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Reviewing the Atlanta Braves’ 2017 draft

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A quick look back at the Braves most recent draft.

MLB: Atlanta Braves-Media Day Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

2015 was the first MLB draft for John Coppolella, while the 2017 draft was his last. While his personal legacy has been cemented, the organization and the fans will still reap the fruits of his front office’s labor.

There will be no grades as it is too early for that. If you want to check out the initial grades given right after the draft, then check them out here. However, let’s just take a quick gander and see how the new Braves are progressing.

Round 1, Pick 5: Kyle Wright, RHP

Signing Bonus - $7,000,000 (Pick Value: $5,707,300)

I’d love to know which player the Braves would have selected if Kyle Wright was off the board. Just ‘cause I’m curious like that. I wanted Gore so badly though, but I was also thrilled when Kyle Wright was still there. Last year was the first year I really started to pay attention and keep track of college players. Wright struggled in the first half of the season as he was throwing 97/98 and trying to blow hitters away. It was only when he started to dial it down in the 92-96 range and utilized his excellent secondaries that he dominated in the second half of the year. It was those first half struggles that likely allowed Wright to fall into the Braves hands.

Wright comes from a great baseball school, Vandy, so it makes sense that the Braves would want to fast track him by putting him in AA, Mississippi Braves. He’s got the size you want standing 6’4” and all of his pitches project above average to plus. His control is likely to never be better than average, but with his pitch repertoire that should still be good enough to be a #2 or #3 type of pitcher. He might be working on his pitches or sequencing, but he has struggled a little to start the season. Wright has a 1.55 WHIP and batters are hitting .271 against him. You’d like to see him pitcher deeper into games too as he’s only reached the 6th inning in 3 of his 7 starts.

I’m certainly not worried about Kyle Wright. He’s a stud and I have no doubt that he’s going to start putting everything together soon. However, I certainly don’t expect him to get a call up to the Atlanta Braves this season.

Round 2, Pick 42: Drew Waters, OF

Signing Bonus - $1,500,000 (Pick Value: $1,674,600)

Waters has tools galore with a definite chance at being a 5 tool player depending on how the bat and power progress. There are no questions on his speed, arm and defense. Waters started the year in Rome, however, an early injury sidelined him for a few games. He’s just returned to the lineup and still shaking off the rust. So far, he’s showing a questionable hit tool that has too much swing and miss as demonstrated by his .225 batting average and 20 strikeouts in 74 ABs. Hopefully the Braves allowed him to heal up properly so we see some real progression this season and not something where he’s playing hurt the entire year.

Round 3, Pick 80: Freddy Tarnok, RHP

Signing Bonus - $1,445,000 (Pick Value: $709,000)

A very late riser with a lot of helium as he was throwing 93-98 mph, the Braves snagged him in the 3rd round with an overslot deal. This was completely an upside pick here. Many people thought that due to how raw Tarnok is, he’d start off in Danville. However, the Braves are trying a different approach, and one that I haven’t seen implemented before. Tarnok isn’t starting, but throwing 2 innings out of the pen every 5 games. So he’s working like a starter, but just in relief for now. This is obviously to keep his innings in check, and I’d imagine around mid June the Braves will move him into a starter role. Tarnok has been pretty good too, see his stats below. I’m really curious to see how Tarnok progresses this season, especially once he’s starting.

Round 4, Pick 110: Troy Bacon, RHP

Signing Bonus - $400,000 (Pick Value: $487,400)

The first of two JUCO players to sign, Bacon’s arsenal includes a low to mid 90’s fastball (there was a report before he was drafted that he was up to 99mph) with an above average slider and average change-up. Just 21 years old, and while some senior signs haven’t even played yet, Bacon started the season in High-A. That’s a pretty bold move for AA, who has said he’ll take a slower approach than what Coppy did. It’s worked out though. Bacon has more than held his own. He’s sporting a 0.88 WHIP and batters are only hitting .140 against him. He’s also thrown multiple innings in 5 of the 6 games he’s been in this season.

Round 5, Pick 140: Bruce Zimmerman, LHP

Signing Bonus - $10,000 (Pick Value: $364,100)

I honestly hate soft tossing lefties, and felt this pick was just another Drew Harrington. I wasn’t the only one as his initial grade from Talking Chop was a C+. Zimmerman was the first senior sign for the Braves, and so far it’s working out brilliantly. While he throws high 80’s to low 90’s with a average change and curve, he has above average control. His curve or change might have improved as well ‘cause he has 48 strikeouts on the year in 38.1 innings. Zimmerman already has 2 games of 10 or more strikeouts. As for his control, he has just 7 walks. If Zimmerman keeps this up, he’s going to get a promotion to High-A very soon.

