Braves Draft Report
By Bill Ballew
ATLANTA--Smiles were commonplace in Georgia on draft day. For the third time in as many years, the Braves selected a local product in the first round, taking outfielder Jeff Francoeur with the 23rd overall pick in the draft.
Scouting director Roy Clark targeted Francoeur throughout the spring and crossed his fingers that the outfielder from Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., would slip past other teams that had significant interest, particularly Cleveland at No. 22. Francoeur said he hoped to go to the Braves and that the organization could be a perfect fit.
"I love the organization and everything I've learned about the Braves over the past few months," said Francoeur, who follows in the footsteps of Georgians Adam Wainwright (2000) and Macay McBride (2001). "I love the fact that their minor league teams are nearby, especially Rome (in 2003) and Greenville. The negotiations might take a little while, but I feel that we're both on the same page and that things can be worked out pretty fast."
The biggest hurdle the two sides must overcome is Francoeur's affinity for football. An all-America defensive back in high school, Francoeur has a football scholarship waiting at Clemson, where he could play both sports. That leverage scared some potential suitors.
The Braves have been able to sign their first-round picks since failing to sign another two-sport star, Chad Hutchinson in 1995. The team talked to Francouer at length in the week leading up to the draft.
"Things were a little up and down over the last four or five days, but I think there's an understanding on both sides," Francoeur said. "I'm excited to be an Atlanta Brave and I'm looking forward to getting my career started."
Aggressive in all phases of the game, the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Francoeur has a frame that reminds many long-time members of the Braves' scouting department of former Braves outfielder Dale Murphy. He also was rated the best athlete among high school players in the draft, possessing outstanding speed, a strong arm and excellent power potential.
"I like to play the game wide open," Francoeur said. "I like to get after it and have fun. I guess you could say I take a football approach to the game by giving it everything I have on every play."
With their supplemental first-round pick, the Braves took lefthander Dan Meyer from James Madison. The highest-drafted college pitcher taken by Atlanta since Derek Lilliquist in 1987, Meyer has an above-average fastball that has been clocked as high as 93 mph, along with a good splitter. He needs to refine his mechanics and improve his changeup, but the Braves said Meyer has the potential to move rapidly once those areas are ironed out.
The Braves nabbed another Georgia player by taking catcher Brian McCann from Duluth High in the second round. McCann and Francoeur are good friends, having played on regional all-star teams together. The 64th overall pick, McCann is the son of former Marshall head coach Howard McCann. He was considered one of the top catchers in the draft, with a strong arm and a quick bat with plus power potential.
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