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Atlanta Braves 2019 MLB Draft Review

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With the end of the 2019 MLB Draft, it’s now time for the annual review of the entire Braves draft.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-TCU vs Texas A&M
Braden Shewmake
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 MLB Draft is in the books. That means it’s time for the annual draft recap, taking a look at every player the Braves have selected this year.

If you remember from last year, this is a place to get information on every pick as well as handicapping their odds of signing. That piece can be found here.

Some notes to remember

  • I’ve attached video of every player drafted that I was able to. This is 34 of the 41 players drafted.
  • The guys taken in the Top 10 rounds always sign unless noted, barring something that pops up on a physical.
  • Guys taken in Rounds 11-15 are very likely to sign, rounds 16-20 typically see a high sign rate with the Braves as well.
  • In rounds 21-40, almost all high school players tend to not sign. College players are usually more willing to sign.

1.Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor

The Baylor catcher is going to be a defensive star who should be able to add 20 homers a year. I have some question about how much he hits, but there is no question that he will be an elite defender and pitch framer. Some of the comps on him, including my own, include a better hitting Austin Hedges,

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. It was reported that he signed on Sunday for $4M, a full $950k under the slot value.

1.Braden Shewmake, SS, Texas A&M

Shewmake isn’t the highest upside pick, but he’s been extremely productive in his three years for the Aggies. Shewmake is a career .322/.378/.488 hitter.

His biggest concern is his lack of power, as he topped out at 11 homers as a freshman, and has hit that many combined over the next two years. It’s also worth noting many expect him to need to move off short defensively, with a likely home at second or third.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. It’s been announced he signed, and received slot.

2. Beau Philip, SS, Oregon State

I admit I didn’t understand this one at the time. I actually liked Philip, but was thinking of him in rounds 6-10 rather than the second round.

The former JUCO transfer has spent one year at Oregon State and put up a solid .313/.362/.475 line in 39 games while missing some time with injury. Philip has some decent all around tools to go with the projection, but none are plus tools.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Philip came in under slot.

3. Michael Harris, OF/LHP, Georgia HS

The Braves started the second day of the draft going the prep route, taking a local kid who could have been drafted on Day 2 as a hitter or a pitcher. Harris prefers to hit and it sounds like he will get his first shot as a pro in that role.

Harris is an athletic outfielder with plenty of raw power potential, but also a prospect with plenty of swing and miss. On the mound he has a fastball up to 93 MPH from the left side and a promising curve as part of his three pitch mix. Most teams seem to prefer him on the mound, so that fall back if he doesn’t hit enough is always an option.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Harris is a Brave and should start in the GCL.

4. Kasey Kalich, RHP, Texas A&M

Coming into the draft I would have ranked Kalich as one of the top five pure reliever prospects in the draft- guys who are already relievers and will only be relievers going forward. He’s only a draft eligible sophomore who spent just one year with the Aggies after coming from JUCO. Kalich racked up 12 saves with a 14.3 K/9 rate and is a guy who should move quickly though the minors. I don’t see Kalich as a future closer, but he has setup man upside with a fastball up to 95 MPH and a solid slider. For those wondering, I do not expect him to reach Atlanta in 2019.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Kalich has signed.

5. Stephen Paolini, OF, Connecticut HS

Stephen Paolini came out of no where to be the Braves pick. No one had many notes on him, including myself. I had circled his name from an event report last fall that was extremely positive, but hadn’t heard anything more until the Braves drafted him. He’s got a promising body for projection, a swing built for power, and is a plus runner. The adjustment from Connecticut high school competition to pro ball is going to be a large adjustment, but this kid is very toolsy.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Paolini came in overslot, showing the Braves had to really believe in his talent to use such a high pick on him and then go overslot to get him.

6. Tanner Gordon, RHP, Indiana

Another JUCO arm that went to D1 this year is Gordon, following the same path as Kalich. Gordon is a little different as a bigger bodied(6’5”, 215) starter. Gordon, who made 14 starts this spring with a 3.35 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 9.6 K/9, was actually a JUCO teammate of Trey Riley last year before heading to Bloomington. Gordon is a guy with a 94 MPH fastball that he gets downhill plane on to force ground balls, so he’s more of a pitch to contact guy than a strikeout pitcher.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Gordon will be starting the year in Danville.

