Cody Ponce is a right-hander out of Cal Poly Pomona. Coming off his junior season, he measures in at a towering 6’5”, 235 lbs. He tosses a mid-90’s fastball, as well as a cutter and a changeup. His fastball and cutter are considered to be his stronger pitches. His changeup is used more sparingly. This is a kid who’s projected to go in the top 15, and he may not be on the board when Atlanta makes their selection. While Ponce is projected to be a mid-rotation starter and has great stuff, he is not much of a strikeout pitcher. Ponce has the “stuff” but the numbers aren’t impressive… and this is in D-II ball. I’m not sure Ponce is the route I want the Braves to take with their first selection.
Harris is a Junior out of Missouri State who has the perfect build for a pitcher at 6’4”, 190 lbs. In 2015, he has been nothing short of sensational for the Bears. In 14 starts, Harris went 8-1 with a 1.85 ERA, while hitters struggled to a .189 average against him. Perhaps the most impressive stat is that he had 113 Ks. That’s eight strikeouts a start. I’m a lot bigger on Harris than Ponce. His three pitch arsenal consists of a fastball, curveball and changeup. He has about a 15 mph drop off between his fastball and curveball. Like Ponce, he is projected to be a mid-rotation starter, but I think he may have the upside to become a top of the rotation starter. Like Ponce, there’s a solid chance Harris is off the board by #14. Jon is a righty.
Phil Bickford is no stranger to the first round. In 2013, he was drafted by Toronto at 10th overall, but opted not to sign with the team. What if he doesn’t sign again? Not to worry. Bickford transferred from Cal State Fullerton to Community College of Southern Nevada in order to make himself draft eligible. In 2014, he was Perfect Game Summer Player of the Year. Bickford is still just 19 years old, and measures in at 6’4”, 200 pounds as a righty. Not only does he have a nasty mane, he has nasty stuff as well. This year at CSN, Bickford went 9-1 with a 1.45 ERA in 16 starts. He also had 166 K’s. That’s over 10 a game. Talking about living up to the hype. Bickford throws a low to mid-90’s fastball and incorporates in a slider as well. He is also in the process of mixing in a changeup. Bickford already has a plus fastball that he could throw even faster in a relief role, and is building on his secondary pitches. I’m big on Bickford.
For those who really follow baseball, Brady Aiken’s name likely rings a bell. He was year’s first overall selection in the draft by the Astros, but after they saw his medical reports and had a disagreement regarding his contract, the two never came to an agreement. Now Aiken has undergone Tommy John Surgery after tearing his UCL in February. The talent is there. Aiken is an elite talent. But the question marks surrounding his health are quite worrisome. However, it’s clear the Braves aren’t shying away from past TJS patients, and they have 5 of the first 75 picks in the first round. It’s a gamble at #14, but if Aiken can fall to Atlanta with their second selection at #28 (thanks Ervin Santana) than I say the Braves roll the dice. Aiken had a career 1.09 ERA in 32 high school appearances (27 starts). He also had 260 K’s in 160.2 innings pitched. People are comparing this kid to Clayton Kershaw. He is very polished for a kid his age (he’s still just 18) and has great command. He tosses a fastball, curveball and changeup that are all effective pitches. Is John Hart a risk taker? The reward may outweigh the risk. Aiken is the biggest question mark in this year’s draft.
James Kaprielian comes out of the school Brady Aiken initially committed to, UCLA. He has served as their number 1 starter the last two seasons, and has seriously built up his stock since being drafted in the 40th round by Seattle in the 2012 Draft. Kaprielian is a right hander with dominant D-1 stats. In 66 appearances for UCLA (31 starts) he has a 2.06 ERA and 275 strikeouts in 253 innings pitched. He also has a great pitcher’s build at 6’3”, 190 lbs. He has pitched for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. Kaprielian has good command (has made HUGE strides since his freshman year) and throws a lot of strikes, while using a four pitch arsenal that consists of a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. He has many variations of his curveball and that alongside his fastball, is his bread and butter. Kaprielian is one of the more polished pitching options that Braves have to choose from.