Braves: A look at the best undrafted players to choose from

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A while back MLB determined that hosting a draft only an eighth of its original size was a nice way to cut costs during this unique season, slashing the 2020 MLB Draft down to just five rounds instead of its usual 40 (which reportedly saves teams roughly $1 million this year). Of course it’s not just shortening the event itself, MLB also implemented bonus deferrals that allow teams to pay their respective bonuses in three different installments ($100,000 at time of signing, with the rest spread over two more payments). Evidently saving a million bucks requires drastic measures, and here I thought it was all about the GOOD OF THE GAME!

Well, as an unfortunate effect from the league’s decision to enforce said changes, there’s a ton of talent still left undrafted this year, and starting Sunday all 30 teams will be allowed to go after them. For those unaware, here’s the jist of it: beginning Sunday, teams will be able to sign an unlimited number of undrafted free agents for $20,000, which compared to drafts in the past, accounts for less than 15% of what some undrafted players have earned. So obviously this means there’s also a ton of talented players left undrafted that will decide to return to college, but even so, the Braves and the 29 other organizations will offer their 20 Gs while hoping for the best. Without getting into signability or any kind of leverage-type nuances, here are several of the best players still undrafted. In this exercise best is per Kiley McDaniel’s top-100 list at ESPN, and I’ve also included players that have decided to attend college in the last 24 hours, inserting them where they would’ve been on our list (in italics):

 

*No. 27, Tanner Witt — P/3B

On Thursday, after going undrafted, prep two-way player Tanner Witt announced he plans to play ball at the University of Texas. I can’t officially confirm, but from my research Witt didn’t even get a call during the draft. Unreal.

 

No. 48, Carson Montgomery — RHP 

Likely headed to Florida State since he was passed up in the draft, Montgomery enters Sunday as the top-ranked available player. With a mid-90s mph fastball and two additional secondaries that rate above-average, Montgomery has both the stuff and size to of been taken on Day 1 Wednesday, but given his strong commitment to FSU his bonus demand would’ve probably been rather steep. This was perhaps the worst draft ever to attempt to leverage an MLB team. Either way… I highly doubt Montgomery accepts $20,000 to go play in the lower minors when he could become an instant star in Tallahassee. 

 

*No. 49, Tommy Mace, RHP

With a perfect record (3-0) and 1.67 ERA through his first four starts at Florida in 2020, many believed Mace would come off the board fairly quick during the draft. But on Friday evening, after reportedly turning down a GOOD offer on draft day, Mace has decided to return to the Gators and strive for a top-15 selection in next year’s draft. Great news for Florida fans. Disappointing for MLB fans. 

 

No. 55, Cayden Wallace — 3B

Wallace, an Arizona prep star, is considered a toolsy third baseman projected to develop into a big time power-hitter. He also has experience at shortstop, the outfield and even on the mound as a pitcher (clocked as high as 90 mph with a curveball, changeup and slider). Wallace is committed to play at the University of Arkansas, and he’ll likely opt to improve his draft stock by playing college ball rather than accept a small signing bonus.

 

No. 56, Drew Bowser — 3B

Bowser played high school ball with the Mets’ first round pick this year, Pete Crow-Armstrong, and is said to be one of the top infielders from the 2020 class, especially after winning the home run derby and MVP award during the Perfect Game All-American Classic last summer. Bowser’s hit tool was given a 55 out of 80 and his arm is reportedly just as strong from the hot corner, rendering him a profile eerily similar to that of Nolan Arenado when he was a prep player. However, Bowser has been committed to Stanford University since 2017, plus he has family ties there. Keeping with the trend thus far… I highly doubt he signs for $20K. 

 

No. 57, Sterlin Thompson — LF

Thompson was the University of Florida’s final commit this past March, after originally planning to play ball at Stetson. As a tall lefty swinger (6’3″, 185 lbs.), Thompson’s draft stock varied a good bit amongst the industry’s prospect rankings, landing a no. 54 ranking via Perfect Game but nonexistent on THE BOARD at FanGraphs. Regardless, the general consensus is that Thompson’s smooth swing and raw power give him plenty of upside. 

 

No. 62, Kevin Parada — C

One of two catchers on this list, Parada was projected to go in the second round on Thursday and was ranked just inside the top-50 heading into the draft, per MLB Pipeline, though a deal never materialized. Coming out of Loyola High School in California, the right-handed hitting backstop won the MVP award in Perfect Game’s 2018 WWBA World Championship, officially putting him on the radar as far as a potential draft prospect. Scouts have his bat and arm above-average but don’t like his defense behind the plate, particularly his receiving mechanics. 

According to the Braves vice president of scouting, Dana Brown, the team has a group of roughly 30 players they intend to go after on Sunday, however, most will likely be lower-tiered talent instead of the ones listed in this post. Per The Athletic‘s Keith Law, the Braves are expected to sign its first pick, lefty Jared Shuster, below the $2.74 million slot bonus.

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