7. Darius Vines, RHP, CSU Bakersfield

After being drafted in each of the past two drafts, Darius Vines finally went high enough to sign this year. The lanky right hander has a four pitch mix and throws strikes. He’s got a very promising curve, and really has three average to slightly above pitches in his arsenal. In his only season in D1, he managed 12.1 K/9. It is also worth noting that the teams who took chances late in the past two drafts are the Astros and Cubs.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Vines came in a little under slot value.

8. Ricky DeVito, RHP, Seton Hall

If you look at the stuff alone, Ricky DeVito probably goes about 4-5 rounds sooner. The 2018 Big East Pitcher of the Year with a 1.88 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 12 starts struggled a bit this year, pitching to a 3.92 ERA and 1.62 WHIP as he struggled at times with his command. DeVito has always had some inconsistencies with his command, but he’s got a heavy sinking fastball he runs up to 94 MPH and promising pitches in both the change and curve.

It’s possible that DeVito has a pair of future plus pitches and a third that could be average. That’s the recipe for a middle of the rotation starter should he be able to command it a little better- something maybe a slight mechanical tweak could help.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. DeVito came in slightly overslot.

9. Cody Milligan, UTL, Kansas JUCO

Cody Milligan landed in JUCO from Oklahoma State and had a very productive season for a team which made an impressive postseason run. Milligan hit .453 with five homers, 63 RBI, 30 for 30 in steals, and 89 runs scored in 61 games played. Milligan is a solid hitter and a guy with a plus run tool to go with a little more power than what he showed this season, adding 18 doubles and 9 triples to his extra base hit totals.

He actually caught this year and has some potential in the outfield, though many see a future second baseman. If Milligan can be a future catcher his value rises, and it would already be high due to his defensive versatility.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Milligan was a little overslot and will be headed to Danville.

10. Brandon Parker, OF, Mississippi JUCO

Brandon Parker is a solid hitter with some real power potential, but also a guy with swing and miss. He’s one of the higher upside guys on Day 2 because of his bat, but he’s also a bit of a lottery ticket because he’s going to need to prove he can hit.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Parker is delivered already and will be in Danville.

11. Vaughn Grissom, 3B, Florida HS

Before the draft started I ranked Vaughn Grissom as the 20th best 3B in this class, a prospect with a very promising bat who was teammates with 5th overall pick Riley Greene- meaning many looks at him from scouts. Grissom is toolsy, especially with the bat, and has a feel for hitting and the bat speed to really project for plus power at maturity. Grissom is more than just Greene’s teammate though, and really started to stand out himself last year at the WWBA Championships- a wood bat event.

His future defensive home is a bit of a question now because of his tall frame and needing to fill in his body, but he’s a prep shortstop who should be able to handle third well if he needs to move.

In case you are wondering he is not related to former Brave Marquis Grissom. Marquis’ son is a significant prospect, but he’s not until next year.

If you want to know more about Vaughn, I was able to interview him and that will also be up. He was great to talk to the type of player who you can enjoy rooting for. Like a few others on this list, he grew up a Braves fan as well.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Grissom went overslot to sign, as expected.

12. Andy Samuelson, LHP, Illinois JUCO

After starting out at Valpo as a freshman, Andy Samuelson ended up going the JUCO route and after a strong year out of the pen would have been headed for NC State next year. Samuelson recorded a 2.93 ERA this year with 29 strikeouts in 15.1 innings. He’s a projectable 6’4”, 185 pound lefty with promise, but has battled some consistency issues in his career. Samuelson is a pure reliever with big stuff that the coaches can work with and hope he can become a future high leverage reliever.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Samuelson has been signed. Dollar figures are not out.

