Braves could place emphasis on bats early in Draft

Atlanta has 5 of first 80 picks, including No. 3 overall

Braves could place emphasis on bats early in Draft

The 2016 Draft will take place today through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com today at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 77 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of Day 2 begins with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, with exclusive coverage of Day 3 beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of over 1,500 Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Here's how the Draft is shaping up for the Braves, whose first selection is the third-overall pick -- their earliest selection since Chipper Jones was taken with the first pick in the 1990 Draft.

In about 50 words
The Braves once again have a chance to gain quality through quantity, as they will make five of the first 80 selections. The strength of this Draft is high school pitching, which has long been Atlanta's primary target. But with their much-improved farm system loaded with highly-regarded pitching prospects, the Braves may place a greater focus on position players with this year's early selections.

"I think you've got to take [hitters] to get them, and you can't just take one here and one there," Braves scouting director Brian Bridges said. "You have to make a commitment to go in that direction. We're thinking long and hard about it. That's something we need to address as an organization -- to not be so lopsided and get some more position players."

Top 2016 MLB Draft Prospects

The scoop
Atlanta's only two legitimate power potential prospects -- Braxton Davidson and Austin Riley -- are teenagers who have not yet advanced beyond the Class A level. In order to add some power to the big league lineup within the next couple seasons, there will seemingly be a temptation to grab a college hitter early with the hope that he could develop quickly and make an impact at the big league level by 2018. Bridges has proven that he has a preference for prospects who have played multiple sports. "You like guys who have developed motor skills from more than just one sport," Bridges said. "You want to see the competitive edge and the makeup of the player. You don't necessarily want the guy who has just played baseball all of the time."

First-round buzz
Mercer University outfielder Kyle Lewis is an Atlanta native who has developed impressive power potential since turning his focus from basketball to baseball. Lewis seems like a good fit for his hometown team, but if he's taken by the Phillies or Reds, the Braves may go with the University of Tennessee's Nick Senzel or the University of Louisville's Corey Ray. High school pitchers Riley Pint, Ian Anderson and Jason Groome have drawn attention. But it seems more likely the Braves go with a college bat.

2016 Draft: Kyle Lewis, OF

Money matters
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.

Any team going up to 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75 percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75 percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100 percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100 percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

To sign their top 10 picks, the Braves have been allocated a pool total of $13,224,100 -- a number that was enhanced by completing the only two trades involving selections (No. 40 from the Marlins and No. 76 from the Orioles) in this year's Draft.

The Braves have an allocation of $6,510,800 to spend on their first choice. If they sign a player under the allotted slot value assigned to a certain pick, they can use the difference toward the signing of another player who might fall deeper than expected because of signability concerns.

Shopping list
Along with needing to add some power potential to their system, the Braves also recognize the need to fill their pipeline with more quality catchers. They feel good about No. 19 prospect Lucas Herbert, last year's second-round selection. But with Herbert standing as the club's only legitimate catching prospect, there seems to be a need to find more catchers -- or at least strong-armed prospects who could transition to this position.

Trend watch
The Braves feel their need to complete their current rebuilding process was fueled by the less-than-impressive Drafts completed under the previous front-office regime, which too often favored "safe picks" over high-upside athletes. Thus, there is now a greater focus placed on targeting those athletes who have the potential to experience significant growth.

Rising Fast
When the Braves took A.J. Minter with the 75th selection in last year's Draft, they said he would have likely been a first-round pick had he not been just a few months removed from Tommy John surgery. The former Texas A&M right-hander has already started to show his tremendous potential, as he has recorded 11 strikeouts over the 10 innings combined he has pitched with Class A Rome and Class A Advanced Carolina this year. There's already some buzz that Minter could reach Atlanta's bullpen by the end of this season.

Cinderella Story
Matt Marksberry has come a long way since the Braves took him in the 15th round of the 2013 Draft. Marksberry began last year with Class A Advanced Carolina, and he then spent the season's final two months in Atlanta's bullpen. Recognizing he had been rushed last year, the Braves are allowing Marksberry to further his development with Triple-A Gwinnett. But the left-handed reliever could return to Atlanta's roster soon.

Marksberry whiffs Duda

In the big leagues
If you don't count Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur and Tyler Flowers -- who all spent many years elsewhere before returning to the Braves organization -- Freddie Freeman stands as the only current member of Atlanta's roster who was drafted by the organization.

Recent top picks:
2015: Kolby Allard, extended spring training
2014: Braxton Davidson, Carolina
2013: Jason Hursh, Double-A Mississippi
2012: Lucas Sims, Gwinnett
2011: Sean Gilmartin, Triple-A Las Vegas (Mets)

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.