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Braves’ draft class loaded with pitchers

Garrett 
Fulenchek

Garrett Fulenchek

ATLANTA — The Braves completed their 2014 draft Saturday, feeling good about the arms they loaded up on in the early rounds. The Braves drafted pitchers with four of their top five picks and five of their top eight, starting with 6-foot-4 right-hander Garrett Fulenchek from Howe (Texas) High School.

Fulenchek, the Braves second round pick, has already reached agreement with the Braves on a $1 million bonus.

This year’s draft was projected to be deeper in pitching than in position players, and the Braves drafted accordingly.

“That’s the difficulty of the draft anymore is the lack of position players,” Braves scouting director Tony DeMacio said. “So we just continue to take arms. And Mr. Snyder always said you’ve got to take 20 of them to get one to get to the big leagues because of all the things that can go wrong, so just got to keep taking them.”

The Mr. Snyder he was referring to, of course, is Braves Hall of Famer Paul Snyder, the team’s former scouting director who is technically retired but couldn’t resist getting back in the Braves draft room once again this year.

Among the pitchers the Braves drafted during final rounds Saturday was Mercer right-hander Brandon Barker, an Etowah High graduate, in the 16th round. DeMacio saw Barker pitch against Evansville left-hander Kyle Freeland, who was taken in the first round Thursday night by the Colorado Rockies, No. 8 overall.

“I tell you he’s got a pretty good arm,” DeMacio said of Barker. “He stayed right with (Freeland).”

Barker won that game Feb. 21, going five innings and allowing three runs (two earned) while Mercer scored seven runs (four earned) in four innings off Freeland.

The Braves drafted a couple of familiar names at the tail end Saturday, an area of the draft where unsignable players are generally taken out of a show of respect. The Braves took former Braves pitcher Paul Byrd’s son Grayson Byrd, a shortstop from King’s Ridge Christian who has signed with LSU, in the 39th round. They also took Brown second baseman J.J. Franco, the son of former Mets closer John Franco (fourth on baseball’s all-time save list with 424), in the 38th round.

The Braves drafted a shortstop in the 19th round named Codey McElroy from Cameron University in Oklahoma who is 6-foot-6. DeMacio said the Braves might ultimately convert him to pitching.