13. Tyler Owens, RHP, Florida HS

The Braves got an arm with as good of a two pitch mix as some of the first day prep arms. Tyler Owens has a fastball that sits up to 95 and can touch 98 MPH, and a slider that can be a future plus offering.

There are some reasons why he wasn’t drafted higher, namely being undersized at just 5’10”. The second drawback with Owens is that the change is a bit further behind, but that’s often the case with prep arms with power stuff. A third thing that has been a negative for some is he has a bit of an unusual delivery, and some aren’t sure how that would hold up in a starting role,

I wouldn’t rule Owens as a starter out with his stuff and the Braves ability to develop pitchers. However should he move to the bullpen he has major upside there as well because of his two pitch mix.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Owens signed for the biggest Day 3 bonus in all of MLB so far this year as of this writing.

14. Jared Johnson, RHP, Mississippi HS

Initially put in the draft tracker as Isaiah Johnson, I was confused for a minute before realizing the pick was Jared Johnson. Jared Johnson was a popup prospect who likely would have been a Day 1 draftee had he been on the radar longer and had the ability to show his ability against better competition. That was the main knock against him, that he was a late riser who didn’t face great competition.

Why Johnson would have been a first day arm is because he’s got a fastball he can bring up to 97 MPH and a very promising slider to go with the 6’3”, 215 pound frame built to handle a starter’s workload. He’s also a bit raw, so the Braves have less bad habits to break with him than they might with a guy who has been around the showcase circuit.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. The Braves signed this promising pitcher and lifelong Braves fan already.

15. Connor Blair, OF, Washington

Connor Blair is another JUCO product who went D1 this spring and had success. Unfortunately an injury limited Blair’s time for the Huskies this spring, but he put up excellent numbers when he did play. Blair hit .291/.362/.522 with eight homers in 134 at bats- but he also struck out 32 times against 10 walks.

I’ve talked to others about Blair that have seen him in person, and the general feeling is that he’s most likely organizational depth with a chance to be something more. That’s not unusual for college guys taken at this point in the draft, and there is some power in Blair’s bat if he’s able to make consistent enough contact.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Blair has signed.

16. Joey Estes, RHP, California HS

Joey Estes is a solid young prep arm from California who is still young for the class. He’s got a 6’2”, 195 pound frame with some ability to add some projection and already has a fastball up to 95 MPH to go with a solid four pitch arsenal. Estes’ best pitch may be his slider

The real benefits of taking Estes are that he hasn’t yet turned 18, which is always a benefit for teams to find players young for the class. He’s also a very athletic pitcher with a quick arm, leading to additional projections for velocity and command. There is also some pitchability in him already, and he knows how to mess with hitters timing a bit.

Odds of Signing: 99%. I believe Estes to be signed, but not announced just yet.

17. Alec Barger, RHP, NC State

Alec Barger is another JUCO to D1 player, with the former Northern Illinois pitcher heading to JUCO last year and then to the Wolfpack this year. He was actually drafted higher last year, in the 16th round by the Brewers, but went to the ACC instead. Barger didn’t have a great year, posting a 5.33 ERA- but he did strikeout 33 hitters over his 27 innings of work.

Barger, who was a starter in JUCO and pitched mostly out of relief this spring, is a guy with a 96 MPH fastball and a sharp slider among his four pitch mix. The curve has some potential, but it is more of a third pitch that he would use in a starting role, and the change the furthest behind.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Barger is starting out in Danville.

18. Mahki Backstrom, 1B, California HS

Last fall it was projected that this 6’5” slugger would be a late first round pick. Mahki Backstrom had been in all of the biggest events and all star games, but he started to really struggle- to the point he didn’t even hit .300 this year in high school.

Backstrom has huge raw power to go with his huge frame, and also has huge bat speed and exit velocity. He’s not much of a runner, but he’s a decent athlete for his size and could be a solid defender at first and maybe even a below average defender in left.

Backstrom went to get his vision checked this spring, and after that occurred he started to hit more. It’s very possible that his struggles to hit the ball were related to vision problems.

This is a steal of a pick, because if the vision explains it all you get a first rounder in the 18th round. If he can’t hit, you didn’t use a high pick on a chance at some real upside.

