Is it too early to start talking about a draft in June consisting of players we won’t see in the Majors for years? Of course not! The Braves have to nail this draft. They lost some compensation picks and are still suffering from the international signing sanctions. Anthopoulos has drafted very well so far, and I expect it to continue in 2020.
RHP Cole Wilcox – Georgia
I wanted Cole Wilcox the first time he entered the draft, but signability issues caused him to fall to the 37th round to Washington. The 6’5″ Catoosa County native is a local kid, and after some “meh” Freshman season moments, he’s struck out 15 in 11 innings. Wilcox is going to have to work on his overall body of work to keep his draft stock around the 25 range, but he did have an eye-popping one-run complete game against Florida in 2019. The talent is there, and the looming SEC schedule will make or break Wilcox.
OF Robert Hassell – Tennessee (HS)
A Vanderbilt commit, Hassell could turn into a hassle to sign (I’m sorry for that). A first-round selection should be enough to lure him away from the Commodores. MLB.com has him as the best pure hitter in the 2020 High School class after slashing .514/.548/.886 at the PDP tournament in South Korea. They believe the lefty will max out at around 15 HRs per season, then again, we heard those sorts of things about Drew Waters. He has a rocket arm and the speed to stick in center. Even though the Braves have Pache and Waters coming, Anthopoulos could look to refill the cupboard.
3B Gage Workman – Arizona State
A 6’4″ switch-hitting power third baseman? Sign me up. Workman has played shortstop in the Cape Cod League, but his bigger build will more than likely move him to the hot corner. The fact that he has the natural ability to play short will be crucial to him sticking at third.
- Gage Workman was one of the hottest players in the Sun Devil lineup of at the end of the season and finished the year batting .330 with 40 runs scored, 42 RBIs and eight home runs. He had hits in 20 of the final 26 games and multiple hits in 12 of those.
- He was second on the team with 20 two-out RBIs and successfully advanced runners 63 times on 125 chances (.504)
OF Zach Veen – Florida (HS)
Another SEC baseball commit, Veen has pledged to Florida for next season, but that could all change with a 1st round draft selection. A 6’4″ lefty with a sweet swing should be enough to draw the eye of Braves scouts, and if the draft was today, Veen would be my pick. He’s drawn some Cody Bellinger comparisons, and the sky is the limit for the 18-year-old corner outfielder.
SS Casey Martin, Arkansas
Martin might be a bit out of Atlanta’s draft range, but with the international signing restrictions hitting their middle infield depth hard, he’ll get some looks from the Braves. MLB.com has some high praise for his speed and defense; the quotes here make me think he can turn into a Trea Turner type of player:
“An explosive athlete, Martin offers an exciting combination of power and speed. He records run times that grade from 70-80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, though he’s still learning how to translate that quickness into stolen bases. He has the potential to be a 25-25 player but gets overly homer-conscious and his right-handed swing gets too uphill, leading to strikeouts.”
If Martin falls to Atlanta, he might be too good to pass up.
SS Alika Williams – Arizona State
A former 32nd round pick of the Yankees, Williams has a lot to prove this season after a fantastic sophomore campaign. He’s made some serious strides, as documented by Arizona State’s Statistics Department:
- Quietly continued to put up impressive numbers as a sophomore, embracing his role as a cleanup hitter with All-Pac-12 honorable mention accolades with a .333 batting average with 53 RBIs – easily a career high in the category. He had just 20 total RBIs as a freshman.
- When he did get RBIs, he tended to get a lot of them. He had 16 multi-RBI games was second on the team with nine games with three or more RBIs.
- Williams homered four times and recorded 12 doubles and three triples. He slugged .474 on the season – nearly 150 points higher than his freshman total of .333. With 19 extra-base hits on the year, he far surpassed his freshman total of nine.
- The sophomore was incredible when falling behind in counts, posting a .409 average (18-of-44) when facing 1-2 counts. Of his 71 hits on the year, 41 came from behind in the count.
- He was 37-of-105 (.352) on two-strike hitting on the year – striking out a team-low 28 times while walking 33 times, making him the only player on the roster with more walks than strikeouts.
- 20 of his 53 RBIs (.377) came when falling behind in counts.
I’ve gone into this much depth on Williams because he seems like a player the Braves would fall in love with. He’s not as toolsy as Braden Shewmake, but if he has a big 2020, watch out for this kid.
3B Jordan Walker – Georgia (HS)
A Decatur product, Walker has already announced his intentions to play at Duke in 2021. A first-round selection could change all of that. Standing at 6’5″ and oozing with raw power, there’s a lot to like about him. His parents attended MIT & Harvard, so athletically and mentally he’s bound to be as gifted as they come. He’s had some experience on the mound and hit 93 MPH, so the arm is there as well. I could see there being some signability issues; his parents value education and could want him to pursue his degree. However, that’s all speculation on my part. The kid can mash and will no doubt get some looks being in Atlanta’s backyard.