2017 MLB Draft Grades: Atlanta Braves
Best Pure Hitter: Switch-hitting OF Drew Waters (2) has a sound approach and plenty of bat speed, and his plus speed should help him beat out the occasional infield hit as well. His swing is pretty similar from both sides of the plate.
Best Power Hitter: C/1B Drew Lugbauer (11) never hit for average at Michigan, but he always had power. After hitting 12 home runs for the Wolverines, he added 13 more in a half-season as a pro, several of the long and loud variety. His swing generates natural loft and leverage to go with solid-average bat speed.
Fastest Runner: Waters is a 4.1-4.15 runner from home to first from the left side, giving him 60 grades on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. He’s adept on the basepaths although he didn’t show much basestealing aptitude in his pro debut.
Best Defensive Player: Waters’ plus speed and plus arm should allow him to stay in center field long-term. INF Jordan Rodgers (6) adeptly handled the challenge of playing shortstop, second and third base in his pro debut.
Best Fastball: RHP Kyle Wright (1) sits at 92-96 mph and touched 97-98 in his pro debut. It’s a potential top-of-the-scale pitch with late life and excellent angle. RHP Freddy Tarnok (3) pitches at 92-94, touching 97 on his best days, although like many teenagers he has plenty of work to do on his consistency.
Best Secondary Pitch: Wright’s slider and curveball have both earned plus-plus grades at their best. The mid-80s slider has plenty of power while the slower curveball has good depth, but the quality of both varies from outing to outing.
Best Pro Debut: Lubgauer hit .261/.352/.514 with 13 home runs in stops at Rookie-level Danville and low Class A Rome while also adapting to catching more than he did in college.
Best Athlete: Waters’ combination of speed and developing power stands out, but it’s par for the course in his very athletic family. His father was a Georgia Tech offensive lineman, his older brother played baseball at Georgia and his sister played soccer at Georgia as well.
Jared Shuster Could Just Be Scratching Surface
The Braves believe they got a steal in Wake Forest lefthander Shuster, the 25th pick in the 2020 draft.
Most Intriguing Background: RHP Jacob Belinda (10) is the nephew of former Pirates righthander Stan Belinda. C Justin Morhardt (22) from a baseball family; his grandfather Moe briefly reached the major leagues in the early 1960s with the Cubs, and his father Greg is a Braves area scout and famously signed Mike Trout when he worked for the Angels.
Closest To The majors: Wright is a top-of-the-draft college righthander. Normally those are some of the fastest-moving draft picks in every draft class.
Best Late-Round Pick: Lugbauer was the only post-10th round pick to receive more than $125,000 (he counted $100 toward the Braves’ bonus allotment). If he can develop his catching ability, he has a chance to be a find as a power bat who plays adequate defense.
The One Who Got Away: RHP Cade Cavalli (29) barely pitched during his senior year of high school because of a back injury, but he pitched at 92-95 mph in the Oklahoma playoffs. He will compete for a spot in the Sooners’ rotation instead.