Round 6, Pick 170: Jordan Rodgers, 3B

Signing Bonus - $5,000 (Pick Value: $273,700)

A cheap senior sign, Rodgers is the guy who filled in 3B after Nick Senzel was drafted. His senior year was his best year at the plate, but overall nothing really stood out. Braves saw something there (even though his short stint at Rome in 2017 wasn’t all that good) and decided to put him in High-A to start the season. Rodgers has struggled out of the gate, not only hitting below .220, but showing virtually no power. He’s also supposed to be a versatile and steady defender, but already has 7 errors. Braves might have advanced him too quickly, but there’s still time to make adjustments.

Round 7, Pick 200: Landon Hughes, RHP

Signing Bonus - $1,000 (Pick Value: $213,400)

Hughes put up encouraging numbers in Danville. Unfortunately he got slapped with a 68 game suspension due to PEDs, and the Braves went on to release him. I would have liked for him to have stuck around, but perhaps the Braves have 0 tolerance for that sort of thing now.

Round 8, Pick 230: John Curtis, LHP

Signing Bonus - $5,000 (Pick Value: $169,600)

Throwing in the low 90’s with a curve, slider and change as a reliever, Curtis averaged 13K/9 his sophomore and junior year, but walked well over 6 per 9 innings. The interesting thing is that he gave up 0 home runs his sophomore year, but then 10 his junior year. Wish I knew why he started serving up home runs. Curtis put up solid numbers at Danville, but apparently wasn’t good enough because he’s in extended spring training. If he can get his walk rate down while maintaining his level of strikeouts, he’s easily going to be one to watch out for.

Round 9, Pick 260: Riley Delgado, SS/2B

Signing Bonus - $1,000 (Pick Value: $146,000)

Delgado was mainly drafted for his defense and hitting ability. So far he’s living up to that this season hitting a cool .313 while providing solid defense at SS. He’s also sporting a K-rate around 10%. With Ray Patrick Didder manning SS now for Florida Fire Frogs, but hitting .190, I wouldn’t be surprised if Delgado gets bumped up if he continues to hit around .300.

Round 10, Pick 290: Jacob Belinda, RHP

Signing Bonus - $5,000 (Pick Value: $136,100)

Another DIV II draftee, Belinda put up some big time strikeout rates, but also suffered from control issues. Those control issues are rearing their ugly head in 2018 as he has 11 walks in 15 innings of work.

Round 11, Pick 320: Drew Lugbauer, C/3B/1B

Signing Bonus - $125,100

Lugbauer doesn’t need an introduction. After getting drafted, he became known as Slugbear or Slugbauer by some due to the 13 home runs and 29 total extra base hits he put up between Danville and Rome. No one questioned the power when he was drafted, but there were concerns about his hit tool. So it shouldn’t be a suprise Lugbauer is off to a slow start. It feels like he either has a multi hit game with an XBH or goes 0-4 with 3 strikeouts. There are a lot of eyes on Lugbauer now, so it’ll be interesting to see how he progresses throughout the remainder of the season.

Round 12, Pick 350: Hagen Owenby, C

Signing Bonus - $125,000

Drafted mostly for his hitting and power, Owenby put up some serious numbers his Soph and Junior year at East Tennessee State. He did flash a little pop at Danville too last season. However, with a system quite flush with catchers in A-ball, it looks like Owenby will be starting the season off in Danville.

Round 13, Pick 380: Connor Simmons, LHP

Signing Bonus - $125,000

Picked right from the Braves back yard at Georgia Southern. Simmons had a pretty good sophomore season, but wasn’t quite as good his junior year likely causing him to drop a bit. He does have control issues which is probably why he’ll start this season again in Danville.

Round 14, Pick 410: Keith Weisenberg, RHP

Signing Bonus - $125,000

The 6’5” reliever out of Stanford has yet to play this season and will most likely start the season off in Danville. He has quality stuff, but major command/control issues.

Round 15, Pick 440: Austin Bush, 1B

Signing Bonus - $125,000

6’6” power hitting first baseman does have swing and miss to his game. Last season he earned a promotion to Rome, however, he’s going to start the year off again in Danville. With the extra time in extended spring training it would be nice if the Braves were working with him on his swing, pitch recognition and approach.

