The 2021 MLB Draft kicks off today and I was asked about doing a mock draft. After thinking about it briefly, I decided this draft was too unsettled to try(and fail), but thought a Braves specific mock draft was something doable.
There are actually two mock drafts, one of them being what the actual Braves might do, and a second covering what I would do if I was in charge of making the picks for the Braves, taking everything into consideration. There will be a short little writeup on each of the selections to explain why each player is picked, because even if the team doesn’t select that player they are very likely looking in that direction for a certain player type.
The mock drafts will go five rounds as picks after the fifth round aren’t realistic to do considering that is when so many teams are in money saving mode to make bonus pools work, and those picks often come down to which player from a small list is willing to sign for slightly less money(this is how teams so often go right to the limit of the pools without ever losing a future first rounder for overspending).
Actual Braves - Gavin Williams, RHP, East Carolina
Right now it feels like Will Bednar is the top name on the board, but won’t get there. The Braves clearly want pitching and taking Williams may just be the best pitcher available in the eyes of the Braves. The fact he’s already 22 years old and has some past injury concerns means he is also a candidate to come in somewhat under full slot value.
Matt - Tyler Whitaker, OF, Nevada HS
While he may not be the highest player available on my personal board, Tyler Whitaker is a very intriguing five tool outfielder with a great feel for the game. The types of guys I have ranked higher than him who are still available just won’t be fits in terms of bonus demands. The Braves have been looking at toolsy prep outfielders and Whitaker just happens to be among the ones they are looking at. There could be some chance he goes a bit under full slot too, important because of the next pick I make.
Actual Braves - Malakhi Knight, OF, Washington HS
The Braves are really looking hard at toolsy outfielders and Knight fits that profile well. The Braves are reportedly hoping for Lonnie White, but with this pick I’m operating under the assumption he is gone giving them another overslot candidate and one who wouldn’t be as costly as White is expected to be. A guy like South Dakota’s Chase Mason could be a fit as well if he makes it this far, or Denzel Clarke out of Cal State Northridge if they don’t mind taking a guy with a similar profile from the college side.
Matt - Lonnie White Jr., OF, Pennsylvania HS
Lonnie White Jr. is another toolsy outfielder and another guy with five tool potential. White was mentioned by Kiley McDaniel as a potential overslot guy for the Braves after the first round considering his Penn State football commitment needs to be bought out- but that the Braves aren’t the only team monitoring him for this. Should he be gone the focus may turn to an arm instead of another prep outfield bat.
Actual Braves - Tanner Allen, OF, Mississippi State
The Braves are looking at their share of college bats in this draft too and those guys all seem to have something in common- above average or better hit tools. Allen is another guy in that same profile who also brings a great college track record with the bat into pro ball.
Matt - Kevin Kopps, RHP, Arkansas
This may surprise a lot of people, but the Braves are significantly over their pool with the top two picks and Kopps is the top senior sign type of player this year. He’s a pure reliever, but dominant with just one pitch the way Mariano Rivera was(not a comp as no one compares to Mo). Kopps here assures they get him as I don’t see him dropping to the late fourth round, and taking him this early just helps save more money against the pool. Even if the Braves weren’t as far over as I have them through two rounds, this is a pick I would heavily consider as it would allow more money to be spent on Day 3 just like the team did in 2019. Plus it isn’t like Kopps is all about savings as he is an older, mostly finished product who could help in the Braves pen sooner rather than later- even if he needed the rest of this year off to rest after heavy use, and even if he isn’t more than a middle reliever since he only has one pitch.
Actual Braves - Jordan Viars, OF, Texas HS
The Braves are said to be considering taking a chance on a powerful prep bat if there is money left over. That’s what Viars is, a talented player really rising boards late in the draft process. I went with Viars over Nevada high school 1B Jacob Walsh with this pick as Viars is both young for the class and offers more defensive value than the 1B only Walsh.
Matt - Mason Black, RHP, Lehigh
The Braves are certainly looking at college pitching and Black was a potential first rounder coming into the spring following a strong 2019 Cape showing. He didn’t have the spring that he or teams wanted, but he could be an bargain if he’s able to get back to his 2019 form.
Actual Braves - Glenn Albanese, RHP, Louisville
The Braves land a second college arm in their top five picks and Albanese is a bit like Mason Black in that he was expected to go much higher coming into the year but slipped this spring. Albanese’s drop is more about injury and the fact he had a breakout in fall ball in 2020, so we didn’t get a long look to see just how real the breakout was this spring. Albanese also isn’t in the position to try returning to school to add to his value next year, considering he is already nearing 23 years old and would be pushing his 24th birthday at the time of the 2022 MLB Draft.
Matt - Anthony “Blaise” Priester, C, Louisiana HS
At this point the college pitching is starting to dry up a bit, so the Braves go with a promising catcher who possesses a pair of legitimate plus tools in the arm and power. Signability is a concern in general after the first two picks, but with Priester being committed to a JUCO program rather than a four year college his signability shouldn’t cause many issues.