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Braves Draft Preview
By Bill Ballew
Scouting Director: Roy Clark (first draft: 2000).
2000 Draft (First five rounds, picking 30th)
2001 Draft (First five rounds, picking 29th)
2002 Draft (First five rounds, picking 23rd)
It's not that Clark is determined to create an Atlanta roster full of in-state players. Rather, Georgia has become one of the nation's baseball hotbeds since the early 1990s, which has coincided with the Braves' string of 11 straight division titles. The organization's philosophy of drafting high school arms that can be molded into the Braves' way of pitching began well before that, starting with Snyder and then-general manager Bobby Cox' decision in 1986 to build from within.
The result has left the Braves bulging with arms, with complete rotations of prospects at each of the four full-season minor league teams. Heading the list are first-round picks such as Adam Wainwright (2000) at Double-A Greenville, Macay McBride (2001) at Class A Myrtle Beach and Dan Meyer (2002) at Class A Rome.
Clark has also shown that he is no one-trick pony. The Braves stayed in Georgia last June while taking top prospects in the outfield and behind the plate, weaknesses in the organization of late. Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann have both made the jump to Rome this year. Clark also has added depth throughout the system with several college players in the early rounds over the past two drafts. Second baseman Richard Lewis became the highest-drafted collegian by the Braves since Mike Kelly was the second overall pick in 1991. Meyer and outfielders Billy McCarthy (sixth round, 2001) and Adam Stern have also made steady progress in the organization.
Atlanta was criticized by other organizations in recent years for the team's willingness to pay significant bonuses to players selected after the first round. While Clark continues to have a relatively healthy budget, some players have slipped away due to the tighter pursestrings of owner AOL Time Warner. For example, the Braves failed to sign four players from the first 10 rounds of last year's draft, headed by shortstop Tyler Greene.
Such changes represent little more than blips on the screen for the Braves. While the signing of Paul Byrd means Atlanta will not draft until 35th overall, the loss of Tom Glavine and Mike Remlinger will provide the team with six picks among the first 100 selections. Georgians who could be targets include righthander Jim Barthmaier and outfielder Tim Battle.