Draft 2009: Will the Braves take best available Georgian?

The Braves prefer homegrown. This we know. Consensus holds that they’d love to take Zack Wheeler, a right-handed pitcher from East Paulding High, in Tuesday’s baseball draft. But what if he’s gone when they pick? And what if Wheeler isn’t even the best Georgian on the board?

Jim Callis covers the draft for Baseball America, which covers the draft like no other publication. He calls center fielder Donavan Tate of Cartersville High – he’s the son of Lars Tate, who was the first Next Herschel Walker at Georgia a quarter-century ago – “far and away the best athlete in the draft.”

Baseball America has Tate going third overall to San Diego. (The Braves hold the No. 7 pick in Round 1.) But what baseball folks call a “signability” issue exists with Tate – he’s represented by the demon agent Scott Boras, and he has signed a football letter-of-intent with North Carolina – and Callis sees Tate’s circumstances as, shall we say, fluid.

“More teams question his bat than people realize,” Callis said. “If the Padres don’t take him at No. 3, it’s very possible he could go out of the first round.”

Belief in baseball circles holds that the Braves, having targeted Wheeler, aren’t really considering Tate. Not true, claims general manager Frank Wren. “We like them both,” he said last month. And Boras as Tate’s agent? Wren: “Why should that make a difference?” (The Braves did sign Derek Lowe, a Boras client.)

In his mock draft on ESPN.com, Keith Law has the Padres taking Tate and the Braves picking Wheeler (link requires registration). Callis’ weekend mock had Wheeler going to Baltimore at No. 5 (requires registration), leaving the Braves with Mike Minor, a lefthander from Vanderbilt whom Callis says “doesn’t have as high an upside as some others.”

For the Braves, Callis now leans away from Minor and toward Alex White, a righthander from North Carolina who struck out 12 East Carolina batters in the NCAA super regional Saturday. “And their fallback would be Shelby Miller, a high school [righthander] from Texas.”

Still, Callis is convinced the Braves hold out hope for Wheeler. “He’s definitely the guy they want. He’s a really good high school talent and he has reasonable signability. He’s not making noise about breaking the bank.”

What position should the Braves seek to fill in Round 1?

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And Tate? Says Callis:“The word is that he wants $6 million [as a signing bonus]. But he’s spent so much time playing football he’s still raw. He’s not Ken Griffey Jr. He’s not going to be in the major leagues in two years.”

As many as five Georgians could go in Round 1, Callis believes: Tate, Wheeler, first baseman Rich Poythress of the University of Georgia and righthanders Chad Jenkins and Kyle Heckathorn of Kennesaw State. Our state does, as we know, produce some ballplayers.

“It starts with East Cobb [Little League], and Georgia Tech has had a great program for a long time,” Callis says. “And Georgia has finally gotten good on a consistent basis, and Kennesaw State is obviously doing something right. [Indeed, Wheeler has committed to KSU, but it’s expected he’ll sign with whatever team drafts him.] And the Braves can take credit, too.”

Credit is nice. The Braves might think it nicer if they can take Zack Wheeler, too.

55 comments Add your comment

Mac

June 8th, 2009
3:11 pm

That Heckathorn kid, from Ringgold, looks like a Tommy Hanson in the making. But then lots of prospects do. I’m just saying …

MATT_IN_SC

June 8th, 2009
3:18 pm

Is there any ryan braun/pat burrell type college bats in the draft?

John OTC

June 8th, 2009
3:29 pm

We should draft Glavine. He just want a bonus of $1 million…

Eric

June 8th, 2009
3:34 pm

It is time to draft a 3rd baseman to eventually take over for Chipper. Nobody in our current system is even close to being perceived as a valid candidate at the moment.

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2009
3:38 pm

I believe this draft is heavier on pitching, Matt, although I’m no Jim Callis or Keith Law. It starts with Strasberg guy, who’ll go No. 1 to the Nationals, and there’s some thought Washington will also take Chris Jenkins of Kennesaw State with the No. 10 pick in Round 1.

yogi2

June 8th, 2009
3:48 pm

Trade Franquoer for a tenth round draft choice or just RELEASE HIM

Mike In Valdosta

June 8th, 2009
3:49 pm

I thought “Pulpwood” Smith was the first next Herschel…

J K

June 8th, 2009
3:55 pm

I went to EPHS! Hadn’t heard of Wheeler until a friend of mine said “a guy might get drafted” from our highschool. I am not totally clueless though. I do know that Chas Henry punts for the stupid Gators.

mitch

June 8th, 2009
4:06 pm

Mr. Favorite Scribe–enough already, get your TV fixed. Your pal, Mitch

Mac

June 8th, 2009
4:07 pm

I think Pulpwood came just prior to Herschel. Saw he and chainsaw play in high school.

Mac

June 8th, 2009
4:08 pm

Mitch and Leland seem much the same.

