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Braves load up on catchers, add more pitchers as MLB Draft wraps up

The Braves didn’t change their strategy on the third and final day of the MLB draft so much as they recharged their battery through augmentation.

After drafting seven pitchers among their first 10 picks over the first two days, Atlanta added 15 more Wednesday, but given the team’s predilection toward storing arms over the past couple years, that didn’t warrant the attention.

Drafting six catchers, pumping a position that is a bit short-stocked within the farm system, probably did.

A local flavor again marked the day, too, as the Braves tabbed left-handed pitcher Connor Simmons of Georgia Southern/Appling County High School in the 13th round, outfielder Jason Rooks of Walton High/Marietta in the 35th and Norcross High outfielder Baron Radcliff with their final pick, in the 40th round.

In the first two days, Atlanta spent its first nine picks selecting two Georgians — Etowah High outfielder Drew Waters (second round) and Georgia Southern/Sprayberry High reliever Landon Hughes (seventh) — and seven players who were from or played in bordering states.

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Fans following scouting reports likely will be most interested in a handful of those made Wednesday.

In right-handed pitcher Chris McMahon (6-feet-2, 192 pounds) of West Chester Rubin High School (Pa.), the Braves in the 33rd round tabbed a player ranked by most services among the top 125 prospects. He sports a fastball that has hit 96 mph.

There’s no guarantee, though, that he’ll be a Brave. He’s signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Miami and Atlanta will need to come up a contract to swing his decision.

Radcliff (6-4-212), the outfielder from Norcross, is probably more likely to attend Georgia Tech, where he has a scholarship waiting.

The great takeaway from this draft is that the Braves have added even more pitching, and buttressed a soft spot at catcher.

Director of scouting Brian Bridges even said Tuesday, “The most important thing is when [general manager] John Coppolella and [president] John Hart walk into the Winter Meetings, pitching is cachet … and you can turn that into what you need at the Major League level.

“It’s our job to provide the organization players that those two guys can go into the meetings and strategize and make the Braves a championship club.”

So, on Wednesday, the team picked lefties Simmons (13th round), Tanner Allison of Western Michigan (19th), Troy Conyers of the University of San Diego State (23rd), 6-8 high schoolers Hayden Wynja (23rd) and Reid Detmers (32nd) and Joe Sanchez of the TERRA Environmental Research Institute (39th).

They also pegged nine right-handers.

With regard to pitch receivers, the Braves took catchers Drew Lugbuaer (6-4, 230) of Michigan (11th round), Hagen Owenby (6-1, 211) of East Tennessee State (12th), Zack Soria (5-10) of Florida International (18th), Justin Morhardt (6-4, 225) of Bryan College (22nd), high schooler Jake Taylor (6-1, 210, 25th) and Charlie Taylor of South Carolina-Upstate (6-6, 230, 26th).

The signability of many of these players will be questionable.

Rooks, the outfielder from Walton, is one of the top-rated players in Georgia, but he’s a Georgia Tech signee, and being drafted in the 35th round doesn’t promise him a big signing bonus, at least not usually.

Should the Braves convince him to go pro, they’re going to get a hustler who led the Raiders to a state title in his junior season.

“He’s always been able to swing a bat,” Walton head coach Shane Amos told the Marietta Daily Journal. “He’s one of those guys that’s a natural hitter. He can get out of the car and hit … he hates to lose.”

Radcliff (6-4, 215) is quite the power hitter, but strikes out frequently when he doesn’t hit long balls, and chances of the Braves signing him when he has a college scholarship waiting just 20 miles away are not great.

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