Oklahoma State sophomore pitcher Jason Hursch became the Braves' first-round pick Friday in the MLB Draft.
ATLANTA — It looked as if Atlanta might take a high school player from Georgia in the first round of the draft again this year, but infielder Travis Demeritte was selected by Texas one pick ahead of the Braves’ turn late Thursday night.
So Atlanta fell back to another recent draft pattern — taking a college pitcher.
The choice with the 31st pick was Oklahoma State right-hander Jason Hursh, a hard-throwing redshirt sophomore who bounced back from Tommy John surgery to go 6-5 with a 2.79 ERA in 16 starts this season.
The fact that Hursh had his elbow repaired also fits in with the Braves, who have had a rash of pitchers undergo the procedure in recent years. Hursh already has something in common with Tim Hudson, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters, as well as Alex Wood.
A second-round pick last year out of Georgia, Wood
Loganville pair drafted in first nine picks
ATLANTA --- Every year, thousands of high-school and college baseball players are poured into the funnel that is the major league baseball draft, each hoping to earn the chance to pursue a dream.
On Thursday night, against improbability, two of the first nine to be selected hail from Loganville. In the first round of the draft, Loganville High outfielder Clint Frazier was selected fifth overall by the Cleveland Indians. Four picks later, the Pittsburgh Pirates took Frazier's friend, outfielder Austin Meadows from Grayson High.
"It's crazy," Meadows said from his home, where dozens of family members and friends flooded the property. "It's hard to take it in."
Four months after Grayson football player Robert Nkemdiche signed with Mississippi as the top high school prospect in the country, Frazier and Meadows (who won a state football title with Nkemdiche in their junior year) took their turn in a remarkable run of athletic prosperity along the border of Gwinnett and Walton counties.
"There's so much talent out there," said Staci Meadows, Austin's mother. "Just for Austin and Clint, in this small town of Loganville, to be two of the guys in the top 10, we just look back on it every day and realize how blessed they are."
Both are described as five-tool players, with the ability to hit for average and power and run, field and throw. Frazier was named the Gatorade national high school player of the year earlier this week after hitting .485 with 17 home runs this season. Meadows, who hit .537 for the under-16 U.S. national team two years ago and led the team in RBIs and stolen bases, is no slouch.
"He's a great hitter and he can steal bases, and he's a good defender," Frazier said. "He's got the whole package."
While Meadows stayed home Thursday, Frazier was at the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, N.J., with family members. They were in the studio audience when commissioner Bud Selig announced the selection.
"It was the most exciting moment of my life, honestly," Frazier said.
A cheer went up at the Meadows house. Minutes later, Selig called Meadows' name before the Pirates called him to let him know he had been chosen.
"It got really loud," Meadows said. "Everyone started getting their phones out, taking pictures. My mom was crying. It was great. It's the best day of my life."
They planned to connect by phone later in the evening.
Said Frazier, "I'm sure he's getting as swamped as I am right now."
They are due some considerable coin. Last year's No. 5 pick received a $3 million signing bonus, and the No. 9 pick was given $2.6 million to sign. After signing, they'll both head to rookie league.
A professional baseball career has "always been my dream," Meadows said. "I'm excited to start my new career."
At least one player from a Georgia high school or college has been selected in the top 10 of six of the past seven drafts, a streak started by former Georgia Tech catcher Matt Wieters in 2007.
Also Thursday, the Texas Rangers selected Winder-Barrow third baseman Travis Demeritte with the 30th pick.
No other Georgia high school or college players were taken in the first 31 selections. The draft will continue with rounds 3-10 on Friday, with the remaining 30 rounds Saturday.
--- McClatchy News Service
also had Tommy John surgery in college, and he has already made it to Atlanta as a member of the bullpen.
Hursh, a Texas native, was chosen with the compensation pick the Braves received for losing free agent Michael Bourn to Cleveland. They lost their first-round pick for signing free agent B.J. Upton to take over for Bourn in center field.
Hursh, 21, has a fastball clocked at 95-98 mph and has shown improvement with his slider and developing changeup. He had 86 strikeouts and 28 walks in 106 1/3 innings this year for Oklahoma State.
“We feel we chose a pitcher with a real power arm who has a lot of years and innings ahead of him,” Braves director of scouting Tony DeMacio said.
The Braves took Lucas Sims, a high school pitcher from suburban Atlanta, with their first-round pick last year.
They also choose college pitchers Sean Gilmartin of Florida State in 2011 and Mike Minor of Vanderbilt in 2009.
Although the Braves organization is more fortified in pitching than position players, DeMacio said before the draft that the team’s philosophy of not drafting for position hadn’t changed.
“We’re going to go with who we believe is the best available,” DeMacio said. “If it’s a pitcher, we’ll go with a pitcher. If it’s a player, we’ll go with a player.”
However, the Braves aren’t well set at third base, and that is where Demeritte, from Winder, Ga., is expected to end up. That’s why he was so intriguing as a follow-up to the Braves taking high schooler Jason Heyward, from just south of Atlanta, with their first pick in 2007.
In the second round, the Braves selected Miami Dade South junior college catcher Victor Caratini, a product of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, with the No. 65 pick. It was the earliest the Braves had drafted a catcher since making metro Atlanta product Brian McCann a second-round choice in 2002.
The Braves started Day 2 by selecting right-hander pitcher Carlos Salazar in the third round, the 102nd overall pick.
Though committed to Fresno State in his own backyard, the California native gained plenty of big league draft interest following an early showing at the Major League Scouting Bureau’s SoCal Showcase.
The physical right-hander out of Kerman High School has a ton of arm strength, touching 97 mph with his fastball fairly consistently. His sharp breaking ball has the potential to be a plus pitch in the future, and he even shows some feel for a deceptive changeup.
