The 2016 MLB Draft is less than three weeks away. Teams will now begin to crack down on their draft boards and start meeting with prospects who could be in play once their selection rolls around. The Braves have the 3rd overall pick, as well as picks 40 and 44.
The great Jim Callis of MLB.com has the Braves mocked to take Mercer star Kyle Lewis at No. 3 in his latest projection:
3. Braves: Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer
Atlanta is the first team in play on a high school pitcher and prefers Pint to Groome. But with a shortage of college bats and a $12.4 million bonus pool that will allow the Braves to spend big on someone who drops to picks Nos. 40 and 44, the better play could be to grab Lewis here and pounce on a prep arm who drops.
I think Callis hit the nail on the head here. If Lewis slips past the Phillies and Reds, the Braves would surely pounce on a talent like his. He's drawn comparisons to a young Jason Heyward, and if he can stick in center field, there's a chance for him to be an All-Star. Lewis would need more time than, say, Dansby Swanson in the minor leagues -- playing at Mercer isn't quite like playing in the SEC every weekend -- but his upside would be worth the wait.
The Braves cutting a deal with Lewis and then nabbing a few high-upside high schoolers at 40 and 44 who drop due to money concerns would be best-case scenario.
Callis also recently spoke on Bill Shanks' radio show and said the club prefers Riley Pint to Jason Groome. That would seem to be the opposite of what Keith Law recently wrote:
3. Atlanta Braves
Jason Groome, LHP
Barnegat (New Jersey) High School
Atlanta could take a strong college position player here, such as Ray, and then resume its usual, high-upside high school strategy in the sandwich round. That said, the Braves have loved Groome's upside since the fall, and I think they'd feel they were getting the draft's top talent.
Groome is the No. 1 overall player on Law's board. In theory, getting him at No. 3 could be a steal. The Groome-Pint debate comes down to polish and upside; Pint is a righty who throws lightning bolts and struggles with command, while Groome is a lefty with slightly lesser stuff but better control and delivery.
The Phillies do not seem inclined to take a high school pitcher 1-1, and everyone seems to think the Reds will take a college player. If the Braves are on the clock and Groome, Pint and Lewis are all available, they will have a huge decision to make.
Minor League Ball of the SB Nation family also has the Braves taking Groome:
3. Atlanta Braves: Jason Groome, LHP, Barnegat HS, NJ
The Braves tend to focus on prep arms in the first round, and Jason Groome is there waiting for them, when he could be the number one overall pick in the draft. They could go Riley Pint, but the Braves tend to go for arms with a bit more polish, rather than those with poorly aimed lightning bolts coming out of them. They are also known to love looking in their region for talent, so someone like Josh Lowe could be a sneaky grab, especially with an under slot pre-draft deal.
The first day of the 2016 MLB Draft is June 9.