Odds of Signing: 99%. I believe Backstrom to be signed, but not yet officially announced at this time.

19. Kadon Morton, OF/RHP, Texas HS

There may be no higher upside player in this draft class than Kadon Morton. The two way star is also a two sport star, being a former football star in Texas.

Morton is a little raw but the upside is massive. He’s a great athlete, who has speed, defense, a big arm, power potential, and some feel for hitting. He’s going to need to keep improving the hit tool and refining his tools as a raw prospect, but the potential is there.

As a pitcher he has hit 91 MPH with a promising curve, and has plenty of projection remaining in his frame.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Not only was Morton signed, but he was the highest Day 3 bonus in all of MLB this year for a short time- before Owens’ bonus info came out,

20. Peyton Williams, RHP, Catawba

Peyton Williams is an interesting story. The draft eligible sophomore is a kid new to pitching, but has made real progress this year in getting his fastball up to 97 MPH and adding a curve this year which has made him very hard to hit.

Williams is a D2 star, so with the level of competition jump in addition to the rawness of being new to pitching it may take him some time to reach the big leagues- despite being a reliever with real big stuff.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. The Braves took this Braves fan and got him signed after he had been planning to return to school in the time leading up to being drafted.

21. Javier Valdes, C, Florida International

After hitting eight homers in two years, Javier Valdes broke out to hit eight homers this spring. Well I should say he broke out last summer when he hit seven homers in the Northwoods League.

Valdes isn’t the biggest catcher out there, but one thing he brings to the position is the athleticism of a converted infielder. Valdes needs some time to work on his catching, but with the athleticism to become a solid defender, some emerging pop, and the fact he’s got some plate discipline he is a catcher worth taking a shot on.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. The Braves have Valdes signed.

22. Alex Segal, LHP, Wichita State

Alex Segal was once highly thought of before he had to miss his freshman season with an injury. He was a high school draftee and expected to make an impact in the Shockers rotation.

He returned last year and struggled out of the pen, and struggled even more this season with a 7.4 BB/9 rate.

Segal is a projectable 6’4, 185 lefty with a fastball up to 94 MPH and a very promising, potentially plus curve.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. The Braves got Segal signed.

23. Drew Campbell, OF, Louisville

The Louisville outfielder can hit, run, and defend. He’s not a guy with a ton of power, but he’s got versatility and has performed at a high level in terms of college competition. Campbell projects as a fourth outfielder type with a higher floor.

Odds of Signing: 85%. He can’t sign just yet with Louisville in the College World Series, but expect him to sign in the time after the CWS ends.

24. Bryce Ball, 1B, Dallas Baptist

This 6’6”, 235 pound lefty slugger hit 14 homers last year in JUCO before coming to Dallas Baptist this year- with DBU being a professional prospect machine in recent years. Not only did he post an OPS over 1.000 for the third straight year, but he hit 17 homers for an NCAA Tournament team,

Ball is a guy that’s one of the better power hitting first base prospects in this class, but with first base only prospects being limited in value he dropped to the 24th round.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. Ball signed for an overslot deal and is a guy to watch for someone who can exceed expectations.

25. Chad Bryant, RHP, Florida JUCO

Chad Bryant has significant stuff- hitting as high as 97 MPH with his fastball, and showing real promise with his curve....but he struggles to command his pitches, and isn’t consistent with his secondary pitches. Bryant was a former Mississippi State and Alabama commit, so he’s a guy that’s always been on the radar.

There is some positive in the fact he’s made real strides with his command this spring. After walking 51 in 47.1 innings in 2018, Bryant cut his walk rate to 28 in 43 innings this spring. The rest of his numbers weren’t pretty, but there is plenty to work with in his arm.

Odds of Signing: 50%. I give Bryant a 50% chance at signing because he’s a guy with the arm to really move up draft boards should he go to Alabama and see his command make further improvement next year.

