The main action for the Atlanta Braves was on day one of the 2016 MLB Draft, but day two offered a few interesting picks early, but eventually devolved into a money-saving affair halfway through. This wasn’t money savings for the sake of saving money. The organization drafted five college seniors with picks No. 6 through 10 who will likely sign for under $50,000. From that the Braves should realize a cumulative savings of about $1 million. This is money that the team will use to ink their top selections from day one.
The seniors drafted from pick 6 to 10 would normally be taken after the 15th round, if “best player available” were how Atlanta was drafting, but the need to move slot money from one place to another necessitates lowering the talent level for certain picks.
I like this approach the Braves are taking in this draft. They are focusing on draft picks who have the greatest potential to be elite-level players, and those players are only at the top of the draft. So the team is moving money up the draft board. One of the more likely consequences of this strategy will be a lack of quality depth that usually comes from the following rounds.
Click here for the top-4 picks in the first two rounds from day one of the draft.
3rd Round (80): Drew Harrington, LHP — This pick is the embodiment of the Braves love for #pitchability lefties. Voted the ACC Player of the Year as a Junior from Louisville, Harrington moved to the rotation this season with great success, and ends up getting taken a whole round before his much more heralded teammate Kyle Funkhouser. The Braves may have overdrafted here, with MLB.com ranking Harrington No. 148 and Baseball America ranking him at No. 124. (We’ll have to wait and see if the team is trying to save money with this pick too.) He works his sinking fastball in the high-80s to low-90s and compliments that with a solid slider. His changeup is below average, and how that pitch develops should tell us whether Harrington remains in the rotation or moves to a relief role. If he can add some velocity and continue to refine his slider and changeup, then he could have a mid-rotation ceiling, but more than likely he’s a back-of-the-rotation work horse or durable middle reliever. Though he was apparently mid-90s when working as a reliever as a sophomore, so that may bode well for a floor of a high-leverage reliever. He has the pitching acumen to be better, but scouts think he is limited by the ceiling of his stuff right now.
4th Round (109): Bryse Wilson, RHP @brysewilson — A common refrain from day 1 of the draft, Atlanta reprises that role by dipping back into the high school pitching ranks to take their only prep player of day 2. The team also fulfills their pre-draft statement of taking athletes who play multiple sports. Wilson was a football player in high school as well as a pitcher, and there is a lot of football parlance from scouts when describing his stocky but strong build. On the mound Wilson has plus velocity for an 18-year-old, with a fastball that consistently sits 92-94, and can flash 96 mph. His offspeed stuff is inconsistent and raw, but the Braves are drafting him based on his velocity, and will try to develop a second and third pitch. MLB.com ranked him No. 144 overall, while Baseball America had him ranked No. 93. This is a typical high-risk, high-upside pick that this front office regime has focused on since last year.
5th Round (139): Jeremy Walker, RHP @prince_walker12 — The Braves take a guy Baseball America ranked No. 320 a couple of hundred spots earlier at No. 139. As a college junior this is probably not an attempt to save money on this slot, but instead as we saw last with last year’s draft, the team really likes players with #helium. These are players who moved up the draft board late in the spring, so their rank on pre-draft prospect lists may not accurately reflect how evaluators view them now. Already working his fastball in the low-90s, Walker tickled 96 mph towards the end of the season, with some scouts believing he can add even more velocity once they clean up some kinks in his mechanics. At 6-foot-5, 205-pounds, this could be a similar pick to the selection of Max Povse in 2014 or Ryan Clark in 2015. Another solid high-risk, high-upside pick, but like the two guys mentioned above, he could take some time to develop, despite being selected as a junior out of college.
6th Round (169): Matthew Gonzalez, 2B @mattgonzo14 — For the remainder of day 2, starting with this pick, the Braves took all college seniors. That usually means they plan to sign these players to deals significantly below slot value, and as I mentioned in the intro above, this could result in significant savings. Ranked No. 359 by Baseball America, Gonzalez profiles as a utility player in the majors. He added some more power this year, so it will be interesting to see if that sticks. I keep wanting to put a Todd Cunningham comp on him, but that may be a reach.
7th Round (199): J.B. Moss, LF @J_Moss11 — This is the typical “save the slot money” pick, as Moss was an unranked senior out of Texas A&M. He posted good numbers last summer in a collegiate wood-bat league. No scouting report that I can find on him describes any carrying tool.
8th Round (229): Taylor Hyssong, LHP @taylorhyss — Another unranked player, the 6-foot-3 Hyssong is out of UNC Wilmington. Keith Law of ESPN writes that Hyssong is a “funky lefty who could end up as a specialist reliever.” Some scouting reports clock his fastball as high as 94 mph.
9th Round (259): Tyler Neslony, RF @Tyler_Neslony7 — A good college player in a tough conference, he faced a lot of good competition and held his own throughout his four year career.
10th Round (289): Marcus Mooney, SS @marcusmooney8 — A short 5-foot-7 player and a defensive whiz at shortstop, he reminds me of Mickey Reynolds, whom the Braves drafted in 2013. Mooney is the shortest player Atlanta has drafted since 2012 (Ross Heffley).