No Minor Selection

Braves break tradition by picking college pitcher Mike Minor

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ATLANTA—That the Braves took a college pitcher with not only their first selection but their first two picks may not have caused hell to freeze over, but it could be considered a close equivalent.
The Braves and a few other teams in the top 10 liked the No. 7 overall pick, LHP Mike Minor, more than Baseball America (we ranked him No. 23 in our final predraft Top 50 rankings). Atlanta was locked into a strict budget, and while Minor will advance quickly, he doesn't have the ceiling you'd expect from a No. 7 choice. RHP David Hale (third round) and SS Mycal Jones (fourth), by contrast, have huge ceilings but a long way to go to reach theirs.

No team has been more consistent in selecting high school players, particularly pitchers, than the Braves since the draft debuted in 1965. Vanderbilt's Mike Minor, taken seventh overall, became only the third collegiate hurler taken first by Atlanta, joining fellow southpaws Ken Dayley, a Portland pitcher nabbed with the third overall pick in 1980, and Derek Lilliquist, the sixth overall selection out of Georgia in 1987.

Ironically, most draft experts believed the Braves would grab Zack Wheeler, a high school hurler from the Atlanta area, with the seventh overall pick, but the Giants ended such speculation by taking him with the sixth selection. The way the situation unfolded did not bother Braves scouting director Roy Clark in the least, who did not hesitate to go with Minor, despite the team's previous leanings.

"I know the baseball world believed we were going with Zack Wheeler, but we are very pleased with the guy we got," Clark said. "We've been on him for some time now and we were just hoping we'd have the chance to draft him."

The 21-year-old Minor recently completed his junior season at Vanderbilt, where he went 6-6, 3.90 this spring. His best performance was one of his last, with the lefty posting a complete-game six-hitter against top-seeded LSU in the Southeastern Conference tournament. He was drafted by the Rays in the 13th round out of high school in 2006, yet opted to attend college and was tabbed the SEC's top freshman after going 9-1, 3.09 in 2007.

 As accomplished as Minor was in one of the top conferences in the country, his coming-out party took place last summer while toiling for USA Baseball's college national team. Minor was named Summer Player of the Year in 2008 with a dominant performance that included a 3-0, 0.75 record in six outings as well as two victories over Cuba. In speaking briefly with reporters during the draft, Clark made reference to Minor posting better numbers on the staff than first overall selection Stephen Strasburg.

The 6-foot-4 Minor has excellent size and solid projectability for a college lefthander. Though not overpowering, his fastball nicks 90 mph and has outstanding movement. His best pitch is a plus changeup with impressive depth and fade. He used a slider as his primary breaking pitch last summer and made solid strides in adding a curveball to his repertoire last fall. Nevertheless, he will need to fine-tune whichever breaking ball he decides to employ in the professional ranks.

The Braves matched their efforts from 1980 when they took a pair of college hurlers with their first two picks by drafting Princeton righthander David Hale with the 87th overall selection. Hale has pitched and played center field for the Tigers over the last three years. Scouts love his lightning-quick arm that produces a fastball clocked as high as 97 mph. He also throws a decent slider in the 84-86 mph range, although the offering can be more sweeping than sharp on occasion.

Hale was not dominant at Princeton, going 2-3, 4.43 in 41 innings this spring. The majority of scouts project him to be a reliever, possibly as a set-up man, rather than a starter in pro ball. Even so, most scouts agree that his overall effectiveness on the mound, including his command within the strike zone, should improve as he focuses all of his efforts on pitching.

 Wigwam Wisps

• The Braves did not have a second-round pick, which went to Los Angeles as compensation for Atlanta signing free agent pitcher Derek Lowe.

• In addition to Dayley, the Braves took righthander Jim Acker out of Texas with their second pick in 1980.