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Atlanta Braves Draft Report Card

By David Rawnsley

Best Debut: SS Pat Manning (3), 19, dominated the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League with a .416 average before he earned a rare bump all the way to the full-season Class A South Atlantic League. RHPs Kyle Colton (23) and Brett Evert (7) went 1-2 in the GCL in ERA.

Best Athlete: Evert is just growing into his 6-foot-6 frame, but was a star basketball player and starting shortstop at North Salem (Ore.) High.

Best Hitter: Manning, a four-year starter at Mater Dei High, was one of the top prep hitters in Southern California history and showed his polish under the usually tough GCL conditions.

Best Power: The Braves had OF Alec Zumwalt (4) down as a potential second-round pick. He has light-tower power potential but must work on making more consistent contact.

Fastest Runner: The Braves lean heavily on their strong Latin program to provide speed to the system. None of their 1999 draft picks are even above-average runners.

Best Defensive Player: Zumwalt has an outstanding arm in right field. SS Wes Rasmussen (21) is a steady defensive shortstop with good tools.

Best Fastball: RHP Matt McClendon, a fifth-rounder signed for $900,000, regained the fastball he had lost at Florida during the spring and was hitting 96 mph at times during the summer.

Most Intriguing Background: SS Jon Schuerholz (37) didn’t sign with the Braves, but his father shouldn’t take too much heat. He is one of baseball’s best general managers and advised his son to attend college at Auburn.

Closest to the Majors: McClendon has major league stuff right now; it’s just a matter of putting together the rest of his game. McClendon overcame a pulled chest muscle and tender elbow to strike out 24 in his first 23 professional innings. Short-season New York-Penn League managers ranked him as the league’s No. 10 prospect.

The One That Got Away: RHP Chris Spencer (8) has excellent arm strength, but may benefit from a full season of junior college while the Braves retain his rights. He was the only player in the first 12 rounds the Braves didn’t sign.

Best Non-Draft Sign: 2B Nick Green signed as a draft-and-follow after going in the 32nd round in 1998. He hit 32 home runs in junior college, then added 12 more between short-season Jamestown and Class A Macon. Twin brother Kevin (16), a second baseman, also was drafted and signed by the Braves.

Summary: Paul Snyder’s last draft was excellent by any measuring stick, even more so considering that the Braves were the last club to draft (81st overall). Successor Roy Clark has big shoes to fill in the scouting director’s chair.

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