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Braves' 2009 Draft marked by change

Braves' 2009 Draft marked by change

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In some ways, the 2009 Draft was a big departure for the Atlanta Braves. In others, it was quite similar to those over the past several years.

With an apparent need to watch the bottom line in terms of dollars, the Braves did something they haven't done much of recently: They took a college pitcher with their top pick. That doesn't mean they weren't thrilled to add Mike Minor, an advanced college lefty who should be able to help them sooner rather than later, but it's been their M.O. to go the high school route. Atlanta would've loved to have taken local product Zack Wheeler, but the high school right-hander went one spot ahead of it in the first round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

Staying local and hitting the junior college scene is something Atlanta continued to do in 2009. Four of the club's first eight picks were from two-year schools. Seven picks were playing in Georgia at the time while others had played in the elite East Cobb program as the Braves showed they still love looking in their own backyard.


NL East
ATL | FLA | NYM | PHI | WAS

AL East
BAL | BOS | NYY | TB | TOR

NL Central
CHC | CIN | HOU | MIL | PIT | STL

AL Central
CWS | CLE | DET | KC | MIN

NL West
ARI | COL | LAD | SD | SF

AL West
LAA | OAK | SEA | TEX

Perhaps the biggest change will come in the 2010 Draft. Scouting director Roy Clark had spent 20 years in the Braves' organization, 11 of them as the head of the team's Draft. He took a position with the Washington Nationals as an assistant general manager. Tony DeMacio has been named to replace Clark as Atlanta's scouting director.

Top five picks

1. Mike Minor, LHP: The lefty out of Vanderbilt was not your typical Braves first-rounder -- Atlanta had taken a college pitcher with their top pick just twice in the past nine years (Joey Devine in 2005 and Dan Meyer in '02) -- but they liked Minor's pitchability and competitiveness, along with his stuff. He made four outings with Rome in the South Atlantic League and showed quickly that he's too advanced for that league (0.64 ERA in 14 IP, .208 batting average against, zero walks, 17 strikeouts). The Arizona Fall League was more of a challenge at the end of a long year, but it could help him jump on the fast track in '10.

3. David Hale, RHP: The Braves didn't have a pick in the second round (given to the Dodgers for Derek Lowe), so Hale was their next pick after Minor. A two-way player at Princeton, the hope is Hale will be able to refine his power arsenal when focusing on pitching only. Hale went to Danville in the rookie-level Appalachian League and posted a 1.16 ERA over 16 innings. He allowed just seven hits for a .130 BAA while walking five and striking out 12. Six of his seven outings came as a reliever and the thinking is that could be his long-term role.

4. Mycal Jones, SS: Atlanta loves junior college players, and Jones is the first of several the team took in this Draft. Coming out of Miami-Dade, Jones also went to Danville, where he hit .258/.337/.430 with 19 steals in 23 attempts. Whether he'll stick at shortstop remains to be seen, but he did play there every day for Danville en route to an Appy League title.

5. Thomas Berryhill, RHP: A strong-armed reliever out of small Newberry College in South Carolina, Berryhill helped close games for Danville, picking up six saves along the way. He had a 2.55 ERA over 17 2/3 IP, yielding 15 hits and nine walks while striking out 12.

7. Robby Hefflinger, OF: A big, strong outfielder who also pitched in junior college, Hefflinger played both corner outfield spots for Danville. He finished with a .242/.288/.383 line and struck out 76 times in 61 games. A right-handed hitter, he did hit .293/.380/.512 agianst lefties, though five of his seven homers came against right-handed pitching.

Best of the rest

Outfielder Kyle Rose (eighth round) used his plus speed to lead the Gulf Coast League with 26 steals in 30 tries. He then moved up to Danville briefly to finish with a .293/.397/.354 line. Sixteenth-round pick Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg played first for Danville and won the Appy League MVP by winning the batting title (.359) and finishing third in the league in OBP (.411), SLG (.543) and RBIs (53). Left-hander Matt Crim (21st round) was the Appy League Pitcher of the Year by going 10-2 with a 3.18 ERA. He tossed a complete-game shutout to win the league title for Danville. Chris Masters, a lefty taken in the 11th round, was just as good for the D-Braves, going 8-4 with a 1.42 ERA (second in the league) while leading the circuit with 85 K's against just nine walks.

Fast risers

First-rounder Minor is the kind of college arm that should, and is expected to, move quickly through the system. Look for him to jump to either Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach or maybe even Double-A Mississippi to start his first full season. With Hale focusing solely on pitching, he could get it together more quickly if he becomes a full-time short reliever.

Unsigned

The Braves signed fewer than half of the 49 players they chose in the 2009 Draft, coming to terms with just 24 of their 49 selections. Ryan Woolley, their sixth-rounder, was drafted despite not having pitched for the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 2009. A transfer from Georgia, he had to sit out according to NCAA rules. He was a redshirt junior, giving him two years of eligibility. Evidently, he used that leverage and decided to return to UAB. Matt Moynihan, the club's 37th round pick, is a very athletic outfielder from California, but Atlanta couldn't lure him away from his strong commitment to University of San Diego.

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

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