Atlanta Braves mock draft: a Georgia pitcher coming in June?

In a change that proves nothing is final until announced, the MLB draft will happen as originally scheduled on June 10 and Atlanta Braves mock drafts are starting to roll in.

The Atlanta Braves are going to be short on draft picks this Summer, but at least one draft watcher is thinking they’ll pick close to home for their first pick.

The signings of Marcel Ozuna and Will Smith cost the Braves two draft picks, and although Josh Donaldson’s departure brought one back, the combination leaves them in the position of navigating a deeply-talented class with their first two picks well back in the pack – to the 25th and 97th slots.

If there’s ultimately no 2020 season or if (for instance) Ozuna turns out to be more ‘dud’ than ‘stud’, the Atlanta Braves might end up regretting those calls due to factors out of their control, but that’s a discussion for another day.

In the meantime, the hand that Atlanta has been dealt does put them in a position to get a solid player as part of a deep draft class, though circumstances could impact that as well.

MLB and the MLB Player’s Association have agreed to limits on the draft this year (and it’s a move that could portend future changes). The purpose is obvious:  save the clubs some money at a time when they are still spending a lot and seeing nothing brought in.

Naturally, those who are most impacted – the kids to be drafted – didn’t get any say-so in the process.  Frankly, some of the rules give them no-win choices.

The changes:

  • No more than 10 draft rounds (could be as few as 5)
  • Signing bonus payments reduced to 10% of their value for 2020, with the remainder paid out in two installments over the next two years.  Note: there’s some conflicts in sources about whether this is 10% or a maximum of $100,000.
  • Those left undrafted will have maximum signing bonuses of $20,000. In years past, that could have been as much as $125K without impacting a team’s bonus pool.

In theory, this last rule is supposed to prevent richer clubs (Dodgers, Yankees) from scooping up a slew of young talent that normally would be available.  That could happen anyway, but it’s also quite possible that high schoolers (in particular) might choose the college route in higher numbers instead.

In truth, the Atlanta Braves should be one team arming themselves with $20K checks, contracts, and pens to fan out around the county to do exactly what the negotiators feared:  re-fill their farm system with as much not-yet-blossomed talent as they can find.  It could really pay dividends down the road.

New Draft Rankings for Braves

In the meantime, Baseball America has a new and expanded Top 500 draft prospect (which is a little sad since only 160 or so will be drafted), and their latest mock draft (subscription required) has Atlanta taking their 24th ranked player.

He’s Cole Wilcox of the Georgia Bulldogs.  If you think Mike Foltynewicz or Sean Newcomb look like big guys on the mound, then watch out for this guy:  6’5″/230 with a fastball that sits in the mid-90’s, but can be dialed up to something right at 100 mph.

His slider is also a plus-pitch and he throws a changeup that is no less than average given the speed differential from his fastball.

Here’s some video of him from a Cape Code League start last Summer:

Here’s why such a pick might be sneaky-great:

  • Wilcox has had control issues, but may be emerging from them – that evidence was snuffed when his season was canceled.  That’s the risky part, but it’s probably the only risk.
  • He was pitching alongside Emerson Hancock, projected to be a Top 5 overall pick, so this pair was feeding and learning off one another as Bulldog starters.
  • He’s a draft-eligible sophomore, and thus might be a tougher sign (the Nats already tried and failed to get him in 2018).  Another year, though, and he could easily be in the Top 10.
  • He’s from Ringgold, GA (along I-75 up near Chattanooga), so if any team could persuade him to forgo another year, it ought to be Atlanta.

If there’s a chance to snag him at the back of Round 1?  That’s worth a shot, no doubt.

Next: 25 years ago - Game 2

But it appears that after a lot of discussion about a delay, there will be a June draft after all.  It will be worth watching to see how the Atlanta Braves choose to play that game.