Braves emphasize tall power arms in early draft rounds

The running joke in the Braves draft room early Friday afternoon was that they were putting together the makings of a pretty good basketball team, with all the height they took in the early rounds in power pitching arms.

“We’ll beat anybody in 3-on-3,” Braves scouting director Tony DeMacio said.

The Braves drafted three straight tall right-handers pitchers in 6-foot-4 Garrett Fulenchek from Howe (TX) High School in the second round, 6-foot-7 Max Povse from UNC Greensboro in the third round, and 6-foot-6 Chad Sobotka from USC Upstate in the fourth round. All of them have fastballs in the low-to-mid 90s.

The Braves nabbed Fulenchek Thursday night and picked back up Friday with Povse (pronounced pove-zee) and Sobotka. The draft concludes Saturday with Rounds 11-40.

“They’re big tall right-handed power arms,” said DeMacio, with almost a shrug, at the obvious commodity. “Power bats, power arms - take them.”

Povse went 6-4 with a 4.99 ERA in 15 starts this past season as a junior at UNC Greensboro. He gave up 96 hits but struck out 81 batters in 79 1/3 innings and walked only 27. The overall numbers might not pop out and analysts say his secondary pitches are inconsistent, but Braves scouts liked what they saw when Povse pitched against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

He went six innings, allowed nine hits but only one earned run, no walks and struck out seven. He was the hard-luck loser in a 7-0 loss. The Braves clocked his fastball at 92-95 mph.

“He pitched pretty good,” said DeMacio, who was there for that game on Feb. 22. “We like his arm.”

The Braves think they got first or second-round caliber arm in Sobotka. But a back injury cost him his junior baseball season at USC Upstate, so other teams backed off. DeMacio said he’s been cleared by doctors, in his comeback from a fractured vertebrae, and he’s throwing again.

“He’s been throwing, and we’re just going to ease him into the program and when he’s ready to compete, then he’ll compete,” DeMacio said. “Again another big power arm.”

Braves area scout Billy Best was able to see Sobotka pitch multiple times in the Cape Cod League last summer and in the fall at USC Upstate. He also saw him throw on the side late this spring.

“We felt like it was worth the risk of taking him and we did, and we like him,” DeMacio said. “And like I said, he’s throwing. He’s healthy.”

Sobotka closed his first two seasons in college, but the Braves plan for him to begin his professional career as a starter, which they like to do with their premium picks.

“We draft them as starters and then some time later on in their career the other people decide what they are,” DeMacio said. “We’re not drafting relievers. We’re drafting starters.”

Braves draft a Dykstra

For all the names scrolling across computer screens during the baseball draft Friday afternoon, the Braves’ seventh round pick had an awfully familiar ring.

The Braves drafted Westlake (Calif.) High School second baseman Luke Dykstra, son of former Phillies All-Star outfielder Lenny Dykstra, also known as “Nails” for the abandon he played with.

“He’s just like his dad,” DeMacio said of Luke. “He plays with his hair on fire. He’s a compact-bodied kid. He’s a little taller than his father, plays in the middle of the diamond, swings the bat, can run. He’s a baseball player.”

Luke also has an older brother, Cutter Dykstra, in professional baseball. Cutter, a third baseman, was drafted by the Brewers in the second round in 2008 and is now playing for Double-A Harrisburg in the Nationals farm system.

Braves draft top ACC left-hander

The Braves drafted a proven winner in left-hander Chris Diaz, a junior from the University of Miami, in the fifth round. Diaz was named the ACC’s Co-Pitcher of the year, along with Virginia’s Nathan Kirby, after he tied for the ACC lead in regular season wins.

Diaz went 9-0 with a 2.32 ERA during the regular season and didn’t lose game until Texas Tech beat Miami 3-0 in the NCAA Coral Gables Regional. Diaz finished with 86 strikeouts and only 41 walks in 101 innings, with a .236 opponents’ batting average.

“Diaz is a quality left-hander, knows how to pitch,” DeMacio said. “He’s from a big-time program, and he wins.”

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