The Braves used their first two picks in the draft to claim power pitchers, both with Georgia ties.
After taking Brookwood right-hander Lucas Sims in the first round Monday night, the Braves came back Tuesday and took Alex Wood, a hard-throwing left-hander from the University of Georgia, with their 85th pick in the second round.
Wood has a 94-96 mph fastball but an unorthodox delivery, which might be why he didn’t go in the first round. But that made him available for the Braves, who have no plans to change his delivery.
“Quite honestly we were a little surprised he was still there and very happy to be able to get him as well,” Braves director of scouting Tony DeMacio said.
When asked about Wood’s mechanics, DeMacio said: “Doesn’t affect us one bit. That’s what he does well. He throws strikes, so leave him alone.”
The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder from Charlotte, NC struck out 100 batters in 102 1/3 innings this season for Georgia, with only 21 walks. Wood was second-team All-SEC after going 7-3 with a 2.73 ERA in 15 starts this season as a redshirt sophomore.
His 2.73 ERA was the best by a Georgia starter since 1989, when David Fleming had a 2.08 ERA.
Wood went 13-10 with a 3.57 ERA, with 180 strikeouts and 47 walks in 204 1/3 innings during his college career. He redshirted in 2010 after undergoing elbow reconstruction surgery after his senior season in high school. That might be another reason first round teams took a pass.
“Obviously there was a little disappointment on Monday night,” Wood said. “It’s something you’ve dreamed about every day and I felt like I had put myself in position to where I had a good shot to go on Monday. But crazy things happen with the draft, and things happen for a reason. I’m definitely feeling blessed and excited about the opportunity at hand…I don’t think I could be with a better organization.”
Emphasis on high school
After taking only three high school players in the first 30 rounds last year, the Braves nabbed three high school players in their first four picks this time.
After Sims, they drafted hard-throwing catcher Bryan De La Rosa from Olympic Heights in Boca Raton, Fla., and speedy center fielder Justin Black from Billings West High in Billings, MT.
“How about that?” said DeMacio, who has gone college-heavy in his first two years as scouting director. “Everybody thinks I don’t like high school players. I started here in 1983. We always took high school guys. It’s just the way the draft worked out the last couple of years. We might take even more, hopefully.”
The draft finishes Wednesday with Rounds 16-40, beginning at noon.
Drafting high school players was a long-standing Braves tradition throughout the tenure of legendary former scouting director Paul Snyder, who is retired but still finds his way to the Braves draft room where he was again Tuesday.
“Mr. Snyder used to always say, ‘Take the high school guys,’” DeMacio said. “’We’ll grow our own.’”
Long way from Montana
Black, the fourth rounder from Billings, didn’t even have a high school baseball team in Montana. He got his experience playing American Legion and with travel teams out of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Black played in tournaments in Florida and Arizona, where he was clocked at 6.34 seconds in the 60-yard dash, according to Baseball America.
“We had two of our guys drive 13 hours to see him,” DeMacio said. “(And) we brought him all the way in from Montana (for a workout) so we could see him. Everybody liked what they saw.”
DeMacio said Black has “80” speed, the highest rating a scout can give, and plenty of power potential.
“He’s more of a projection,” DeMacio said. “But we like the ability to run, and he has the size and strength that goes along with that, which is hard to find.”
So they weren’t deterred by his relative lack of playing experience.
“He just doesn’t have the opportunity because of the weather,” DeMacio said. “They don’t play much, but you can’t hold that against a kid.”
Big on catching, Borders
The Braves drafted two catchers with their top six picks, De La Rosa and TCU catcher Josh Elander. De La Rosa, a native of Puerto Rico, is a more defensive-minded player with a strong throwing arm while Elander is more offense-oriented.
Elander hit .316 with 10 home runs and 42 RBIs in 60 games this season to help TCU reach the NCAA Super Regional for the third time in four years.
The Braves also drafted Levi Borders from Winter Haven, Fla. in the 11th round. He is the son of Pat Borders, the former World Series MVP catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays who defeated the Braves in the 1992 World Series.
Staff writer Chip Towers contributed information to this report.
Pick Round Name Position School Ht. Wt.
21 1st Lucas Sims RHP Brookwood HS 6-2, 195
85 2nd Alex Wood LHP Univ. of Georgia 6-4, 220
116 3rd Bryan De La Rosa C Olympic Heights (Fla.) HS 5-8, 193
149 4th Justin Black CF Billings West (Mont.) 6-0, 190
179 5th Blake Brown RF Univ. of Missouri 6-0, 185
209 6th Josh Elander C TCU 6-0, 205
239 7th David Starn LHP Kent State 6-0, 190
269 8th David Peterson RHP College of Charleston 6-4, 215
299 9th Steven Schils RHP Florida Tech 6-2, 219
329 10th Mike Dodig 3B Columbia Green (NY) CC 6-4, 210
359 11th Levi Borders C Winter Haven (Fla.) HS 6-3, 180
389 12th Connor Lien RF Olympia (Fla.) HS 6-3, 205
419 13th Nathan Hyatt RHP Appalachian State 5-10, 195
449 14th Tyler Tewell C Appalachian State 5-11, 185
479 15th Alexander Wilson RHP Wofford 6-5, 220