“You can’t teach size,” Bridges said. “You can’t teach strength. You can’t teach power. And we have the people in place now to take these types of players and get the most out of their abilities.”
Jenista popped up on the Braves’ radar last summer. They saw him play in the Cape Cod league, where Jenista won MVP for hitting .310 with three homers, four doubles and nine steals.
He slashed .301/.446/.493 with nine homers in his final collegiate season, a campaign in which Bridges felt he might’ve put too much pressure on himself.
“This guy’s got unbelievable power,” Bridges said. “We can bring him in – it’s real power. He’s a better hitter this year. I think a little draftitis was bothering him little bit. He was trying too hard and pressing. But still, if you look at his overall numbers for a guy you say underachieved, he still hit .300. … Led the team in hitting for the previous two years.”
The Braves forfeited their third-round pick as punishment for MLB’s investigation into multiple infractions by the previous management regime.
Bridges admitted that almost influenced his decision at No. 49, but he instead stayed true to the board. Jenista’s power proved the difference.
“Could’ve taken me in a different direction for sure, but I went by the board,” he said. “If I deviated, it would’ve been a later play. You’re counting later down the road, another player down the road. That was the only thing and I went straight with the board.”
The Braves stayed true to their usual formula and drafted high school pitcher Carter Stewart at No. 8 overall.
As the Braves board “took a beating,” as Bridges termed it, he was happy a preferred college bat was still available.
“There were some college bats there and I feel very fortunate,” he said. “You’d think with all the picks in between, you wouldn’t really get a shot at a college player. There were a couple of them that went off the board that we really liked too that you thought you could get later in the draft. And this thing takes it shape, its own life every year. So as you work through the draft, you start to see it play out.”