26. Riley King, 3B, Georgia

The Braves grabbed redshirt sophomore Riley King fairly late in the draft despite him being a potential Day 2 pick. King is an infielder who was forced to play out of position because of UGA’s talented infielder corps, but he’s hit well in the SEC, with wood bats in the summer, has some pop, and offers plenty of defensive versatility.

Odds of Signing: 0%. King has said he isn’t going to sign, which isn’t surprising where he was drafted versus where he could have been drafted.

27. Indigo Diaz, RHP, Michigan State

Indigo Diaz is a Canadian who came to Michigan State from JUCO this past fall. He’s a big kid(6’5”, 250) with big stuff(95 MPH) that relies heavily on his fastball.

Diaz struggles with his command at times and only has fringy secondary offerings, so there is a lot to work on- but there is real potential with his live arm out of the pen.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. The Braves went full Day 3 slot($125k) to bring in this power armed reliever.

28. Ben Thompson, RHP, Arizona JUCO

Ben Thompson is a big(6’5”, 220) New Zealand native who missed all of 2018 with an elbow injury. He returned this spring and looked good, pitching with a 93 MPH fastball and going 59 innings over his 11 starts. Thompson proved his arm was healthy enough to throw a pair of complete games on the season, and recorded 53 strikeouts over those 59 innings.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. The Braves have wrapped things up with Thompson.

29. James Acuna, RHP, Azusa Pacific

No James Acuna isn’t related to Ronald Acuña Jr. This Acuna started his career at Oregon, and pitched well enough as a freshman before really struggling with his command last year. His struggled continued over into the Cape Cod League, and he eventually decided to end up at a new school- Azusa Pacific. Acuna only had a handful of starts this spring before missing the rest of the year with an injury, but his command looked better than what we saw at Oregon and in the Cape. He doesn’t have the biggest stuff, sitting in the mid 90s, and his command something that’s been an issue in the past, so his outcome is one with some questions.

Odds of Signing: 50%. Acuna decided to move on last year from Oregon to try to get his career going elsewhere. Does he decide to go pro, or stick it out in college for one more year?

30. Mitch Calandra, C, Eckerd

Mitch Calandra is a solid hitter with some defensive versatility for a D2 program that had the best year in their history this spring. Calandra is much more of a contact guy than anything, but this year saw a power spike as he went from two homers to six since last spring. He also has the ability to play the corner infield spots, with real experience at third base- important when the Braves value versatility.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. The Braves have signed Calandra.

31. Greg Leban, RHP, Austin Peay

A big right handed reliever who has struggled with command in the past, Greg Leban made a big jump with command this spring. Leban went from walking 25 in 18 innings last year to walking 21 in 32.2 innings this year, as he racked up 58 strikeouts in that time- good for a 16.0 K/9 rate.

Leban is a bigger power pitcher, and being a 23 year old senior means that he could be pushed quickly if he is able to find success with his command after making the jump from the Ohio Valley Conference to pro ball. It’s worth noting that his twin brother was drafted high on Day 3 by the Marlins last year and is with that organization, so there is a bloodline connection here.

Odds of Signing: 99%. The Braves didn’t draft a college senior to not sign him.

32. Cody Birdsong, 2B, Quincy

The Braves grabbed a D2 senior All American late on Day 3. Birdsong is a very productive bat, a former JUCO standout at the same school that produced Trey Riley and Tanner Gordon, before going to two very productive years in D2. Last year he hit 17 doubles with 14 homers, and he followed it up this year with 14 doubles and 14 homers. Birdsong isn’t that fast and strikes out double the amount of time that he walks, so he has a lot of pressure to hit to keep moving up the ladder.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. The Braves have signed Birdsong, who is in Danville.

33. Justin Yeager, RHP, Southern Illinois

After two years of light work for Southern Illinois, Justin Yeager saw an increased role this year and really took off with a 2.27 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a 10.6 K/9. Yeager fits the mold of these Day 3 arms, a big(another 6’5” guy) hard throwing power reliever from the college ranks.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. The Braves have signed Yeager to a slightly overslot deal.