Mac

June 8th, 2009
4:11 pm

Nope Pulpwood was after Herschel, I stand humiliated. You da man, Mike.

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2009
4:26 pm

The TVs are working fine, Mitch. Although we’ve got to hook up those newfangled converter things by Friday.

JP Swain

June 8th, 2009
4:44 pm

Take Alex White if he’s available. He’s got great stuff and could be one of the building cornerstones of our rotation. White, Jurrjens, Hanson- all 23 and younger with Lowe and maybe Hudson- yes please.

RAD

June 8th, 2009
5:26 pm

It sounds like Zack Wheeler is a lock with the Baltimore at pick #5, however; San Diego and Pittsburg are also considering Wheeler at 3 & 4. It doesn’t look like he will be around when the Braves pick at #7. Tate could possibly fall into the Braves’ lap if he gets by San Diego at #3. Hopefully the Braves will come away with Wheeler or Tate.

o-me

June 8th, 2009
6:44 pm

Mac and mike, Pulpwood Smith was at the Aden’s store in Broxton,Ga trying to bum money last Sat. night. what a wasted life.

Knockahoma

June 8th, 2009
7:36 pm

Tommy Hanson hasn’t done anything yet, except get shelled.

I don’t want a pitcher to be the next Hanson. Let’s wait for him to prove himself first.

We need to look for the next Maddox or Smoltz- you know, a guy that has actually had success on this level.

In the meantime, the Braves need to draft the best available player who has the best chance to succeed at the Major League level. Who cares where he is from.

Biff Pocoroba

June 8th, 2009
8:08 pm

What has happened to Jordan Schafer? He played two games in Gwinnett and hasn’t played since. Is he injured or is he hanging out with Tom Glavine talking about the raw deal he thinks he got?

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2009
8:19 pm

According to former colleague Guy Curtright of the Gwinnett Daily Post, Schafer has a sore wrist.

kjb

June 8th, 2009
8:26 pm

let’s get some offense, no left handers, we need switch hitters and right handed hitters, hopefully we can get Tate. Also let’s find a future 3rd baseman for Chipper in the future.

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2009
8:30 pm

I’ve not seen Tate or Wheeler play in person, so that’s why I consulted an expert.

But you know who’s the best high school baseball player I’ve ever seen (in person) in Georgia? Jeff Francoeur.

Dr Henry / augusta

June 8th, 2009
8:32 pm

Mclouth just launched one! I think we have our center fielder guys.

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2009
8:35 pm

Then again, didn’t Schafer hit a homer on Opening Night? (I’m kidding, sort of. There’s at least a track record with Nate McLouth.)

o-me

June 8th, 2009
8:36 pm

Mark, when was the last time you took in some AAAAA GHS Baseball games. You’re missing alot.

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2009
8:41 pm

It’s been a while, I’m ashamed to admit. I saw Francoeur in the playoffs for Parkview. I saw Cory Patterson for Harrison. And I saw a doubleheader between Lassiter and Wheeler back in the ’90s.

You’re right, O-Me. I need to get out more.

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2009
8:47 pm

And the mention of Kyle Heckathorn being from Ringgold jogged my feeble memory. Eighteen years ago I wrote something about Kenny Henderson, who was drafted out of Ringgold High in Round 1 of the 1991 draft. But he didn’t sign and went to the University of Miami and wound up being drafted twice more (after his junior and senior seasons). He never really made it, I’m sorry to report.

Here’s his bio, if you’re interested.

Dr Henry / augusta

June 8th, 2009
8:59 pm

you’re right MB…I think Schafer homered in his 1st ML AB….Which begs the question…WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED??? Maybe we need to do a better job of developing outfielders….Who was the last bonafide star outfielder that came out of the Braves system??? I guess thats why I feel pretty good about McLouth….When was the last time we had a chance to trade for a young, speedy, good glove, good bat player like him…It appears that in reading these blogs that the jury is still out on Francoeur….Anderson is past his prime….And when, if ever will Schafer be back?? Draft the best OF prospect and develop him…

Dr Henry / augusta

June 8th, 2009
9:06 pm

Wow! Does Yunel Escobar make too many mistakes or what???

TomaHawk

June 8th, 2009
9:17 pm

Bobby Cox, i love the man for all hes done for us, but over last few years hes fallen in love with going to the pen early…time and again ive seen him pull our starter before he really needs to be pulled and it comes back to bite us in the rear cuz our pen is NOT that good…moylan case in point tonight. man thats gotta frustrating for kawakami. …MB what you think about cox’s decision tonight and in recent years…our starters are never given a chance for a complete game…

NRBQ

June 8th, 2009
9:23 pm

Mark Bradley: “Hardest Working Nerd in the Blogosphere.”

NRBQ

June 8th, 2009
9:24 pm

Sorry.

Can’t keep up with furious pace with which you post new topics.

Kudos.

