ATLANTA -- Since assuming his role as the Braves' director of scouting midway through the 1999 season, Roy Clark and his staff have proven more than capable on draft day. In the four drafts that Clark has overseen, the Braves have taken advantage of the vast talent in the home state and continued to show a preference toward selecting high school players.
But when Clark and his scouts assemble at Turner Field for this year's draft on Monday, their eyes will not be simply fixed on Georgia products or high school talent. Instead, they'll be using the mindset established by Paul Snyder, whose leadership and wisdom enabled the Braves to be named "Organization of the Past 20 Years (1982-2001)" by Baseball America.
"We're looking for the best talent available," Clark said. "We're looking for guys who we believe will best represent this organization on and off the field. Obviously, we're looking for guys who can play the game and at the same time possess the character that gives us the confidence that they are committed to continuing a championship tradition."
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This year's first pick for the Braves will come with the 71st selection. They lost their first round pick to the Rangers when they signed John Thomson in the offseason.
"It doesn't matter if we're picking number 1 or number 171, we're going to look for the most talented player out there," Braves director of player personnel Dayton Moore said. "If it happens to be a high school player or college player, it doesn't matter. We're just looking for the best Major League talent out there."
In between 2000-02, the Braves showed a keen interest toward high school players from Georgia. Each of their top selections (Adam Wainwright, Macay McBride and Jeff Francoeur) in those three drafts hailed from the Peach State. Furthermore, each of their first three selections in 2001 (McBride, Josh Burrus and Richard Lewis) were plucked from their backyard.
"You have to go where the talent is," Clark said. "In recent years, Georgia has proven to have a lot of talented players. It's been good to us. Plus, they want us as much as we want them."
Along with evaluating a prospect's playing ability and character, Clark and his scouts also have to be confident that a player is willing to sign. This takes into account financial aspects and whether or not a high school player is leaning toward going the college route.
In 2002, they selected Francoeur with the knowledge that he was willing to decline his opportunity to play football at Clemson to play for his hometown team. Of course a $2.2 million signing bonus certainly helped the multi-sport star's decision.
Past five No. 1 picks Year Player 2003 Luis Atilano, RHP 2002 Jeff Francoeur, OF 2001 Joseph McBride, LHP 2000 Adam Wainwright, RHP 1999 None
"There's no reason to waste a draft pick," Moore said. "If a kid isn't ready to play, there's no sense just throwing money at him in hopes that he'll sign."
When Baseball America announced its top 10 Braves prospects last fall, included were eight players (Francoeur, Wainwright, Bubba Nelson, Dan Meyer, Adam LaRoche, McBride, Brian McCann, Kyle Davies and Anthony LeRew) who have been selected in the past four drafts.
"We want all of our starting pitchers and position players to be considered a prospect," Moore said. "That's a tough thing to do. But that is what we set out to do when we're looking for talent."
While LaRoche and Trey Hodges are the only players from the past four drafts that made it to Atlanta so far, some other recent draft picks have been used to fortify this year's Major League team. Wainwright, Lewis and Nelson were all key components in separate trades that landed J.D. Drew, Juan Cruz and Chris Reitsma.
"There's no question, we like to raise our own players," Moore said. "Our minor league [coaching] staff is geared to instructing young talent. It's our job to select and develop talent to the best of our abilities and then turn it over to [general manager] John Schuerholz."
Because the Braves have talented instructional figures like Brian Snitker, Randy Ingle, and Bruce Dal Canton, who have been in the organization for many years, the Braves feel confident drafting young high school talent. But as Hodges, Marcus Giles, Nick Green and LaRoche, have proven, there's plenty of college-experienced talent in this organization as well.