Yesterday, we saw the Braves make a total of eight selections to go with the four they made Thursday as part of the 2016 MLB Draft. Thursday was all about going big and manipulating the draft to their liking. Friday was a lot different as the Braves picked seven college kids from a variety of programs along with one high school player. Not only did they grab a a lot of college guys, their final five selections were all senior (i.e. easy to sign). Let’s dive in.
Round 3, 80th overall – Drew Harrington, LHP, Lousville, Jr. – Overshadowed on a Cardinals team by higher drafted righties Nick Burdi and Kyle Funkhouser, Harrington moved from the bullpen this season and excelled as a starter with a 2.08 ERA in a tough conference while surrendering just three homeruns. He was actually their ace, but of course, that doesn’t necessarily translate to pro ball. Many believe his future will be in the bullpen and I’m inclined to agree. That doesn’t make this pick bad – just curious at first look. Baseball America had Harrington 124th on their pre-draft Top 500 so one might call this pick a reach, but the Braves will make some concessions to get their prize trio of prep arms signed so if they save money with this slot (worth $788,800), the Braves will be happy. Harrington works off his fastball, which gets good late movement, and then mixes in a slider. Both pitches have enough projection to help Harrington become a high leverage reliever.
Round 4, 109th overall – Bryse Wilson, RHP, Orange High School (NC) – Good value from a guy who was absolutely lights out in high school. The biggest question attached to Wilson is will he be able to develop a third pitch at some point so he can have a future as a starter? If not, the Braves have another reliever on their hands – though Wilson has been clocked with better velocity and the slide piece flashes plus potential. Ranked #93 by Baseball America, Wilson is committed to UNC, but I imagine if the Braves were trying to go underslot here, they already have a deal pretty much agreed upon. Wilson is athletic with a smooth delivery, but again, unless he adds a third pitch, the Braves spent their third and fourth round picks on relievers a year after drafting A.J. Minter #75.
Round 5, 139th overall – Jeremy Walker, RHP, Gardner-Webb, Jr. – Another pitcher, but this time, the Braves grab a small college guy. I couldn’t find a lot on Walker, but it appears he can reach the mid-90’s with his velocity and seemed to take a nice step forward this year in the Big South. He upped his strikeout total to 8.88 per nine (two more per nine than he had in 2015). He has great control and a nice slider to go with his fastball. I assume he has a change-of-pace, which will prompt the Braves to try him out as a starter. This is one of those moves where I trust the Braves because Baseball America had him ranked about 200 picks before the Braves grabbed him.
Round 6, 169th overall – Matthew Gonzalez, 2B, Georgia Tech, Sr. – An 11th rounder by the A’s in 2012 who became a Yellow Jacket rather than signing, Gonzalez spent four years improving his game until a breakout campaign as a senior where he posted a .199 ISO and made a lot better contact. Defensively, he’s got the skills (moreso at second or third), but will he hit enough? Last year, he did and if he continues to bloom late, the Braves got themselves a righty with some pop.
Round 7, 199th overall – J.B. Moss, LF, Texas A&M, Sr. – After moving to center field, Moss blossomed for the Aggies this year with a .325/.416/.486 slash. The ISO of .161 was just eight points better than last year, but the overall results were much better. He also went from six steals in nine attempts as a junior to 16 successful steals in as many attempts.
Round 8, 229th overall – Taylor Hyssong, LHP, UNC Wilmington, Sr. – Spent a year at Pitt Community College before transferring to UNCW in 2015. Last year, he got a chance to pitch more, but mainly as a reliever. Interestingly, his LinkedIn page says he was seeking an internship after graduating with a management degree from UNCW. He tossed three scoreless innings against UNC as they beat the nationally-ranked Tar Heels in May. Nothing really stands out in his numbers.
Round 9, 258th overall – Tyler Neslony, RF, Texas Tech, Sr. – The Braves try their luck again with a college senior with big numbers in his final taste of college ball (.308/.398/.526). He actually hit well during his entire career in Lubbock. He’ll be limited to the corners and he might have more power in his bat than we saw in college. If so, this could be a sneaky good pick for a smart and committed ballplayer. That said, Neslony is not that different from any number of college bats that are selected as seniors in the 6th-to-10th round range – they would have been drafted higher if they had enough believers. Neslony didn’t, but he’ll have a chance to prove he has more to give.
Round 10, 289th overall – Marcus Mooney, SS, South Carolina, Sr. – You got to like a kid who comes back as a senior in a big way. Mooney hit just .213/.275/.296 as a junior and tore his hamstring. But he would come back in 2016 and slash .311/.408/.478. So, kudos on that. Mooney hit for no power in college (just 2 HR in 757 AB) nor did he flash much speed.
After a brilliant first day, the second day screamed of restraint so that the Braves could sign their big pieces. They settled for college guys who would be easy to sign over talent that was much more thought of. I like both Harrington and Wilson – especially if the latter can progress into a starter. Gonzalez has some intrigue, but the rest of the Top 10 rounds were just not overly exciting picks. The rest of the draft is free from the slot bonus rules, which might allow Atlanta to get a little bit more creative with their drafting because Day 2 was just…meh.
FYI, I won’t do a review for today’s picks because many of the 30 or so players won’t sign. If I do a review, it will be after we know who signs.