The Braves’ first 10 picks of the draft have come from the college ranks, a significant break from how the Braves have typically drafted in the past. They didn’t take a high schooler Tuesday until the 11th round, when they selected Seth Morando, an infielder from Buchanan (Calif.) High School, with the 356th overall pick.
But both scouting director Tony DeMacio and general manager Frank Wren said it wasn’t as much a change in philosophy for the Braves as it was how this draft fell.
“The really good high school guys are gone, that we wanted,” DeMacio said. “We were on Stephenson right in front of us. We were really on him, and we thought we had him.”
He was referring to Robert Stephenson of Martinez Calif., the smooth throwing right-hander with the mid-90s fastball out of Alhambra High School. The Braves were primed to pick him in the first round, but the Reds nabbed him with the 27th pick, just before the Braves were announced as the next team on the clock.
The Braves chose FSU left-hander Sean Gilmartin instead, the next best option on their draft board and a college player.
Wren pointed out many of the high school players the Braves wanted went in the bevy of compensatory picks between the first and second rounds. Because of all the picks going to teams as compensation for losing free agents, the Braves’ second round pick didn’t come until 85th overall.
“Our second round really was a third round because there was a full round of compensation picks,” Wren said. “That made it difficult for us because of just the sheer numbers of players that fell off our board during that span.”
The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays had 15 of the top 60 picks in the first and supplemental rounds Monday night.
“Almost (one-quarter) of the picks in the baseball draft went to two teams yesterday,” DeMacio said. “We’re not in that position.”
The perception might have been that the Braves, and most everybody else, were interested in UConn outfielder George Springer (Astros) and right-hander Matt Barnes (Red Sox) – both of whom went in the first round Monday night.
But DeMacio said when he “sneaked” up to Clemson last weekend to watch the Huskies play in the NCAA Regional, he had his eye on shortstop Nick Ahmed. The Braves drafted him 85th overall with their second round pick Tuesday.
The Braves like his speed, something they’ve been trying to add through the draft in recent years. His athleticism and his desire came through as well
“He’s a baseball type player, he’s a rat,” DeMacio said.
DeMacio wanted to see him earlier but Ahmed suffered a broken rib and collapsed lung on a collision on the basepaths.
“He’s a tough kid,” DeMacio said. “He was playing with a flack jacket the last three weeks of the season.”
The Braves farm system is well stocked at shortstop with the likes of Matt Lipka and Edward Salcedo, but DeMacio said a team can never have enough talent up the middle. He also said Ahmed could move to second base.
“We got an e-mail from the baseball coach at the University of San Diego saying it was a great pick because they went out there and played this year,” DeMacio said.
With their third round pick, the Braves picked up some power they were seeking in left-handed-hitting third baseman Kyle Kubitza of Texas State. Kubitza hit 10 home runs this season, including a two-run shot in the Austin Regional against the University of Texas.
“We’re going to give him every chance to play third base,” DeMacio said. “If not, we feel like he can move to the corner outfield. We feel like he’s got a plus arm. Another dirt player, one of those type of guys.”…
The Braves took their first power arm in right-hander J.R. Graham from Santa Clara University in the fourth round. The Braves had his fastball clocked at 98 mph. Apparently he can command it too. His 0.68 walks per nine innings ranked fourth in Division I. Graham struck out 45 and walked nine in 62 innings.
“He’s a conversion guy; he was a shortstop,” DeMacio said. “He’s in the second year of pitching, but he’s got a huge arm.”…
The Braves drafted catcher Troy Snitker out of North Georgia College in the 19th round Tuesday, son of Braves third base coach Brian Snitker. Snitker, a Brookwood graduate, hit .340 with six home runs and 44 RBIs in 54 games for North Georgia….
The Braves were hoping to draft Georgia Tech right-hander Mark Pope in the fifth round Tuesday, but missed out on him by three picks, according to DeMacio. The Padres took Pope with the 173rd overall pick; the Braves were hoping to get him at 175.
The same thing had happened in the third round when the Padres took right-hander Matt Andriese of Cal-Riverside, three picks ahead of where the Braves were poised to pick him.