Braves Draft Report
Prep pitchers still prevail
ATLANTA--The Braves entered the 2006 draft with as much depth
throughout the organization--particularly on the mound--as they have
enjoyed in recent memory, so scouting director Roy Clark
went with the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach on the first day of the draft.
The Braves stuck with their tried-and-true philosophy of drafting high
school pitchers with three of their first four picks.
Clark & Co. began the process by taking Florida high school outfielder/first baseman Cody Johnson
in the first round with the 24th overall selection. The Braves then
went with prep hurlers with their next three picks, nabbing righthander
and lefties Steven Evarts
and Jeff Locke
The Braves' selection of Johnson is reminiscent of their taking Scott Thorman
with the 30th overall pick in the 2000 draft. Johnson, much like
Thorman during his high school days, is known for his bat, a reputation
he garnered last summer. The product of Mosley High School in Panama
City won the MVP award at a Perfect Game wood bat event in Marietta,
Ga., last year before taking the Jackie Robinson Award at the Aflac
All-America game in August. Johnson impressed scouts with his plus raw
Prior to the draft, there was concern about a hitch in
Johnson's swing that led to a modest showing this spring. He is also
only an average defender at best in both the outfield and at first
base. At the same time, he will not turn 18 until August and possesses
a strong work ethic that impressed the Braves.
Rasmus, the younger brother of St. Louis' 2005 first-round draft pick Colby Rasmus
went to Atlanta with the 38th overall selection. The righthander has
been in the baseball spotlight throughout much of his amateur career,
which includes serving as the starting catcher for the 1999 Phenix City
(Ala.) club that reached the Little League World Series. He has touched
97 mph with his fastball and possesses an excellent 11-to-5 slider that
sits in the 80-83 mph range. While his thick frame does not project
well, Rasmus' proven track record and impressive arm strength led to
his being a supplemental first-rounder.
The Braves used the 43rd
overall pick to take Evarts, a southpaw out of Robinson High in Tampa, and
the team's first second-round pick on Locke, another lefthander out of Kennett High in Conway, N.H.
Evarts ranked higher than Johnson on many
draft boards after his fastball increased in velocity this spring,
going from the mid-80s to 88-92. He possesses an outstanding changeup
with both fade and depth, but needs considerable work on developing a
third pitch. The Braves like Evarts' athleticism, and believe their
player development staff can fine-tune the raw tools the lefty brings
to the organization.
Locke is another lefty that projects
extremely well. Locke has a big frame and a loose arm that produces
fastballs that reach 93 mph. He showed a better feel for his curveball
this past spring and his changeup continues to display promise. By
growing up in a cold-weather state, Locke's arm has low mileage, but
there are some concerns regarding the level of competition he has faced.WIGWAM WISPS
• The Braves, who had seven of the draft's first 100 picks, went with a local product with their fifth overall selection. Dustin Evans
a righthander from Georgia Southern, had a disappointing junior season
that was hampered by a stress fracture in his right elbow. Evans earned
raves last summer in the Cape Cod League by posting a 2.27 ERA in seven
starts. His fastball reaches 95, but is flat more often than not. His
low-80s slider has the potential to be a plus pitch, while his changeup
is a below-average offering at this point.