Day three of the 2015 MLB First Year Player Draft and the Atlanta Braves continue their focus on selecting late-rising talent and pop-up guys.
11th Round (330): Grayson Jones, RHP — The Braves begin their annual dip into the ranks of Shelton State CC in Alabama. Jones is ranked No. 284 by Baseball America, but was ranked No. 209 last year when he was drafted by the Indians in the 14th round. BA describes Jones as “more of a thrower than a pitcher,” and he follows the Braves trend of making risky picks on guys they view as high-upside arms. His fastball can reach the mid-90s, but he’s got a lot of work to do to establish consistent control of his arsenal. This seems like a good high-upside risk by the team.
12th Round (360): Justin Ellison, OF @theysleepinonje — Ellison is out of the same community college that produced Andrelton Simmons. He ranked among the offensive leaders in Division II, showing both power and speed, which scouts say is legitimate. He represents a terrific risk for the Braves who have had good luck with athletic players from this school.
13th Round (390): Chase Johnson-Mullins, LHP — Atlanta hits up Shelton State again, this time for a 6-foot-9 lefty. A Tommy John survivor, CJM has bounced around between three different schools and hasn’t pitched much at any of them. Scouts still love his huge frame that generates a mid-90s fastball. Ranked No. 232 overall by BA, Atlanta gets good value here in another high-upside projection pick.
14th Round (420): Trey Keegan, C @keegsallaround — The Braves one-up themselves by selecting a catcher who has had Tommy John surgery. An athletic Senior catcher out of Bowling Green State, Atlanta likes Keegan’s selective approach at the plate, and aggressive approach behind the plate. Senior catchers are usually just organizational filler, but he seems to have some legitimate upside both at and behind the plate.
15th Round (450): Bradley Keller, OF @keller_bradley — An athletic high school catcher who the Braves will move to the outfield. He’s described as a gym rat and a workhorse who is dedicated to improving his craft. The team likes his bat and speed on the bases and in the field, and will take a long development approach with him. He is likely another late season pop-up guy, as he was unranked by BA. High school selections at this point in the draft have a very low probability of working out.
16th Round (480): Trevor Belicek, LHP @tbelicek — A senior left-hander from Texas A&M Corpus Christi, he has good size at 6-foot-3. He was unranked, but had a good career at A&M and came on late during his Senior year to post an 11.4 K/9 rate. This selection continues a trend by the Braves in this draft of selecting guys who were late risers.
17th Round (510): Evan Phillips, RHP @evanphillips36 — A Junior at UNC – Wilmington, Phillips lost his rotation spot during the season, but found success late in the year in the bullpen. While he wasn’t ranked nationally, he was the top-ranked player in North Carolina outside of the BA Top-500. He will likely work his way through the Braves system as a reliever.
18th Round (540): Gilbert Suarez, RHP — A high school pitcher from Southern California, whose high school is a little over a mile from the US-Mexico border, he is mentioned in a great ESPN article about his friend and teammate who was deported. Suarez is another late riser and pop-up guy who added several miles per hour to his fastball this season, and now sits in the low-to-mid-90s. He might be a tough sign away from a good program at San Diego State University.
19th Round (570): Sean McLaughlin, RHP @sean_uga3 — An undersized Junior right-hander from UGA, he was forced off the mound for most of his Sophomore year because of shoulder issues which eventually led to arthroscopic surgery in late June. This is the second time the Braves have selected McLaughlin, having taken him in 2012 in the 38th round out of Northview High School in Johns Creek, Georgia. He seems like a candidate for the bullpen.
20th Round (600): Jeret Hellinger, LHP @jarethellinger — Ranked No. 389 by BA, he missed time early because of a shoulder injury, but was apparently sitting in the low-90s late in the season — that makes him somewhat of a pop-up guy. He’s got a very projectable frame at 6-foot-4 for a high school pitcher. He’ll need to work on his secondary pitches, and he’ll need to add more strength to his athletic frame. This is another good high-upside selection by Atlanta.