Braves keep catchers coming with Murphy in Round 4
The Braves took their second catcher in four picks on Friday afternoon, selecting high school backstop Tanner Murphy with the 133rd overall pick in the fourth round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
Murphy, from Malden High School in Malden, Mo., signed to play for Southern Illinois after putting up an average over .500, 32 homers and 68 RBIs in his first three years of high school.
This spring, he hit .600 with 10 home runs and 39 RBIs on his way to earning conference player of the year honors.
Murphy was a two-way player throughout high school, compiling a 7-3 record as a starting pitcher with 84 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings pitched as a senior. But with his frame and productive bat, he profiles as a catcher at the next level.
Braves take Texas A&M infielder Reynolds fifth:
After drafting a high school battery with their first two picks Friday, the Braves stayed up the middle with their fifth-round selection, taking Texas A&M shortstop Mikey Reynolds with the 163rd overall pick.
Reynolds, the first college senior selected by the Braves this year, is not big, physically, but he has a tenacity and aggressiveness that has helped him reach this level. Listed at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, Reynolds earned second-team All-Southeastern Conference recognition after hitting .342 with 15 doubles, 25 RBI and a team-high 19 steals.
Braves take local arm Janas in Round 6:
The Braves went local for yet another right-handed pitcher, selecting Kennesaw State junior Steve Janas in the sixth round.
Janas, a product of Lassiter High School in Marietta, Ga., underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2012 as a sophomore, returning in just 10 months to put together a spectacular junior season. He posted a 1.14 ERA in 2013, breaking the Atlantic Sun record, and carried a perfect 9-0 record into the championship game of the conference tournament, where the Owls fell to East Tennessee State.
Janas pounds the strike zone with his upper-80s fastball and also throws a changeup and slider, which has the potential to be a big-league average pitch. His above-average command allows him to compete without premium velocity, but his 6-foot-6 frame suggests he might add more velocity as he further recovers from surgery.
Braves get prep righty Stiffler in seventh round:
The Braves continued their grab for right-handed pitching prospects in the seventh round, selecting a high-school arm in Ian Stiffler with the 223rd overall pick.
Yet another power right-handed pitcher, Stiffler boasts three pitches he can throw with above-average command: a fastball, curveball and changeup.
Stiffler, the first Pennsylvania high schooler taken in the 2013 Draft, led his high school to the district championship this spring after signing with Virginia Commonwealth in November. His older brother Shawn is the head baseball coach at VCU.
Braves stick with bloodlines in selecting Manwaring: For the third straight pick, the Braves took a prospect with baseball bloodlines Friday, selecting third baseman Dylan Manwaring in the ninth round, the 283rd overall selection.
Manwaring, a Wake Forest commitment since he was a sophomore in high school, is the son of former Major League catcher Kirt Manwaring, who played 13 seasons with the Giants, Astros and Rockies between 1987-99.
Braves take GM Wren’s son
The Braves kept their eighth-round pick in the family Friday, selecting outfielder Kyle Wren, the son of Braves general manager Frank Wren, with the 253rd overall pick of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
Wren was a Draft-eligible sophomore a year ago but decided to head back to Georgia Tech rather than sign with the Reds, who took him in the 30th round. The speedy outfielder had a tremendous junior season for the Yellow Jackets, hitting .360 and stealing a team-high 28 bases as Tech took Vanderbilt to the brink of elimination before bowing out in the Nashville Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
Wren is mostly a line-drive hitter who goes with the pitch when he wants to. His best tool is his speed, and it works on both sides of the ball, allowing him to play a strong outfield as well — the Braves selected him as a center fielder.
The Braves continued a trend of keeping their general manager bloodlines in-house in the eighth round. In 2002, Atlanta selected Jonathan Schuerholz, the son of then-GM John Schuerholz, in the same draft position.
UGA's Farmer goes to Dodgers
Georgia senior Kyle Farmer was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the eighth round of the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft Friday.
The Dodgers drafted the 6-0, 205-pound Farmer as a catcher, meaning he will be changing positions after serving as the starting shortstop for the Bulldogs the past four years. Farmer was the starting shortstop for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team during the summer of 2012.
Farmer set a Bulldog record for the highest career fielding percentage by a shortstop at .968 in 1,045 total chances. He appeared in 212 games with 211 starts at shortstop. An Atlanta, native, he batted .308 with 63 doubles, seven triples, 18 home runs and 168 RBI. He ranks in Georgia’s career top 10 for games played, total bases, at bats, hits, doubles and RBI.
In 2013, Farmer served as one of the team captains and set a single season school record for highest fielding percentage by a shortstop at .978 in 134 total chances. Last season, Farmer was a 35th round pick of the New York Yankees as a shortstop. This year, he was the 244th overall player taken. He is the first Bulldog drafted by the Dodgers since 2010 when pitcher Alex McRee was picked in the 14th round.
With Farmer’s selection, the Bulldogs will extend their string to 41 straight seasons with at least one player signing a professional contract. In 2012, three Georgia players were drafted with two signing: pitcher Alex Wood (2nd round, Atlanta) who is already in the Major Leagues with the Braves, and Levi Hyams (19th round, Atlanta).
The Cleveland Indians drafted one member of Georgia’s incoming signing class, outfielder Clint Frazier, in the first round, fifth overall, Thursday. On Friday, another member of the Bulldogs latest recruiting class was selected. Pitcher Blake Shouse, currently at Middle Georgia, was taken in the fifth round (139th overall) by Colorado.
The MLB draft featured rounds three through 10 Friday. It wraps up with rounds 11-40 on Saturday and complete coverage is available on MLB.com. Teams have until July 12 at 5 p.m. to sign their draft picks.