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Braves diamonds in the rough: The 2018 MLB draft class

We continue our look back at Atlanta Braves NCAA Division II players with a look at the 2018 draft class.

Atlanta Braves prospect Justin Dean bats for the the Rome MiLB team. Photo Credit: Garrett Spain

Talking Chop continues its stroll down NCAA Division II memory lane with a look at the 2018 MLB draft class. In case you are new to the series, here’s a quick look at what you’ve missed:

We ‘ll go ahead and skip over the 2017 MLB draft class, because there wasn’t much of a success story. The selection of Bruce Zimmermann in the fifth round was interesting to say the least. Mount Olive is a NCAA DII regular in producing solid seasons and good pitching, and Zimmermann was arguably not even the best pitcher on his team that year. That’s what makes it odd that he went so high. His full arsenal seemed under developed at the time, but he made a living filling the strike zone and getting hitters out. Zimmermann is now on the Baltimore Orioles and the other three draft picks from that year didn’t make it past the 2018 season.

Which brings us to that 2018 MLB draft. Now, it doesn’t blow the doors off by any means. At least not yet. This draft did produce one of the more exciting prospects currently on the farm and a member of the current 60-man roster (no matter how much of a long shot it may be that he plays).

Brett Langhorne, 3B, No. 10 Carson-Newman: Langhorne had a big senior campaign for the Eagles hitting .327 with a .977 OPS and a team-high eight home runs. He skipped over Rome after a decent 2018 debut in Danville and struggled to make contact with the Fire Frogs last year.

Justin Dean, OF, No. 17 Lenoir-Rhyne: Dean could wind up the steal of this draft class, although he is part of a really deep outfield throughout the system. He followed up his breakout 2017 with a grand finale for the Bears, slashing .398/.498/.640 with 13 doubles, seven triples, six home runs and 14 stolen bases. In his 2019 all-star campaign in Rome, he was a jack-of-all-trades, leading the South Atlantic League in runs (85), triples (9) and stolen bases (47) while belting 18 doubles and nine home runs.

Cameron Kurz, RHP, UCSD, No. 18: Kurz was phenomenal in his final season with the Tritons, coming out of the pen to go 5-1 with a 0.74 ERA and nine saves in 2018. He couldn’t make it out of Rookie ball in parts of two seasons with the Braves and was released last summer.

Tanner Lawson, LHP, St. Edward’s No. 21: Lawson had a nice final season with the Hilltoppers, going 11-3 with 2.75 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 98.1 innings. He converted to a bullpen fixture in Rome in 2019 and took his lumps, but overall performed well going 4-6 with a 2.14 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 30 appearances. Most promising perhaps, was that he was stronger in the second half down the stretch.

Zach Seipel, RHP, Minnesota Cookston, No. 27: Seipel became the first-ever Golden Eagle to go in the MLB draft after an impressive season out of the pen, going 4-2 with a 2.70 ERA and eight saves. Seipel is still in the Braves system, but has yet to advance from Rookie ball.

Logan Brown, C, Southern Indiana, No. 35: Brown has already built an impressive resume for a guy taken in the 35th round. Following in his father’s footsteps — Kevin Brown, who also caught at USI — Brown capped a solid career with the Screaming Eagles that translated into pro ball. He was an All-Star in 2019 in Rome hitting .301 with a .734 OPS before jumping to Florida where contact didn’t come as easy. He caught Dallas Keuchel’s first game in a Braves uniform at a Rome rehab start and is now on the 60-man roster. He’s got a long way to go, but not a bad start to his professional career at all.