The Braves have the third-ranked farm system, according to MLB.com. Despite their high ranking the team will need to utilize the draft to build more organizational depth and restock the pipeline. Many of the players responsible for the high ranking have been called up or are close to being ready to contribute in the big leagues in the next couple of seasons. A harsh penalty handed down by commissioner Rob Manfred forced the Braves to release 12 minor leaguers in 2017. Additionally, international signing restrictions imposed have limited the team’s ability to stock their farm system, particularly at the lower levels.
Here is a look at several players who could be on their radar in the first round this year.
The Braves were awarded the ninth pick this season as compensation for not signing last year’s first-round pick Carter Stewart. Stewart’s selection marked the fourth consecutive year the Braves selected a pitcher with their first pick. They also will pick 21st as a result of their finish in the 2018 season.
Atlanta Braves First Round MLB Draft Picks
The Braves have selected a pitcher in the first round eight out of the last ten years. If they elect to follow suit in 2019, left-hander Nick Lodolo might prove to be a good target.
The left-handed junior was a Pittsburgh Pirates first-round pick out of high school but elected to attend TCU. Three years later and he has improved his draft stock and is now projected to be selected in the top ten picks this year.
— TCU Baseball (@TCU_Baseball) May 17, 2019
After two so-so seasons for the Horn Frogs, Lodolo has come on strong this season. In his junior season, he has a 6-5 record with a 2.48 earned run average. He has shown great control racking up nearly a 6-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. For the year his WHIP sits just below one. He is averaging more than a strikeout per inning and has struck out 13 batters in three games this season.
Coming out of high school, ESPN noted that Lodolo might be a better fit long term as a reliever because of his delivery and lack of a plus changeup. He has improved his changeup while at TCU and will certainly begin his pro career as a starter, but don’t be surprised if he excels as a lefty bullpen specialist in the majors.
Most expect the Baltimore Orioles to select catcher Adley Rutschman with the first pick in the draft. The next catcher expected to be selected is Baylor’s Shea Langeliers. Langeliers could be a target for the Braves if the front office is not convinced that Alex Jackson or William Contreras offers the long term solution behind the plate.
Langeliers has missed time during this season with a hand injury but still is recognized as a top prospect. He projects as a lower-middle of the lineup hitter that could offer 15-18 home runs per season. His power has been down this season as a result of the injury but he has maintained a high batting average.
His biggest strength lies in his athleticism. He is a good receiver behind the plate, blocks balls well and does an excellent job throwing out would-be base stealers. Langeliers doesn’t have the same offensive prowess as Rutschman but should have a long, serviceable career given his tools.
High school outfielder Corbin Carroll is another highly touted prospect that may be on the Braves’ radar with one of their first selections. Carroll is regarded as the most polished high school hitter in the draft and is a UCLA commit. However, his lofty draft projections will likely mean he forgoes college for the pros.
The left-hander can play all three outfield positions but is most recognized for his excellent range when patrolling centerfield. He is an excellent contact hitter who utilizes his speed to regularly get on base. Listed at 5-foot-10, 170lb. by Perfect Game, Carroll is slightly smaller than preferred but he has yet to turn 19 years old and may add a little more size as he matures.
With Ronald Acuna Jr., Cristian Pache and Drew Waters expected to be the outfield of the foreseeable future, the Braves may not see outfield as a position of need. Carroll’s potential to be a five-tool player might be too appealing to pass up though.
Logan Davidson is a switch-hitting shortstop with similar average and power numbers from either side of the plate. He has reached double-digit home runs in each of his three seasons at Clemson. Many point to his durable 6-foot-3, 185lb. frame as evidence that his natural power may increase as he fills out. His size may also facilitate a position change down the road.
Early in his career, he struggled defensively, but he has worked hard to improve in the field. Additionally, there are concerns about high strikeout rates and his struggles hitting with wood bats. However, his first-round draft forecast suggests teams are not scared away from his high ceiling.
The Final Word
The Braves are fortunate to have two first-round picks in this year’s draft and will look to bolster their already strong farm system with some strategic selections. Slot money, signability, and team need all figure into the equation so it will be exciting to see how the draft plays out.