This year’s crop of Georgia high school baseball prospects for the major-league draft is considered one of the best — and deepest — in years.
Depending on negotiations over the final hours, as many as five high schoolers from the Peach State could be selected in the top 50 of Monday’s opening day of the draft: Cook High pitcher/infielder Kaleb Cowart, Woodward Academy outfielder Delino DeShields, South Forsyth middle infielder Zach Alvord, Blessed Trinity outfielder Jake Skole and Marietta outfielder Chevez Clarke.
What about the Atlanta Braves? Will they dip into Georgia’s deep talent pool with the No. 35 overall pick? Maybe or maybe not, depending on rumors. Marietta’s Clark was rumored to briefly consider giving the Braves a “hometown discount” while South Forsyth’s Alvord turned heads with his power hitting at a Braves workout session last week. Alvord was the only HS prospect to hit at least one home run out of Turner Field in each round of batting practice. He had 39 career home runs in Georgia’s largest classification for baseball (AAAAA).
The baseball draft is all about “signability” — how much money a high school baseball player wants as a signing bonus in exchange for bypassing a college baseball scholarship.
In the final days (and hours) leading up to the draft, there are conversations between MLB teams and prospects about boney money. Sometimes, the best players drop in the draft because they want a higher bonus than a few teams are willing to offer. On the flip side, some players rise on the draft because they are asking for a lower bonus to sign.
Here are quick hits on the Fab Five:
- Cowart: He is the best Georgia has to offer, simply because he projects as a top-tier prospect at both pitcher and a corner infielder. Cowart can throw 97 mph, but prefers to be a position player because he said he likes to play every day. You have to like that, someone who wants to be in the middle of the action at all times. However, the debate over drafting Cowart as a pitcher or a third baseman has stirred debates in front offices across the majors. Cowart has stopped short of making any position demands, saying he hopes to be a position player and would be willing to pitch if it didn’t work out.
- DeShields: He has the baseball pedigree, with his father by the same name (but different middle names) playing 13 years in the majors. DeShields was talented enough to attract football offers from Georgia Tech and Stanford, among others, before settling on a baseball future. He has signed a baseball scholarship with LSU. He is being mentioned as “lock” first rounder by some draft analysts, but projected to go later by others.
- Alvord: He has the rare combination of being a middle infielder with above-average defensive skills and power. Alvord could rise or fall on Monday, depending on if teams are willing to meet his asking price for skipping Auburn.
- Skole: Perhaps no Georgia player has seen his stock rise faster than Skole, who has made it clear to MLB teams that he is willing to give up his Georgia Tech football scholarship with a fair offer. Perhaps more importantly, Skole has also reportedly put out the word that he will be reasonable with his asking price. That, along with his explosive performance in the state playoffs, has cause Skole to fly up the charts. There were rumors on Sunday night that he might sneak into the end of the first round. It may or may not happen, but not many people would’ve given that scenario even a chance 10 days ago.
Will a Chevy fall to Braves at No. 35? (AJC)
- Clarke: Before the start of high school season, Clarke was the consensus No. 1 player out of Georgia after Hall of Fame performances in the fall showcases. A few scouts are unsure about his long-term potential for power hitting. Regardless, he still has plenty of other elite tools, most notably speed.
What about others? Keep an eye on East Coweta P Cam Bedrosian (son of Steve), Brooks County P Aaron Shipman, Tattnall Square P DeAndre Smelter, Northside-Columbus OF Kevin Jordan, Heritage catcher Tyler Austin, M.L. King OF Trey Griffin, and North Gwinnett SS Chris Hawkins, among others.
BACK TO THE BRAVES!!!! There is also speculation that the team will consider Mill Creek pitcher Matthew Grimes with their second pick at No. 53 overall. The 6-foot-6 righty throws 94 mph and has signed with Georgia Tech.
Baseball insiders are challenged with figuring out the Braves this year because they are under new leadership. Tony DeMacio succeeded Roy Clark as the Braves scouting director last October, and leads the organization into Monday’s 7 p.m. draft. It will be the first round of 32, then 18 compensation picks. The second round starts at noon on Tuesday.
Click below for features on some of Georgia’s top baseball prospects:
Cook RHP Kaleb Cowart: Georgia’s No. 1 HS pitcher throws 97 mph, but has heart set on 3B
Woodward CF Delino DeShields (The first Georgia HS player to be drafted???)
Blessed Trinity OF Jake Skole (Georgia Tech football OR MLB?)
Marietta CF Chevez Clarke (The five-tool player? Enough power?)
North Gwinnett 3B Chris Hawkins (Mr. Clutch with 32-game hitting streak to end year)
Home-schooled pitcher Connor Mason of Suwanee intrigues (Played with projected No. 1 Bryce Harper on Team USA)
Wheeler OF Dale Carey (Another first-rounder from Cobb school?)
Collins Hill LHP James Buckelew (The next American Idol? Just gets people out)
YOUR TURN: Who would you like to see the Braves draft at No. 35? Which Georgia HS players do you think are RISING? Which ones are FALLING? And why?