Their fourth pick was Blake Burkhalter, an Auburn reliever. Even the rebuilding-around-arms Braves of recent vintage never picked four pitchers in succession. Their first two selections in 2015 were Kolby Allard and Mike Soroka, yes. Their third was Austin Riley, All-Star third baseman.
Phillips just had Tommy John surgery. That makes him a value play. If healthy, he’d surely have gone sooner. As we know, pitchers return from TJ throwing even harder.
As for Murphy: This isn’t to say he’s the next Shohei Ohtani, but his numbers for Riverside-Brookfield (Ill.) High catch the eye. His ERA was 0.12. His batting average was .548. Neither are misprints.
When your first three picks are high school pitchers, you’re not in the market for immediate help. The Braves weren’t and aren’t. Which brings us to …
About the Braves at the break
They have MLB’s fifth-best record. On the morning of June 1, they were 23-27. They’ve sliced eight games off the Mets’ lead in the National League East and hold a six-game edge over Philadelphia and St. Louis for the NL’s third wild card. FanGraphs assesses the Braves’ playoff odds at 97.7%, the best among non-division-leaders.
They’re third in the majors in runs scored. They’re seventh in ERA. FanGraphs gives them a 13.5% chance of winning the World Series. By way of comparison, it gives the Yankees – on pace to win 113 games – a 13.9% shot.
The Braves are where they need to be. They’re a better team than they were a year ago – the 2021 Braves were 44-45 at the All-Star break – and we know what happened then.
About the Braves vis-à-vis the Nats
The Braves lost two of three to Washington in the season’s second week. They won the next nine meetings before losing Sunday.
We mention this because these clubs won two of the past three World Series. The Braves again will be playing in October. The Nationals have baseball’s worst record, and Juan Soto just declined a $440 million extension over 15 seasons. The $440M would be the biggest contract ever. The $29M in average annual value would not, which is why Soto didn’t accept.
If you’re asking why folks make a big deal about the draft, here’s your answer. Apart from Soto, almost every contributing Nat from 2019 – Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Howie Kendrick, Yan Gomes – is gone. Patrick Corbin is still around, but he’s terrible. Stephen Strasburg turns 34 this week and has made one start in 13 months. Reliever Sean Doolittle is 35 and on the 60-day injury list.
In February, ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel ranked the Braves’ farm system baseball’s 27th-best. The Nats were 22nd, which for a team that hasn’t finished above .500 since 2019 is dire. They’d love to rebuild around Soto, who’s 23, but their only way to get halfway decent again might be to trade him before he hits free agency.
Why bother making a trade for the 35th player in a draft? Because, come 2025, you might need that guy. You might need lots of guys.
About SEC Media Days
The league that hypes itself like no other passed up a dunk. (In Philly, they call that doing a Ben Simmons.) Nick Saban is scheduled to appear Tuesday. His former friend Jimbo Fisher isn’t due at the College Football Hall of Fame until Thursday. We media folks weep bitter tears.