Kris Medlen is on his way and Tommy Hanson will be here soon enough, and if Keith Law of ESPN.com’s Scouts Inc. is correct, the Braves could add another prized young arm (link requires registration) in the June draft.
Writes Law: “Consensus has Atlanta taking local prep star Zack Wheeler, but the Braves had a huge contingent in to see him during arguably his only bad start of the spring [last week]. They would love to find a bat at No. 7, but that player isn’t there this year.”
Wheeler plays for the East Paulding Raiders, who face Lowndes in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals Tuesday. According to the Scouts Inc. report (requires registration), he’s a “tall, loosed-armed right-handed pitcher who’s a lock to go in the first round.” He stands 6-foot-4 and throws as hard as 96 mph and has a “slurve” (combo slider/curveball).
Here’s a Law post that contains video of Wheeler working (requires registration), and if you listen close you can hear someone in the background say, “Jeez,” over one slurve. And here’s MLB.com’s rundown, which also includes video and doesn’t — yay! — require registration. (There’s also a YouTube video of Wheeler from the AFLAC All-American game at Dodger Stadium last summer posted below.)
From Jason Churchill of ESPN.com: An unnamed scouting director sees the Braves as having their choice of four pitchers at No. 7 — Shelby Miller of Brownwood, Texas; Jacob Turner of St. Louis; Matt Purke of Spring, Texas, and Wheeler. Says the scouting director (requires registration): “My money’s on Wheeler.”
On Law’s list of the top 100 prospects (requires registration), Wheeler actually rates behind the other three pitchers. He’s No. 13 overall, one spot ahead of center fielder Donavan Tate of Cartersville High, which plays Northside of Columbus in the Class AAA quarters Tuesday. Donavan is the son of Lars Tate, who was the first Next Herschel Walker at Georgia 25 years ago, and Scouts Inc. rates him as “the top prep position player in this draft.” (Requires registration.)
Law contends the Braves aren’t “on Tate,” for reasons not enumerated. But it should be noted that his agent is the demon Scott Boras.
(For the record, I asked Frank Wren before Monday’s game about Wheeler and Tate, and he said the Braves like both of them. So there.)
A contrarian view: Mac Thomason of Braves Journal makes the team’s first pick in MLB Outsider’s mock draft, and he has them taking Tate. MLB.com reports, however, that there “are some concerns” about Tate’s bat. There are none about his athletic ability. He has signed a football scholarship with North Carolina — classifying him as an “athlete,” Rivals.com ranked Tate the 83rd-best prospect in the nation– but the belief is that he’ll choose baseball.
A bit more draft? Baseball America tracks risers and fallers, and one local collegian falls under each heading. Rich Poythress, the Georgia first baseman, is in the latter category, while right-handed pitcher Chad Jenkins of Kennesaw State is said to have moved up, perhaps into the upper half of Round 1.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
The aforementioned Medlen will start for the Braves on Thursday, but he’s not the team’s hottest prospect according to Baseball America. Medlen is No. 6 on the latest list of hot prospects, while Jason Heyward, who’s playing at Class A Myrtle Beach, is No. 5. Heyward hit three homers last week, one off Brian Matusz, who’s No. 3 on the list.
Writing for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Randy Galloway tells us what we already know: The Braves got the short end of the 2007 Mark Teixeira trade. (Made by John Schuerholz, incidentally, not Frank Wren.) Shortstop Elvis Andrus “alone would have made that a good trade,” Galloway opines, but the Texas Rangers also landed Jarrod Saltalamacchia, plus pitchers Matt Harrison, who’s in the big-league rotation, and Neftali Feliz, who’s a hot prospect.
More Elvis: Stan McNeal of Sporting News Today calls him the best young player you haven’t heard enough about and lists the reasons why. But the guess here is that Atlantans will be hearing way too much about Andrus this next decade.
Since we never hear anything from Lane Kiffin — hey, I’m kidding — it’s refreshing to hear his dad Monte offer a more circumspect take on coaching at Tennessee and in the SEC. Speaking with Matt Hayes of Sporting News Today, Monte Kiffin gushes over everything related to his new conference, including Tim Tebow and the level of competition, and even Rich Brooks. (Oh, and of his offspring, the elder Kiffy says: “Lane has a lot of energy.”)
On the Bleacher Report, the poster Cole poses five offseason questions for the Hawks. One is provocative — has this team, to use the infamous Rankin Smith Sr. description, reached a plateau? — and one is less so. Asks Bleacher Report: Can the Hawks find their LeBron James? And the answer is no. There’s only one of those.
And here’s a nice season-review-plus-look-ahead by Paul Newberry of the Associated Press. I link to Newberry because he’s really good and AJC readers often don’t see his stories (because we write our own, duh). But let me stipulate that nobody covers the Hawks like esteemed colleague and fellow Cobb Countian Sekou Smith. If you don’t patronize his blog, stop what you’re doing and go there. There’s not a better NBA writer anywhere.