Round 16, Pick 470: Garrison Schwartz, OF

Signing Bonus - $125,000

May the Schwartz be with you. Looks like the Braves have the fast track light on for Schwartz. He showed some pop right after being drafted and ended up in High-A. To start 2018, the Braves had him in Rome, but despite a slow start they bumped him back up to High A where he’s hit much better. So far he hasn’t shown any power this season, but does sport both a high BB and K rate.

Round 17, Pick 500: Cutter Dyals, RHP

Signing Bonus - $100,000

You had me at sidearm, and you can only get that nickname if you throw a very good cutter. Dyals started in extended spring training and was just recently called up to Rome (May 8th). He’s only had 1 appearance so far. He was also quite good in his short stint last year at Danville. Definitely one I’m going to be watching for.

Round 18, Pick 530: Zack Soria, C

Signing Bonus - $10,000

A senior sign that hasn’t played yet this year. He still appears to be on the roster, so likely in extended spring training.

Round 19, Pick 560: Tanner Allison, LHP

Signing Bonus - $100,000

The strange thing is that Allison spent his junior year as a hitter and not a pitcher. The Braves drafted him as a pitcher. 2018 is off to a rocky start to say the least where he’s sporting a 2.48 WHIP. I can’t share anything else, cause I try to keep it PG in here.

Round 20, Pick 590: Justin Smith, OF

Signing Bonus - $125,000

While Smith started out in extended spring training, he was quickly added to the Rome roster and in a small sample size looks like he belongs. He’s only played in 8 games, but Smith already has 2 home runs and sporting a .971 OPS. The only negative are the strikeouts. He was seen as a toolsy OF with a penchant for strikeouts when he was drafted, so that’s holding up. Smith is also the 2nd JUCO player that was signed.

Round 21, Pick 620: Jeffrey “Connor” Johnstone, RHP

Signing Bonus - $10,000

Johnstone started all 3 games after getting drafted, but has played solely out of the pen in 2018. The Braves were aggressive assigning him to AA, but ended up getting demoted to High-A where he is excelling through 7 appearances.

Round 22, Pick 650: Justin Morhardt, C

Signing Bonus - $10,000

Morhardt was awful in a small sample size last year. I guess he wasn’t cutting it in extended spring training either because the Braves released him on May 8th.

Round 23, Pick 680: Troy Conyers, LHP

Signing Bonus - $10,000

He retired before the season began. Enjoy your $10K!

Round 24, Pick 710: Jackson Lourie, RHP

Signing Bonus - $10,000

He was a senior sign and hasn’t played this year. He hasn’t been released, so he’s probably in extended spring training. Even though he was a senior sign, he was still considered pretty raw.

Round 38, Pick 1130: Adam Groesbeck, CF

Signing Bonus - $5,000

The Braves aren’t afraid to take a player from the military. Groesbeck attended the US Air Force Academy, and per the new rules he would need to serve at least 2 year of active duty in the Air Force before joining the Braves. No one really knows after 2 years if he’ll end his commitment with the Air Force to play baseball. While the Braves have a new GM, I’m still hopeful the Braves would take a chance on Noah Song out of Navy.

The ones that got away

Round 25: Jake Taylor - Not only does he have the same name as the character from the movie Major League, but he also plays the same position. He’s not having a good year at the plate for OSU (~30% K-rate vs 1% BB-rate), but he’s been pretty good behind the plate.

Round 26: Charlie Carpenter - The 6’6” catcher elected to head back for his senior season, and what a season he’s having hitting .357 w/ 11 home runs. I’d be on board with the Braves signing him a little higher as a cheap senior sign.

Round 29: Cade Cavalli - Cavalli was a draft and follow (ranked 123 on MLB). He’s played in limited amounts at Oklahoma and hasn’t done well. He’s sporting a 10 ERA, but does have 14 strikeouts in 10 innings. He was very raw coming out of HS, and has a big time fastball.

Round 33: Chris McMahon - Another draft and follow (ranked 100 on MLB). He’s faired ok, with an ERA just under 4.

Round 35: Jason Rooks - The 6’2” OF ended up going to a community college, so the Braves can draft him again this year. He’s hitting .383 w/ 14 HRs. He also has 19 stolen bases, and even sports solid walk and strikeout rates.