Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Here's who Braves might take with No. 5 pick in draft


WASHINGTON -- The Braves have the No. 5 overall pick in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft that starts tonight (6 p.m.) on the MLB Network. So, you’re wondering, are they going to take yet another high school pitcher?

From what I’m hearing, it’s more likely they will not.

Now, this obviously could change late, and either of these two guys could be gone before the Braves pick, but the two names I’m hearing from people familiar with the Braves’ thinking are Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright and North Carolina high school outfielder Austin Beck. And from everything I’ve been told and all I’ve read about them, either would be a strong pick at No. 5.

Check with five or six draft experts or other outlets doing mock draft and you’re likely to get at least three or four different projections for the Braves top pick. For instance, draft experts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, in their latest mock draft Monday, had the Braves taking college outfielder/second baseman Keston Hiura from the University of California-Irvine.

The Sporting News had the Braves taking California high school shortstop/outfielder Royce Lews at No. 5, and Bleacher Report using the pick to take North Carolina high school lefty Mackenzie Gore.

But I’m hearing Braves are more likely to take one of the two players that has going to the Athletics directly after the Braves with the No. 6 pick – Mayo has the A’s taking Beck and Callis has them taking Wright.

Baseball America’s John Manuel and ESPN’s Keith Law both have the Braves taking Wright, who was rated the No. 2 prospect in the draft in BA’s preview and who was projected as late as Thursday to be the No. 1 overall selection by Callis.

By Monday, Callis and most other prominent draft pundits had come around to the Twins using the No. 1 pick on two-way player Brendan McKay of Louisville, a power-hitting and power-armed first baseman/pitcher.  The Sporting News still had the Twins using the top pick on Wright.

So, if I’m, ahem, right on Wright – or Beck – what will the Braves be getting at No. 5?

Beck is a toolsy outfielder from North Davidson High School in Lexington, N.C., a place where they make great BBQ that would be better if they didn’t put any red (tomato) in the vinegar-based sauce. But I’m originally from Eastern N.C. (Greenville), so I’m admittedly partial to the best chopped pork BBQ on the planet, which has a vinegar sauce that is clear, not red.

Anyway, Beck tore his the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at the end of his junior year and, as a result, missed summer and fall ball. But it worked out to his advantage, say the scouts who saw how much stronger he was after using the down time to build up. I’m told he’s got tremendous bat speed, power to all fields, very good speed and a strong arm.

I’d give you his high school stats, but why? High school stats don’t mean much, if anything, given the wildly disparate levels of competition from state to state and in various classifications within each state. The important thing is how his talent, his skills, rates by the scouts who are paid to do this stuff.

As for Wright, if the Braves take him they’d have two top-5 Vanderbilt draft picks from the past three drafts (Dansby Swanson was the No. 1 pick by Arizona in 2015). And they would have the latest in a line of highly regarded Vanderbilt pitchers.

Wright grew up outside Hunstville, Ala., and wasn’t drafted out of high school in 2014. But now the 6-foor-4, 220-pound righty is about to go off the board early in the first round, as a bevy of teams covet his power arm and much-improved command.

He generally works in the 92-95 mph range with his fastball but has been clocked at 95-97, and has a “plus” curveball and slider and a pretty good change-up. Wright struck out 13 in a May 6 game against Missouri and reportedly was still hitting 94 mph with his fastball in the ninth inning of a complete game against Florida on April 14.

So that’s what I hear, Beck or Wright. And if it turns out to be neither, well, nevermind.

By the way, I’ll be here in D.C. covering the Braves-Nationals series, not back in Atlanta covering the draft. We’ve got Foltynewicz vs. Strasburg tonight in Game 1. I’ll take that over a baseball draft anytime.

I'll close with this all-time great from the mighty Pretenders, since bassist Peter Farndon, a founder of the band, was born this day in 1952. He died of a drug overdose at age 30 after playing on their first two terrific albums.

"TALK OF THE TOWN" by The Pretenders

One thing leads to another I know

Was a time wanted you for mine

Nobody knew

You arrived like a day

And passed like a cloud

I made a wish, I said it out loud

Out loud in a crowd

Everybody heard

'twas the talk of the town It's not my place to know what you feel

I'd like to know but why should i?

Who were you then, who are you now?

Common labourer by night, by day highbrow

Back in my room I wonder, then i

Sit on the bed, look at the sky

Up in the sky

Clouds rearrange

Like the talk of the town

Maybe tomorrow, maybe someday

Maybe tomorrow, maybe someday

You've changed your place in this world

You've changed your place in this world

Oh but it's hard to live by the rules

I never could and still never do

The rules and such never bothered you

You call the shots and they follow

I watch you still from a distance then go

Back to my room, you never know

I want you, I want you but now

Who's the talk of the town?


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About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.