34. Willie Carter, OF, Webber International

Willie Carter comes from a small NAIA school, but put up big numbers with a .382 average and 19 homers. He’s a guy with easy plus to double plus power, a feel for hitting, and above average speed with decent size. He’s going to need to make an adjustment to the level of competition, but with his talent and college production there is a chance the Braves landed a real steal here.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. The Braves have signed Carter and sent him to Danville.

35. Anthony Hall, 1B, California HS

Anthony Hall is a projectable, fairly athletic 6”3” athlete playing first base due to a past Tommy John surgery on his resume. He’s got some power and should develop more as he continues to fill out. Defensively he may be athletic enough to handle the corner outfield- provided his arm is up to it. There is some hope that he could see his stock rise as he lost significant developmental time with his Tommy John surgery.

Odds of Signing: 50%. While most high school players selected in rounds 35-40 are locks to not sign, Hall isn’t committed to a college. Without a college commitment at this point, it feels like there is actually a good chance the Braves can get Hall signed.

36. Mitchell Jackson, RHP, Illinois HS

Mitchell Jackson is a big, 6’5”, projectable right hander with a lot of upside indicators. Jackson is projectable, a cold weather arm, a two way player(first base is his other position), and a multi-sport athlete(basketball is his other sport).

The biggest issue with Jackson is that he’s not close to a finished product, topping out in the mid 80s velocity wise. He’s the type of kid who typically goes to college to develop his body and game, so that the MLB team drafting him isn’t using three years of his minor league service time on a guy who is three years away from being three years away.

Odds of Signing: 5%. High school players in rounds 35-40 don’t sign unless there’s something unusual with their circumstances.

37. Davis Schwab, LHP, Missouri State

Davis Schwab is yet another big power pitcher destined for the bullpen. The senior from Missouri State, who started his college career at Kansas State, is 6’4”, 225, and while he started some games this year is a guy made for the bullpen because of command issues. Because of those command issues, Schwab didn’t post very good numbers at his two years at MSU- but he’s up to 93 MPH from the left side with a deceptive delivery, and he has struck out 64 batters in 54.2 innings this year,

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. The Braves have signed Schwab as a senior.

38. Grant Mathews, OF, Tulane

This is an interesting pick, as Mathews had a big year while scouts came in to watch Kody Hoese hit .327/.402/.544 with 13 doubles and 10 homers, and he had just as many strikeouts on the year(25) as he did walks. This season followed a successful 2018, but took things to another level.

Mathews is just a hitter. A guy with a great feel for getting the barrel on the ball and putting it in play. He’s got some pop in his bat, but his power numbers are partly a reflection on his ability to hit. He works from the top of the lineup and gets on base frequently because of the advanced hit tool.

It’s worth nothing that Mathews is a redshirt junior who turned 23 years old at the start of May, so even though he has a year of eligibility remaining, he is already on the older side for a prospect. I only bring this up because it could impact his signing status.

Odds of Signing: 40%. Players taken this late are seen as longshots to sign, though maybe the Braves money can tempt Mathews to sign, especially considering he is already 23 years old as of May.

39. Josh Rolling, SS, Nevada HS

Josh Rolling is a big time athlete with great bloodlines. Rolling is the son of Henry Rolling, a former seven year NFL linebacker and starter for the Chargers and Rams in the 90s. He himself was not only a star two way player in baseball, but also a star quarterback and basketball player for his high school.

Rolling’s best asset is his athleticism, and he’s been putting in a lot of work to improve his bat and glove. He’s the kind of kid who may be able to stick at short, or handle third base, and should develop at least average power.

Odds of Signing: 5%. High school players in rounds 35-40 don’t sign unless there’s something unusual with their circumstances.

40. Cade Bunnell, 2B, Indiana

Cade Bunnell is not a player I was familiar with at all, and after looking at the numbers it was easy to see why- he barely played in four years at Indiana. Bunnell is the kind of good makeup guy with plenty of baseball experience that is a good influence to have around some of the very young guys the team plans to have down in the Gulf Coast League.

Odds of Signing: SIGNED. The Braves have signed Bunnell as a senior.