|Jim Callis' Quick Take|
|No shock here . . . A Georgia flavor to a very good draft. I'm still not sure how an athlete with a bat like Georgia high school outfielder Jason Heyward's lasts until the No. 14 pick. Iowa high school third baseman Jon Gilmore (supplemental first round) didn't get as much hype as he could have because of a hamstring injury, but he can really hit and has power. Georgia righthander Joshua Fields (second round) had a bad spring, but if he can regain his college and Cape Cod League form from 2006, he's a steal. Mercer righthander Cory Gearrin (fourth round), another Georgia pick, is a sidearmer who could reach the majors fast, a la Mets third-rounder Joe Smith from the 2006 draft.|
ATLANTA--Once again, the Braves didn't have to look far to find their first-round draft pick. Continuing a tradition that includes such recent top picks as Adam Wainwright (2000), Macay McBride (2001) and Jeff Francoeur (2002), Atlanta nabbed a Georgia product in Jason Heyward with the 14th overall selection.
"Getting drafted and having the chance to play for my hometown team is a dream come true," said the five-tool outfielder from McDonough, Ga., which is less than 30 minutes south of Turner Field. "When I heard them call my name, I was in awe. It was unbelievable."
Heyward, who signed a letter of intent with UCLA, is expected to begin his professional career in the near future.
The 17-year-old comes from an athletic family. His father played basketball at Dartmouth and his uncle took the hardwoods at UCLA under head coach John Wooden. Heyward has above-average athleticism with off-the-charts raw power that has led to comparisons to Fred McGriff and Willie McCovey.
Heyward also was one of the youngest players in the draft. Yet despite his youth he is an impressive physical specimen, standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 220 pounds. The lefthanded batter hit at a .520 clip with eight home runs and 32 RBIs as a senior at Henry County High.
The aspect that impressed scouts most was Heyward's advanced feel for the game. He is extremely patient and takes great pride in his pitch recognition and plate discipline, which led to 43 walks during his senior season. He also makes hard and consistent contact and is willing to use the entire field.
Heyward played center field, first base and pitcher during his high school career, but the Braves envision him moving to right field in the professional ranks. An above-average runner with at least an average arm, Heyward should make the shift without a hitch upon reporting to either the Gulf Coast League or Rookie-level Danville.
"I've dreamed for a long time of having the opportunity to play major league baseball," Heyward said. "To actually get that chance with a team that has such a great tradition like the Braves is amazing."
Unlike previous years when the Braves had a plethora of early-round picks, scouting director Roy Clark owned only one supplemental first-round choice, the 33rd overall, and used it to take Iowa City High third baseman Jon Gilmore. He struggled with hamstring issues as a senior after blistering the showcase circuit last summer. Gilmore is similar to Heyward in that he has impressive size at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds and the potential of producing above-average power.
A shortstop in high school, Gilmore has the tools to be a throwback third baseman with his raw power, consistent hands and strong arm. A two-sport star who attracted some interest from colleges as a quarterback, Gilmore signed a baseball letter of intent with Wichita State.
• With their first pick in the second round, the Braves selected righthanded reliever Joshua Fields. Fields led the Cape Cod League with 13 saves in 2006 before experiencing command issues with his plus breaking ball this spring at Georgia.
• Atlanta's fourth selection was Freddie Freeman from El Modena High (Calif.). Freeman could be a two-way standout in college with his potent bat, power slider and low 90s fastball. Only 17, Freeman has impressive raw power and size at 6-foot-5, and is expected to begin his professional career as a first baseman.