Braves may focus on offense early in Draft

Braves may focus on offense early in Draft

Braves may focus on offense early in Draft
ATLANTA -- Last year's disappointing conclusion continues to haunt the Braves. Along with being denied the thrill of participating in the postseason, the club was also left with low first-round positioning for a Draft that does not have the star power of a Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper.

The Braves will not have the opportunity to take some of the most coveted players available in this year's First-Year Player Draft. But the club's director of scouting, Tony DeMacio, believes there will be some intriguing talent available on Monday, when the Braves make their first pick with the 21st overall selection.

"[In 2010] we didn't even have a first-round pick, but we got [Matt] Lipka out of there and [Andrelton] Simmons out of there," DeMacio said. "We'll do the best we can and choose the best guy available."

Top 100 Prospects
NATIONAL LEAGUE
West Central East
AMERICAN LEAGUE
West Central East

Live coverage of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging  your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Because they will not have any compensatory selections between the first and second or second and third rounds, the Braves do not have much margin for error this year. After their first-round selection, their next pick will be the 85th overall. Their third-round pick will be 116th overall.

By taking college players with each of their first 10 selections last year, the Braves were able to fill some of the gaps created by the disappointing results of some recent Drafts. But DeMacio contends that was more a product of availability than a completion of a plan.

"It was just the way things fell," DeMacio said. "There were some high school kids we would have liked to have had, but they went before us."

The Braves' first-round selection last year was Florida State's Sean Gilmartin, a disciplined left-hander who has continued to impress over the past year. Gilmartin drew rave reviews during his first big league Spring Training this year and is pitching with Double-A Mississippi.

With Gilmartin and Mike Minor, the seventh overall selection in the 2009 Draft, the Braves have chosen a left-handed collegiate pitcher with their first selection two of the past three years. The presence of these southpaws, combined with Brandon Beachy, Randall Delgado, Julio Teheran and Tommy Hanson, could lead the club to focus on offense during this year's early rounds.

Under the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement, every Major League team will have a prescribed bonus total they can provide their first 10 selections. Because they do not have any extra selections, the Braves will have $4,030,800 to dole out in bonuses to these 10 selections.

The projected bonus for the 21st overall selection is $1.825 million. If the Braves do not use all of this figure on the player acquired with this pick, they can use the difference on any of their next nine selections. But the sum of the bonuses given to their first 10 selections can not exceed $4,030,800.

2012 Draft Central

In about 50 words
The Braves have set themselves up to have depth in the starting pitching department for a few more years. But with Chipper Jones retiring and Brian McCann potentially entering the free-agent market after 2013, there is a need to begin producing depth at third base and catcher. Christian Bethancourt stands as the catcher of the future, while Joey Terdoslavich, a 2010 selection, could end up as Atlanta's third baseman within the next two years. But as Terdoslavich's struggles with Triple-A Gwinnett have confirmed, some depth could prove beneficial in those areas.

The scoop
"I have no idea who is going to be there. When you pick at 21 and then not again until 85, that's a lot of players in between. You just go with what you have and try to do the best that you can." -- DeMacio

First-round buzz The Braves have kept their interests quiet and provided a number of surprises over the past few years. There is a chance they could use their first-round selection on D.J. Davis, a speedy high school outfielder out of Mississippi, or Tanner Rahier, a talented infielder from California who has drawn attention for his advanced offensive skills.

Money matters
Under the new 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.

braves' bonus pool
Pick No. Pick Value
1 21 $1,825,000
2 85 $583,300
3 116 $408,300
4 149 $297,000
5 179 $222,400
6 209 $166,700
7 239 $143,600
8 269 $134,200
9 299 $125,300
10 329 $125,000
TOTAL $4,030,800
AVG. $403,080
MLB RANK* 26th
* Rank in terms of total bonus pool $
Any team going up to five 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.

Shopping list
An abundance of infield prospects led the Braves to move Lipka, their first selection from the 2010 Draft, to the outfield. While he will not be ready if Michael Bourn exits via free agency, Lipka and Todd Cunningham head the organization's next wave of outfield talent. Though the Braves will likely use a couple of their first 10 picks on pitchers, they might place a greater emphasis on targeting outfielders and middle infielders, who could prove versatile during development.

Trend watch
If Roy Clark was still the scouting director, many would likely predict the Braves to use their first pick on Lucas Sims, a strong right-hander from suburban Atlanta's Brookwood High School. But pitching is not necessarily the top need and DeMacio has not extended Clark's tendency to favor in-state talent from Georgia.

Recent Draft History
Rising fast
After being selected as a pitcher in the second round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Simmons convinced the Braves to first utilize him as a position player. Since then, he calmed concerns about his offensive potential and established himself as one of the game's best defensive shortstop prospects. Once he made the jump to Double-A this year and continued to hit well, there was more reason to believe he could be Atlanta's starting shortstop by the end of this year. And this week, he was called up to play short, replacing Tyler Pastornicky, who was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Braves' recent top picks
2011 Sean Gilmartin LHP Double-A Mississippi
2010 Matt Lipka OF Class A+ Lynchburg
2009 Mike Minor LHP Atlanta (MLB)
2008 Brett DeVall LHP Out of baseball
2007 Jason Heyward OF Atlanta (MLB)

Cinderella story
The Braves did not know exactly what to expect when they took 23-year-old Evan Gattis in the 23rd round of the 2010 Draft. Gattis had just played one season at Texas Permian Basin after spending the previous four years using recreational drugs and living a nomadic life. He opened eyes when he hit .322 with 22 home runs in just 88 games with Class A Rome last year. He impressed during his first big league camp this year and tore through the Carolina League before earning a promotion to the Double-A level at the end of April. The Braves have moved him to the outfield with the hope that this could accelerate his rise toward the Majors.

In The Show
With two of their top four selections in 2007, the Braves selected Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. One year later, they used their third-round selection on reigning National League Rookie of the Year Craig Kimbrel. With its earliest selection since '91, Atlanta used the seventh overall selection in the '09 Draft on Mike Minor, who arrived at the big league level one year later.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.