Braves “Steal” A Draft Choice

Braves “Steal” A Draft Choice

Credit: Keith Allison via Flickr
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“A steal.”

That’s what ESPN’s Keith Law called the deal in which the Braves acquired lefthander Brian Matusz and the 76th overall pick of the 2016 draft for pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. I don’t always agree with Law, but on this one, he nails it right on the head. This was such a no brainer for the Braves you have to wonder what exactly the Orioles were thinking.

Both of the pitchers the Orioles acquired are worth a look, but neither will thoroughly impress you. Each were the last two 16th round selections by the Braves (which makes the 76th overall they received all the more amazing). A righty out of Mercer, Barker finished his first full season in AAA-Gwinnett after climbing the ladder in quick order. Barker gives up his fair share of line drives, but not many homers. He relies on controlling the strikezone and not exacerbating matters with walks. I’d like his chances for future success more if he could induce more groundballs. I’d also like him a lot more if he could miss more bats. All in all, Barker is a C-grade prospect who could become a bottom-of-the-rotation figure, but has a higher chance of bouncing around the league collecting his fair share of AAA uniforms.

Belicek has some absurd stats – highlighted by a 32K-to-1BB rate over 28.1 innings spent mostly at Rome. He spent last year as a starter after the Braves plucked him from Texas A&M-CC. A lefty with good size, Belicek could have nice value as a left-hand reliever. I’d like to see him pushed aggressively considering this is his Age-23 year and he’s in low-A ball. The O’s are apparently moving him up to the Carolina League for another challenge. As is the case with Caleb Dirks, a reliever with great metrics the Braves sent packing in a small deal, the Braves might have given up a potential solid major league piece in Belicek. That said, despite how difficult the Braves make it seem, finding quality arms for a major league bullpen isn’t the most difficult thing.

The Braves received the lefthander Matusz, who was only the marquee name of the deal, and then immediately designated him for assignment. He had struggled tremendously to begin the year, though I would have preferred seeing if he could right the ship this year and repackage him in a trade. That said, Matusz is a woefully unremarkable reliever. The Orioles were dumb enough to give him $3.9M in arbitration before the season and it didn’t take them long to have buyer’s remorse.

But the players in this deal and even the salaries are inconsequential for the Braves. The salary relief may have aided the Orioles and getting a pair of minor league pitchers with good stats probably helped, but the Braves saw one thing: $839,900 in bonus slot money. That’s how much money the Braves gained in available slot money for their draftees in this year’s draft, giving them a total of $13,224,100. The Braves can go under-slot with their new pick, giving them extra money to allocate to other drafted players who are seeking overslot to sign. On the flipside, Atlanta can add another Top 100 player in this draft. Atlanta now selects #3, #40, #44, #76, #80.

The added selection gives Atlanta increased flexibility to utilize a bigger pool of cash. That’s why this trade was a no-brainer. Atlanta essentially cashed in a pair of 16th rounders who didn’t rank among their Top 30 prospects into a guy that could be a Top 30 prospect within a year. And you don’t have to go too far back to find a #76th overall selection that blossomed into a superstar. Ten years ago, it’s where Giancarlo Stanton was selected.


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