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Braves Draft Report Card

By Jim Callis

Best Pro Debut: RHP Adam Wainwright (1) was Baseball America’s Rookie-level Player of the Year, the No. 1 prospect in the Appalachian League and No. 2 in the Gulf Coast League. His 81-12 strikeout-walk ratio was exceptional for a high school pitcher.

Best Athlete: RHP Kenny Nelson (2) made USA Today’s all-America high school team strictly as a third baseman. (He made BA’s team as a utility player). RHP Zach Miner (4) also was one of the top two-way players in high school.

Best Hitter: SS Kelly Johnson (1) is a line-drive machine with power to the gaps. The Braves believe he’ll develop more pop as he matures.

Best Raw Power: 3B Scott Thorman (1) can hit bombs, which is why Atlanta will keep him in the lineup rather than try to make use of his 94-95 mph fastball.

Fastest Runner: OF Alph Coleman (26) could be a 40-steal guy if he hits enough.

Best Defensive Player: Keoni DeRenne (12) played second base because he was on a team with shortstop prospect Wilson Betemit, but he can play short as well. DeRenne played four positions and didn’t make an error in 20 games at short-season Jamestown.

Best Fastball: RHP Blaine Boyer (3), who touches 95. Atlanta concentrated on high school pitching, and Wainwright, Nelson and RHPs Bryan Digby (2) and Rodric Douglas (10) are all a tick behind Boyer.

Most Intriguing Background: The Braves signed the MVPs of the College World Series in Louisiana State RHP Trey Hodges (17) and the Junior College World Series in Seminole State (Okla.) CC 1B/LHP Adam LaRoche (29). LaRoche , whose father Dave pitched in the majors, is one of five Braves draftees with baseball family connections. The others: SS Aaron Herr (1), son of former Cardinals all-star Tommy; OF Kevin Cust (11), brother of Diamondbacks prospect Jack; RHP Tim McClendon (25), brother of Braves prospect Matt; and OF Anthony Gwynn (33), son of eight-time batting champion Tony. McClendon and Gwynn opted for college. RHP Brian Montalbo (4), whose father Mel played briefly in the NFL, was the highest-drafted player ever out of Alaska.

Closest To The Majors: DeRenne, the first of just six players signed out of Division I colleges. He projects as a utilityman.

Best Late-Round Pick: Most teams liked LaRoche better as a lefthander, but the Braves like his power.

The One Who Got Away: Montalbo, who took his 92-94 mph fastball to California.

Assessment: With six picks in the first two rounds, Roy Clark had a nice luxury in his first year as scouting director. The Braves were last in the draft order but still spent more money on bonuses than any other franchise. As usual, they preferred high school players more than anyone else.

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