The Braves surrendered their first-round pick in Monday night’s first-year player draft to the Boston Red Sox for signing free-agent closer Billy Wagner, so they won’t pick until 35th overall, in the supplemental round.
But of all drafts not to have a first-round pick, this might be a good one for it.
Baseball America calls this year's collection of draft-eligible talent “a bit underwhelming.” Outside of Bryce Harper, the 17-year-old power-hitting catcher projected as the top pick by the Washington Nationals, and a few others, this draft is believed to be thin, especially among college hitters.
That might work in the Braves’ favor, though. They received the 35th pick and an additional second-round pick, 53rd overall, as compensation from the Orioles, who signed former Braves closer Mike Gonzalez.
“You might get the same player down the line as a lot of teams picking high this year,” Braves scouting director Tony DeMacio said. “I think there are probably three or four guys that separate themselves at the very top, but after that you might get a really good player at 35 that you might have gotten at five.”
And besides, DeMacio pointed out: “Johnny Almaraz signed a really good player from the Dominican in [Edward] Salcedo, so we feel like got a No. 1 pick already.”
Almaraz, the Braves' director of international scouting, signed shortstop Salcedo to a $1.6 million bonus in February. That's the equivalent of first-round bonus money. Salcedo is playing in the Dominican Summer League. The Braves project he'll be stateside in late June or early July, likely either in rookie-league Danville or low-A Rome.
This year’s draft is rich in both high school pitching and Georgia talent, two areas the Braves have traditionally hit hard. DeMacio said, though, the Braves’ primary concern this year is going after position players.
“We’re not going to pass on that good pitcher, but [if we had] our druthers, we’d like to get some guys who can play every day,” DeMacio said.
The Braves have four picks in the top three rounds -- No. 35 in the supplemental round, Nos. 53 and 70 in the second round and No. 101 in the third round.
The first day of the draft is being televised for the fourth consecutive year, although this is the first year it will air at night. MLB Network’s coverage begins with a preview show at 6 p.m. Monday night. The draft will begin at 7 p.m. with five minutes between each first-round pick, followed by the supplemental round, with one minute between each pick.
The second round will begin at noon Tuesday. The draft will continue for 50 rounds, to be completed Wednesday.
For DeMacio, a former Paul Snyder protégé, this is his first draft as director of scouting for the Braves. Now in his second stint with the Braves, he spent three years as a special assistant to the general manager before taking over for Roy Clark last October after Clark left to become assistant general manager and scouting director for the Nationals.
“This is my 22nd draft in the draft room, so it really hasn’t changed at all,” DeMacio said. “The draft is the draft, and preparing for the draft always takes a lot of time. It’s just different players, different names, different faces.”
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