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2009
9:24 pm

Er, thanks, NRBQ. I am pretty nerdy. But I don’t work very hard, I’m afraid. (Don’t tell anybody, though.)

Sam Everyman, Citizen Journalist

June 8th, 2009
10:02 pm

I remember reading Guy back before the paper narrowed. Does it require a different skill set to write narrower columns? I see where Mark said DOB has a motorcycle and a Mercedes. It’s good to see him living in a luxury car now. I can recall when he lived in a Ford.

Chipper is really hitting the ball the last couple days. It all started with the lightning bugs. All this union unrest with Glavine may complicate things for the rest of the Braves. If Glavine sets up a picket line who will cross it?

JD

June 8th, 2009
10:42 pm

Why you gotta put GM in the poll, Mark?

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2009
10:42 pm

The skills required of the 21st Century journalist are ever-changing. At least that’s what I’m told. (Me, I have no skills. Just a winning smile.)

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2009
10:43 pm

Oh, just to see if y’all are paying attention, JD. And to inject a dollop of humor into these grim Web pages.

Coach ( Moon Pie, Anyone? )

June 8th, 2009
11:53 pm

My money is on Wheeler. After all, the Braves just traded two pitchers for McLouth. So in theory the projected future outfield is stacked with McLouth, Schafer and Jason Heyward. Not to mention Cody Johnson.

Coach ( Moon Pie, Anyone? )

June 8th, 2009
11:58 pm

Braves win! Braves win! Braves win ! In fifteen. They outlast the Pirates 7-6.

kjb

June 9th, 2009
12:23 am

get the best available player in the draft, no matter if it’s a pitcher or position player

kjb

June 9th, 2009
12:26 am

you’re at 2000 wins now Bobby, it’s time to turn the ball club over to someone else (Terry Pendleton maybe).

Teheran height

June 9th, 2009
3:05 am

The Braves actually have a pretty good out fielder in Brandon Jones but the guy never seem to get any playing time. This Bobby Cox guy, i really think he has the Alzheimer’s Disease. Why in the hell is Francour still in the line up. Is he not convinced that Brandon Jones is the better outfielder and why in the hell can’t he keep one closer. Soriano please and put gonzalez as the set up. Bobby Cox time is wayyyyy past due. Its time for Leo to come back or Terry P.

Teheran height

June 9th, 2009
3:20 am

How is Jason Heyward doing? is he still in Danville? Is he getting closer to coming to the big leagues

Yea Right

June 9th, 2009
7:41 am

I really wish they would just draft the best available and forget about the locals. Just because their local means nothing. The braves have got to get back to where they were a few years ago with solid minor league clubs in all spots. This local stuff is getting on my last nerve. IE Jeff Francoeur. He might perform better away from the locals at home.

Mark Bradley

June 9th, 2009
7:59 am

Heyward is hitting .295 with 22 RBI and nine home runs in 37 games at Myrtle Beach.

Chipper Jonestown Massacre

June 9th, 2009
8:39 am

My preferences for the Braves draft:
1.) Zack Wheeler,
2.) Tyler Matzek,
3.) Shelby Miller,
4.) Alex White,
5.) Matt Purke.

Just say NO to “George Lombard, Jr.” (aka Donovan Tate).

ebdawg

June 9th, 2009
9:51 am

When you do get out to see some High School baseball Mark, come to Cartersville. The AJC really blew their coverage of the Cartersville vs Columbus AAA Championship series. The only thing I saw was from a Columbus writer. All that coverage of the STATE High School playoffs and nothing about two of the best baseball programs in the state!!! D Tate is the real deal.. I would love to see the Braves get him. He works hard… so I’m sure he will develop into a great player.

Recovering Sports Junkie

June 9th, 2009
9:53 am

Actually, there never has been a “next Herschel” to sign with Georgia. Bo Jackson fit the prototype but had less hype. But no one, with the possible exception of Marcus Dupree, was as big AND fast as Herschel and Bo. They would dust any of the subsequent big tailbacks in the 100. They were freaks of nature.

Jonathan

June 9th, 2009
10:00 am

Braves will be looking at:

Zack Wheeler and Tyler Matzek – if they are not taking then Alex White and Shelby Miller would be the next guys on their board it seems.

Most people like Matzek over Wheeler, but there is a chance neither of them fall to the Braves at 7.

There are no power bats in this draft really – and you cannot draft on need to find Chippers replacement..this isnt the NFL draft, very different.

Mark Bradley

June 9th, 2009
10:00 am

I actually saw Herschel, Dupree and Bo play in person. (They were all on Kentucky’s schedule when I worked in Lexington, which was one reason Kentucky tended not to win.) And I’d throw one other name in there as a prototype type: Adrian Peterson.

black dude

June 9th, 2009
10:01 am

you need to look at Brandon Jacobs…My cousin could have been at Auburn but baseball is a better career. He’s hitting the balls out the park in Kansas City, Boston and New York Yankees. SLEEPER