Atlanta Braves 2019 MLB Draft Report Card
Every year at the conclusion of the regular season, Baseball America revisits each teams' most recent draft class. Each class has its no-doubt, high-profile names to keep an eye on, but our annual draft report cards highlight the best tools, best debuts, late-round steals and more. Here are the names you need to know from every organization's 2019 draft.
Best Pure Hitter: The Braves had a pair of picks in the first round and spent their second on SS Braden Shewmake (1). Shewmake was one of the most consistent hitters in the SEC over his collegiate career—he hit .323/.381/.487 at Texas A&M—and did well during his pro debut at low Class A Rome, where he hit .318/.389/.473 before an aggressive, late-season promotion to Double-A Mississippi.
Best Power Hitter: Atlanta signed 1B Bryce Ball (24) for just $197,500 on Day 3 of the draft. Ball has a 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame and plus raw power that should be his carrying tool. He tapped into that power well during his pro debut, hitting .329/.395/.628 with 17 home runs and 18 doubles between Rookie-level Danville and low Class A Rome.
Fastest Runner: The Braves didn’t sign a ton of burners, but OF Drew Campbell (23) is an above-average runner, though he stole a modest 14 bags over two seasons with Louisville and just one during a 28-game stint with low Class A Rome, where he played left and right field. OF Stephen Paolini (5) is also an impressive runner.
Best Defensive Player: It’s hard to not pick C Shea Langeliers (1) with this category, as amateur scouts repeatedly praised the Baylor product’s defensive prowess behind the plate. Langeliers has plus arm strength, great blocking and receiving ability, and he threw out 41 percent of basestealers in the South Atlantic League during his debut. Shewmake is a solid defender with the versatility to play any position outside of catcher.
Best Athlete: OF Stephen Paolini (5) was something of an under-the-radar prospect in the draft. Many teams were unaware of him, but the Braves liked his plus running ability and standout athleticism that offers him significant upside. So much so that they signed him for $597,500—the fourth-highest bonus the team handed out this year.
Best Fastball: RHP Ricky DeVito (8) has a fastball that gets into the mid-90s, while RHP Kasey Kalich (4) has a heater that can get up to 98 mph. Kalich has a more clear role as a reliever at this point in his career, while DeVito has a three-pitch mix that could allow him to continue starting.
Best Secondary Pitch: RHP Darius Vines (7) has a solid four-pitch mix, but his best offering is a power curveball that amateur scouts believed was already a big league-quality pitch—a downer breaking ball in the 78-80 mph range that has late biting action and tunnels with his fastball well.
Best Pro Debut: Ball was named the 2019 Appalachian League player of the year after posting a 1.086 OPS with 13 home runs for Danville. Ball also showed solid plate discipline for a late-round pick in his first year, drawing a walk in 12.7 percent of his plate appearances compared to a 17.3 percent strikeout rate in the Appy League.
Most Intriguing Background: RHP Jared Johnson (14) was fairly unknown the summer prior to his senior season. Johnson didn’t pitch in any summer showcases, but he blew up during the spring after reaching back and touching 97 mph with his fastball in small-town Smithville, Miss. Johnson drew the attention of a number of SEC programs looking to sign him late, but the Braves were too intrigued with his easy velocity and projectable frame to let him get to campus.
Closest To The Majors: Shewmake doesn’t have the largest toolset, but he has a polished all-around game—led by his hit tool—and could fill a number of holes at the big league level, including a super-utility bench role if needed.
Best Late-Round Pick: The Braves have done a nice job getting late-round gems in the draft, and it seems like Ball is the next in line. He gives the organization some much-needed prospect excitement in the lower levels.
The One Who Got Away: Atlanta signed each of its picks through the top 25 rounds, but 3B Riley King (26) opted to return to Georgia for his redshirt junior season after hitting .295/.403/.440 with eight home runs in 2019. King went to the Cape Cod League this summer and continued to hit, posting a .323/.373/.427 line with Yarmouth-Dennis.