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Atlanta Braves 2018 MLB Draft Grades

Image credit: C.J. Alexander (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

BEST PURE HITTER: It’s not often a 20th-round pick is a team’s best pure hitter in the draft, but 3B C.J. Alexander (20) didn’t look like a normal 20th round pick in his pro debut. He showed a pull-heavy approach State College of Fla. JC, but as a pro, he was very comfortable driving the ball to center field and left center. He’s a plus hitter with the willingness to adapt to how pitchers are pitching to him. OF Greyson Jenista (2) has a pure swing that is prettier than Alexander’s. He’s an above-average hitter as well and has a solid batting eye.

BEST POWER: Jenista posted modest power numbers in college at Wichita State and had only four home runs in his pro debut, but the Braves believe that he will eventually start turning his plus-plus raw power into at least plus productive power. His swing has some natural loft to it and he has impressive strength

FASTEST RUNNER: OF Justin Dean (17) can post 70 run times or better in a 60-yard dash. He averaged only 11 steals a year at Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.), but he swiped 16 bags in just 60 pro games.

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: SS A.J. Graffanino (8) is a plus defender with the range scouts look for in a shortstop. He has an above-average arm that could improve a tick.

BEST ATHLETE: Graffanino is the twitchiest, most athletic player the Braves drafted this year. He battled hamstring injuries at Washington last spring, but he has above-average speed.

BEST FASTBALL: RHP Trey Riley (5) has run his fastball up to 97 mph at his best and he’s sat 93-95. RHP Triston Beck (4) has touched 97 on his best days, but his fastball backed up a little during his junior season at Stanford. He pitched very sparingly in his pro debut. RHP Victor Vodnik (14) has to work on his consistency, but he can touch 96-97.

BEST SECONDARY PITCH: Beck’s curveball and slider have both flashed plus, but they weren’t as consistent in his return in 2018 from a back injury that sidelined him for the entire 2017 season. Riley’s slider is a plus-plus pitch when he’s locked in, although it’s inconsistent.

BEST PRO DEBUT: Alexander hit .352/.429/.425 between the Gulf Coast League, Appalachian League and Florida State League.

MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: Graffanino is the son of Tony Graffanino, a 10th-round pick of the Braves in 1990. The elder Graffanino made it to the major leagues with Atlanta from 1996-1998 as a second baseman. It was the start of a 13-year MLB career. RHP Nolan Kingham (12) is the younger brother of Pirates righthander Nick Kingham.

CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: If he can stay healthy, Beck could move quickly as a polished college pitcher. Jenista likely won’t move as quickly as Beck, but he is a polished college hitter who could be on a relatively speed path up the minor league ladder.

BEST-LATE ROUND PICK: LHP Gabriel Rodriguez (31) was an outfielder at Miami-Dade (Fla.) JC but he has shown a 96-99 mph fastball off the mound as he begins a conversion to pitching. He’s raw, but the arm talent is there to be a very interesting pitcher.

THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY: RHP Carter Stewart (1) did not sign after the Braves reduced his bonus offer after not liking what they found from his medical exam. The Braves will get the ninth pick in next year’s draft as compensation for not signing him.

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