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Braves stay on course with plethora of early-round picks

By Bill Ballew

Replacing a legend may not be easy, but Roy Clark didn’t show many signs of strain in his first draft as Braves scouting director.

Clark, who replaced longtime scouting director Paul Snyder last July when the 64-year-old Snyder reduced his workload, didn’t need antacids before the draft. It was business as usual for Clark and the Braves, who had eight of the draft’s first 106 selections.

"I felt completely relaxed," Clark said. "I slept great the night before and was comfortable all day. I was able to do that because we have an outstanding scouting staff with a tremendous work ethic. I knew the preparation we all put into the draft, so I was comfortable with the way the entire day unfolded."

Clark is the first to admit that having Snyder and assistant scouting director Dayton Moore at his side made the situation even more comfortable. The result was a typical Atlanta draft, with high school players taken with the first nine picks and 14 of the first 16. And 10 of those first 16, predictably, were pitchers.

The Braves’ draft also represented geographic diversity with a heavy touch of home cooking. Third baseman Scott Thorman, the Braves’ second first-round pick, hails from Toronto. Fourth-rounder Brian Montalbo, a righthander, is from Anchorage. But four other players taken in the first nine rounds are from Georgia, including three from the Atlanta area. Clark’s first pick was righthander Adam Wainwright from Glynn Academy on St. Simons Island.

"We’re delighted with the way the board fell," Clark said. "If you look at our draft, we spanned the globe, as the old saying goes. We took kids from Toronto, Anchorage, Honolulu and Puerto Rico. But we also got some Georgia boys that we really like. The state of Georgia was loaded this year, and we feel we drafted some of that local talent accordingly."

In the most unpredictable draft ever, Atlanta wasted little time contributing to the uncertainty by taking Wainwright with the 29th overall selection. Though he was a surprise, Wainwright fits the mold of recent Braves draft picks. Standing nearly 6-foot-7, he’s a power pitcher who has been clocked as high as 94 mph with a sharp breaking ball.

While pitching again dominated, Clark focused on infield help with Atlanta’s second, third and fourth selections.

In addition to Thorman, who was the 30th overall choice, the Braves used two supplemental selections on middle infielders—Kelly Johnson, a shortstop from Westwood High in Austin, and Aaron Herr, who is expected to move to second base after playing shortstop at Hempfield High in Lancaster, Pa. Herr is the son of former major leaguer Tommy Herr.

"I used to love to watch Tommy Herr play," Clark said. "He was a winner, a hard-nosed competitor, and Aaron is the same type of player. That’s also true with Kelly Johnson. We scouted Kelly very heavily and felt he was one of the best middle infielders in the country. We felt strongly about both of those kids."

Thorman, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound lefthanded-hitting third baseman, was a question mark for many teams because he didn’t play high school baseball in Toronto. The Braves scouted him for more than two years, with Snyder making a couple of trips north to watch him.

"Scott is a big, strong third baseman whom we have been tracking for a long time," Clark said. "We’ve had our Canadian scouts on him for quite a while. He has outstanding makeup and great strength. It also doesn’t hurt that we’ve clocked him as high as 95 on the mound, which could serve as an insurance policy. But we see him as a superb third baseman with a cannon, and we feel he could be a big part of our future."

The 2000 draft could define the organization in the coming years.

"The key component with every player we draft is not only ability, but makeup," Clark said. "Some of our guys may not have been ranked highly in Baseball America, but we are thrilled with the players we were able to take. I don’t think the board could have fallen any better for us."

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