After outfielder at top, Braves restock on arms in Draft
Atlanta selects 19 pitchers with its 40 picks, including five in its first 10 selections
ATLANTA -- The Braves have taken significant steps to lock up their young core this year, signing Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran, Craig Kimbrel and Chris Johnson to contract extensions all lasting at least three years.
But as Atlanta looked to the future in this year's First-Year Player Draft, director of scouting Tony DeMacio said those signings had no impact on the Braves' strategy. The club took first baseman Matt Tellor, third baseman Jordan Edgerton and several pitchers among its top 10 picks.
"We're going to try to get the best player or best pitcher that is available for us," DeMacio said. "We're drafting for need. If we see a first baseman and we like him, we're taking him. That doesn't affect what we're doing. We're trying to feed the system with the best possible players we can and with the best pitching, regardless of the position."
First-round selection and 32nd overall pick Braxton Davidson of Asheville, N.C., and seventh-rounder Luke Dykstra, the son of former All-Star outfielder Lenny Dykstra, headlined a Draft class that saw the Braves once again demonstrate their affection for pitching. Atlanta selected 19 hurlers out of its 40 picks.
The Braves are particularly excited about the five pitchers among their top 10 selections, including second-round pick Garrett Fulenchek, who is already signed. Eighth-rounder Bradley Roney will be a reliever, but Atlanta believes the other four are rotation arms.
"They're all starters," DeMacio said of right-handers Fulenchek, Max Povse, Chad Sobotka and lefty Chris Diaz, all taken in consecutive rounds. "We draft them as starters and then some time later on in their careers, the other people decide what they are."
Although Atlanta took five pitchers early on Days 1 and 2, it was just getting started in stockpiling arms. The Braves began Day 3 by selecting five pitchers in their first seven picks. In all, Atlanta spent 14 of its 30 picks of Day 3 on pitching.
One of those first five pitchers of the Draft's final day was right-hander Ashton Perritt of Liberty University. Perritt will pitch as a reliever after splitting his time in college between the outfield and the pitcher's mound.
Perritt helped the Flames earn their first at-large NCAA Tournament bid and earned a spot on the Charlottesville, Va., Regional All-Tournament Team.
Atlanta also selected local product Tucker Baca, a left-hander out of North Gwinnett High in Suwannee, Ga., with its 32nd round pick on Saturday. His fastball sits in the low 90s and sinks, allowing him to get a lot of ground balls.
The Braves concluded Day 3 with a bang, drafting two players with a professional baseball pedigree. Joining Dykstra as a player with a lot to live up to are J.J. Franco, the son of former Mets reliever John Franco, and Grayson Byrd, the son of former Braves hurler and current television analyst Paul Byrd.
Ironically, following a pitching-centric Draft, neither of the sons of pitchers Atlanta drafted will toe the rubber as they begin their own treks to the big leagues. Franco, out of Brown University, is a second baseman and Byrd, committed to LSU, is a shortstop.
Famous names or not, DeMasio likes the depth in Atlanta's 2014 Draft class. If the Day 1 players develop the way the Braves envision, he believes this year will be one the club remembers fondly.
"We feel like we got a good bat No. 1 and we got three guys with Povse, Fulenchek and Sobotka," DeMacio said. "If we hit on those three pitchers and our bat, then we will have done even better than we thought."
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.