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Braves wrap up 2020 MLB Draft with three more college players

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Scouting Director Dana Brown discussed Atlanta’s draft haul.

Cincinnati Reds v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

We probably didn’t talk about it enough, but the the lack of money in the Braves’ bonus pool was always going to be difficult to deal with coming into one of the most unusual MLB Drafts ever. The Braves entered the draft with the third-smallest bonus pool and appeared to manage that money all the way to their fifth pick, when they selected University of Texas right-hander Bryce Elder as their final choice. This draft for Atlanta might not have produced some of the big names that many people latched onto in the lead up to the event, but it is a class that the team and scouting director Dana Brown seems excited for.

Elder was thought to be a possibility in the third round but began to slip as teams started to run out of money. The Braves were able to pool some of their draft funds by potentially going underslot in the first round on left-hander Jared Shuster and then again in the fourth round on Clemson right-hander Spencer Strider.

The Braves feel that they are getting a legitimate back-of-the-rotation arm in Elder. “We’re getting a guy who can eat innings, and he has a good sinker with a slider that he can get swings-and-misses off of,” Braves scouting director Dana Brown told reporters on a Zoom call at the conclusion of Day 2. “So we feel like this is a guy that’s really going to be a part of the back end of your rotation.”

Atlanta had to wait a long time before making their first selection on Thursday, since they didn’t have a pick in the second round due to the signing of Will Smith this past offseason. With pick No. 97 they went with Michigan outfielder James Franklin, who they think has potential in the field.

“We feel like he has the upside to be an above-average centerfielder,” Brown said. “Has some power. Left-handed hitter.”

Franklin missed all of the abbreviated 2020 season due to a skiing accident in the offseason. Still, the Braves feel that he has enough upside and may be able to stick in center.

“It’s going to depend on how big he gets,” Brown said. “Right now he’s an above-average center fielder, and we feel good about that. But if he gets too big, we’ll put him in a corner because he does have power. He profiles better in center; his value is even greater if he can stay in center. But if he ends up going to a corner, we still feel good about him being an every-day major league left fielder.”

Franklin was the Offensive Player of the Year in the 2018 Cape Cod League. He didn’t show a lot of power in 2019, but the Braves think the power is there.

“He showed some power in batting practice,” Brown said. “It didn’t transfer over to games. He has some good exit velocity, so we think he’s going to hit for power. He knows how to elevate.”

Atlanta’s fourth round pick was Clemson right-hander Spencer Strider who missed all of the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. However, he looked fully recovered with a live fastball before the college season was shut down in March.

“Yes, he’s touched 97. He pretty much pitches 92-94, but he’s shown the arm strength and he’s got a really good breaking ball,” Brown said. “He has a curveball that he can use to get both sides of the plate out with and he’s very athletic, with the quick-pitch muscle fiber. So we feel really good about this guy’s upside. We think he’s going to get a little stronger and he’ll be able to hold and maintain his velocity.”

“He’s on the rebound, and we feel the arrow is pointing in the right direction,” Brown said. “He had a health issue with the arm, and he got it fixed,” Brown said. “But we feel now that he’s through it; he’s out of the woods. We feel like he’s going to be a starter.”

Many of the mock draft offerings in the lead up to the draft had the Braves linked to a number of high school players. While that didn’t materialize, it was something that Brown said the team considered after getting Shuster in the first round.

“The fact that we got both of them, we’re excited about that,” said Brown, about getting both Franklin and Elder. “We didn’t really deviate from the plan. The difference was Elder slid some, and he feels like he’s a pretty good pitcher, and he had options to go back.”

“So he’s (Elder) probably going to end up being a bit of an overpay. But at the end of the day, without a second-round pick, we feel like we’re getting two third-round picks with Elder and Franklin. Then Strider we had positioned in the fourth, and we pretty much played the board. We knew at that point Elder was a tough sign for a lot of teams and probably wouldn’t be taken, so we played the board and wound up getting both Strider and Elder.”

Brown also talked about the shortened draft and how it forced teams to alter their process. He acknowledged that it would cause them to miss out on signing some high school players that normally would go after the first five rounds.

“The tough part is that we miss signing some high school guys in the sixth round through the 10th round,” he said. “Usually you can move your money around, and you’re still in play for those guys. But at the end of the day, we feel like there’s some college guys that understand we’re in a pandemic, and they understand that they want to play and realize that they weren’t top picks in the first five rounds.

The signing period for undrafted players will open Sunday morning with signings capped at just $20,000.

“So we’ve got a group of guys that we are going to pursue aggressively and try to get them signed, and we feel pretty good about most of them. So we’ll be aggressive on Sunday morning when they open up the gate.”