Clint Sammons. He is a defensive-minded backstop with good receiving skills, footwork, and an above-average arm but his bat doesnt seem to be all that. Hes athletic with good speed and decent pop for a catcher but there is a reason he wasnt included in Baseball Americas top 200 draft prospects. Id like to have seen the Braves go for a more high-upside pick this early in the draft.
RHP Jacob Thompson (160)- If the Braves can sign Thompson, he could be a huge steal. The problem is going to be signing him. Coming into the year, Thompson was considered a possible first round talent but a disappointing season dropped his stock. When he is pitching well, Thompson can throw his fastball, curve, slurve, and changeup for strikes. The problem has been inconsistent mechanics and a shifting arm slot. He is only a junior so he could opt to go back to Virginia and try to improve his stock during his senior season, but if the Braves can sign him and fix his mechanics, he could move quickly and become a middle-of-the-rotation starter.