The 2010 draft saw the Braves focus heavily on bringing in polished college hitters - a philosophy that is diametrically opposed to their approach in the previous 20 years – specifically of the infield variety. At the very least the Braves succeeded in restocking the infield with not a single player from last year's top five second base, shortstop or third base prospects appearing on this year's lists (Mycal Jones does appear on both lists but at different positions). That is simultaneously an indictment of last year's players and a commendation of the players we have added since then. All four of the guys featured on our third basemen list were drafted between the third and thirteenth round in this year's draft and consequently they are closer in talent than any other position top to bottom. The skillsets for each of them are a little similar and, for the most part, these guys are more about high floors than high ceilings.
1. Joe Leonard – B/T: R/R, Born: 08/26/1986, Ht: 6'5" Wt: 220
Drafted in the third round out of Pittsburgh, Leonard rode a spectacular Jr. season (.433/.491/.663) into the Braves organization. He started from day one at Pitt and put together two solid seasons before he exploded in 2010. He comes from a baseball background with his father being a former first round draft pick of the Orioles. Debuting in Danville Leonard posted solid, if unspectacular, numbers with a .749 OPS in 36 AB. He moved up to Rome quickly and adapted well posting a .750 OPS there but with more power and less walks. He walked in about 5.5% of his plate appearances between both levels while striking out at just better than 18% of them.
Leonard possesses solid average offensive tools across the board. His raw power is currently better than his game power and the jury is out on how it will develop. The Braves the power will come becase he already squares the ball up well and drives pitches into the gaps, he just needs to add some loft to his swing to get the ball elevated. Most scouts believe his swing is a little long and he could have a hard time handling inside fastballs as he moves up the ladder. On the defensive side of the ball he projects from average to plus with good hands and a very strong arm (he can get the ball up to 94 from the mound). His large frame does not translate well to base-running though he isn't known to be a clogger.
Leonard's potential value is tied up in his power potential. If you believe he will hit 15+ homers a year (he hit 20 in 3 seasons across 600+ AB) then you have to like his shot at being a productive major league third baseman. If you think 15 is going to be stretch for him then his offensive value is going to be limited. He can get by with a good glove and soft bat but he will just be keeping the spot warm for the next guy. If his power does develop he could be a long term solution when Chipper retires. Look for the Braves to be aggressive with Leonard next season and start him with their new High A affiliate in Lynchburg.
2. Joseph Terdoslavich – B/T: S/R, Born: 09/09/1988, Ht: 6'1" Wt: 200
The Braves took Terdoslavich in the sixth round out of perennial baseball powerhouse Long Beach State University (maybe you know of another third baseman from there?). He was originally drafted by the Rays in the thirty-fifth round in 2007 as a catcher. He passed on them and headed to Miami where he had a solid freshman season. He sat out all of 2009 after transferring to Long Beach and came back in 2010 with a .326/.379/.491 line for the 49ers, leading the team in home runs and runs batted in. He made his professional debut with Danville in June and started slowly but picked up steam with each passing month finally posting a .392/.426/.588 line in 54 August plate appearances. This earned him a promotion to Rome where he held his own posting a .795 OPS in a month there.
Though the stats may not indicate it Terdoslavich's calling card is his power bat. His seven home runs for Long Beach are impressive because the dimensions of their home field are huge: 348' down both lines and 400' to dead center. He has a typical power stroke with a high finish that generates plenty of loft and backspin. His power comes from both sides of the plate and in Rome he hit both lefties and righties evenly. Though he played third base in college most scouts see him as a future first baseman and the Braves apparently agree as he played most of his games in Danville at first though he did play more third in Rome when he got there. He does have a good arm but it may be a moot point if he eventually ends up at first.
Though he was billed as a sell out power hitter who might struggle to hit for average his performance in his professional debut indicated that may not be the case as he batted a combined .302 between two levels while slugging just .410. A player's first 250 plate appearances in professional baseball rarely give you a good idea of what kind of player they will be. Joey will most likely return to Rome next season to start with though Lynchburg could be in the picture as well depending on what position he will play and how he performs in the offseason.
3T. Barrett Kleinknecht – B/T: R/R, Born: 07/30/1988, Ht: 6'0" Wt: 200
Kleinknecht was taken out of Francis Marion University in the twelfth round of this year's draft. He put his name on radar when he put together an All American Season (Division II) putting together a line of .371/.416/.662 while also putting up a 1.74 ERA in nine appearances as a pitcher. He made his professional debut with Danville where he started slow but eventually put up a respectable .770 OPS with decent power (.447 SLG, .146 ISO) but very few walks (.323 OBP, 2.2% BB). He earned a late season promotion to Rome where he made just 21 plates appearances before the end of the season.
Kleinknecht profiles similarly to the other college third basemen the Braves drafted this season though with a little more athleticism and a little less polish. In college he showed good command of the strike zone and excellent contact ability as he struck out just 14 times in 213 at-bats and then just 25 times in 219 at-bats with Danville. He has also shown solid game power at both levels leading Francis Marion in home runs and then leading Danville in doubles and finishing second on the team in home runs. Defensively he played shortstop in college but the Braves had him focusing on third base in Danville, however he played some shortstop and second and appeared solely at second when he was promoted to Rome. On the bases he possesses decent speed which allowed him to swipe nine bases without getting caught.
Kleinknecht has the athleticism to play anywhere on the infield and his bat projects well at any of the positions. He will need to gain a better control of the strike zone if he wants to realize his full potential but the Braves may have found a mid-round sleeper with him. Look for him to return to Rome in 2011 with a chance to move up quick if the stars align properly.
3T. Brandon Drury – B/T: R/R, Born: 08/21/1992, Ht: 6'2" Wt: 190
Baseball America rated Drury as the best high school position player in Oregon for the 2010 draft. He had committed to play at Oregon but the braves took him in the thirteenth round and pried him away from the college ranks. He made his debut in the Gulf Coast League but he struggled there posting a .539 OPS in 207 plate appearances.
Right now Drury is all about projection. He is easily the most athletic and projectible of the infielders the Braves signed but he played most of 2010 as a 17 year old. His swing is quick and compact which allows him to let the ball travel farther before he has to commit to it. His body has plenty of room for projection and he should add muscle over the next couple of seasons. Drafted as a shortstop scouts rated his range as just average there and most projected he would move to third. The Braves agreed and he spent most of his time at the hot corner with a few games at short (where he didn't make an error). He has the arm strength for the hot corner.
Drury has all the time in the world to turn his tools into skills. With three college guys directly ahead of him and his young age the Braves won't rush him and can wait to see what his body will do and how his bat develops. He has the potential to be an offensive minded third baseman but with all the caveats young players have with them. Look for him back in the Gulf Coast League to start 2011.