The MLB Draft is less than a week away, and after only selecting five players in last year’s COVID shortened season, the Braves will have to nail some picks to help replenish their farm system. In the past, we’ve seen the Braves employ a variety of strategies. Sometimes they draft more signable prospects in the early rounds and attempt to spend money on less signable guys later on. Sometimes they take a swing at a high-priced prep prospect like Carter Stewart.
In 2020, the Braves went in on multiple college players that they hoped were more of a sure thing in a COVID shortened season for college and high school baseball. One thing is for sure, Alex Anthopoulos is a difficult man to predict, and so is the MLB Draft. Regardless, I’ll throw out some prospects that I like for Atlanta. Keep in mind, in baseball, teams typically draft the best player available instead of focusing on need. In three or more years when most of these guys are ready — who knows what a team’s needs will be. Lastly, I’ll be using MLBPipeline‘s player rankings to build a draft board.
Round 1, Pick 24: C Harry Ford, North Cobb HS
One thing that has been consistent, the Braves love their homegrown products. Atlanta’s farm system has seen a lot of talented players either be traded or graduate, so I think taking a super talented high school player to help restore the depth of the system isn’t too out of bounds. Ford may not drop all the way to Atlanta, but if he does, the Braves would be foolish not to pounce on him. He is listed as a catcher but is athletic enough to play all over the diamond, which is why he’s drawing Craig Biggio comparisons. With a 6.42 60-yard dash and incredible bat speed, perhaps the Braves can develop another toolsy hitting prospect like Drew Waters, Michael Harris, and Austin Riley.
If Ford is gone, I could see the Braves targeting Gunnar Hoglund out of Ole Miss. The former first-round pick is potentially a top-ten talent but underwent Tommy John Surgery. In 2020, Hoglund had a 1.16 ERA over 23.1 innings and followed it up with a 2.87 ERA over 62.2 innings in 2021. He has a solid three pitch mix featuring a solid fastball, tight slider, and a changeup. Hoglund has a nice frame and has only given up 35 walks over 154 innings — something that should appeal to Braves fans.
Round 2, Pick 59: LHP Ky Bush, St. Mary’s
Bush is getting a bit of first-round love, but for now, MLB.com projects him to go in the middle to late second round. All of these teams have different draft boards, so it doesn’t matter. I’ll break my own rule here and draft for a need, Bush is a college arm that could be an impact reliever sooner rather than later. He was a starter at St. Mary’s, but I could see the Braves using him in the bullpen. Standing 6’6 and 240 pounds, Bush features a hard fastball and a slurve-esque slider. He had nice numbers in 2021. Over 14 starts, he posted a 2.99 ERA with a 12.9 K/9. He could be a guy who helps a team within the next two seasons.
Round 3, Pick 96: 3B Zack Gelof, Virginia
Third base is one of the thinner spots in Atlanta’s organization, which is interesting considering Gelof is a guy I have had my eye on. Scouts rave about Gelof’s raw power but question if he may need to move to left field as a big-bodied power hitter with solid athleticism. He has some swing and miss in his game, but he posted a 1.215 OPS in 2020 over 18 games. Gelof continued his strong hitting in 2021, putting up a .312 average, .878 OPS, and nine home runs. Of course, if you have a keen eye, you’ll see his scouting report is very similar to that of Austin Riley. Maybe the Braves can harness his raw power in the same way.
Round 4, Pick 126: OF Tanner Allen, Mississippi State
One of the heroes of Mississippi State’s National Championship run, Allen may have outplayed his current late-fourth to early-fifth round projection with his play in Omaha. As far as long-term potential goes, he isn’t to the level of some other college players, but you can’t ignore a champion who just hit .383/.486/.621/1.007 over a season with 11 home runs and 19 doubles. Allen has a quick, swatty left-handed swing that should make him a viable bench bat at worst, something the Braves could use pretty desperately right now. With an outfield that’s graduating talent quickly, I’d be fine taking a swing on a productive player like Allen.