Braves select outfielder Davidson with 32nd pick
Power-hitting 17-year-old noted for 500-foot homer at Tournament of Stars
ATLANTA -- As the Braves evaluated this year's pitching-heavy First-Year Player Draft, they understood the importance of taking advantage of the opportunity to select any of the attractive position players early.
Thus, when it came time for them to take their first pick on Thursday night, they opted to use the 32nd overall selection on Braxton Davidson, a 17-year-old left-handed, power-hitting outfielder from North Carolina's T.C. Roberson High School.
"To be able to get a power hitter where we were picking, especially a real young one, we were real happy with that," Braves director of scouting Tony DeMacio said. "He's got easy power and a great swing."
Davidson received the news while hosting nearly 215 people for a Draft party at the Hickory Tavern, located near his home in Asheville, N.C. Less than two weeks ago, he had made the three-hour drive to Atlanta to watch the Braves wrap up their three-game series against the Rockies.
"When I was growing up, my dad and I would watch the Braves every chance we got," Davidson said. "I could name everyone's name and position. So I was a pretty big Braves fans at the time. And my little brother [Caden] is a huge Braves fan. So I think he is even happier than me."
During the party, Davidson received a call from Braves scout Billy Best, who simply wanted to know if he was willing to sign for the slot money ($1.705 million) that went with the 32nd overall selection.
Once this confirmation was made, he returned to the group with a bright smile and told his guests to watch for the announcement, which was made just a few moments later.
Before Davidson, who turns 18 on June 18, signs his first professional contract, he will enjoy his high school graduation next weekend.
LHP Brady Aiken
RHP Tyler Kolek
LHP Carlos Rodon
C Kyle Schwarber
SS Nick Gordon
OF Alex Jackson
RHP Aaron Nola
LHP Kyle Freeland
RHP Jeff Hoffman
OF Michael Conforto
C Max Pentecost
LHP Kodi Medeiros
SS Trea Turner
RHP Tyler Beede
LHP Sean Newcomb
RHP Touki Toussaint
LHP Brandon Finnegan
RHP Erick Fedde
RHP Nick Howard
1B Casey Gillaspie
OF Bradley Zimmer
RHP Grant Holmes
OF Derek Hill
SS Cole Tucker
3B Matt Chapman
SS Michael Chavis
RHP Luke Weaver
LHP Foster Griffin
SS Alex Blandino
RHP Luis Ortiz
LHP Justus Sheffield
OF Braxton Davidson
RHP Michael Kopech
RHP Jack Flaherty
"I'm just really blessed and thankful to be a part of the Braves," Davidson said. "I just can't thank them enough. I'm speechless right now, knowing that I'm going to be part of their fantastic tradition."
The Braves lost the 24th overall selection when they signed Ervin Santana in March and gained the 32nd selection in compensation for losing Brian McCann to the Yankees via free agency.
Davidson becomes the first position player to be selected with Atlanta's first pick since Matt Lipka was taken with the 33rd selection in 2010. The Braves had taken pitchers with their first selection in five of the previous six Drafts.
As the first round developed, the Braves saw Michael Chavis, the top position player on their wish list, go to the Red Sox with the 26th selection. They were then set to select right-handed pitcher Luis Ortiz before he was selected by the Rangers with the 30th pick.
But there did not seem to be any disappointment when they still had the chance to take Davidson. Along with displaying power potential, he impressed scouts with his willingness to take walks, much like Jason Heyward did when opposing pitchers chose not to pitch to him during his high school career.
"I think we have a young man with great makeup," DeMacio said. "His work ethics are excellent. He's very mature. He's very grounded. He knows he has ability, but he knows he'll have to work to get to the next level and the next level."
Davidson displayed his power potential when he hit a record three home runs, including one that is said to have traveled an estimated 500 feet, during the Tournament of Stars showcase last summer. But over the past couple of years, he has focused on becoming a more complete offensive player by hitting the ball to the opposite field.
In addition, the 6-foot-2 Davidson spent his senior year staying away from fast food, soft drinks, mayonnaise and some of the other foods he had routinely consumed when he weighed 230 pounds last year. Consequently, he now has a more athletic 210-pound frame that should prove beneficial as he prepares to serve as a left fielder during his professional career.
"I really wanted to show people I could be more than just a power hitter," Davidson said. "So my dad and I worked on hitting the ball the other way, trusting my hands and being more of a 'see the ball and hit the ball' kind of hitter. I'm really proud that I became more of a hitter than a power hitter."
As Davidson prepared for Thursday's Draft proceedings, he received a call from Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin, a family friend who has been like an older brother to the Braves' newest first selection.
Nine years ago, Davidson attended a Draft party for Maybin, who was selected by the Tigers with the 10th overall selection. At the time, the wide-eyed eight-year-old kid did not know he would one day enjoy a similar celebration.
"I wanted to be like Cameron, but I wasn't thinking about the big leagues," Davidson said.
After taking Davidson, the Braves took right-handed pitcher Garrett Fulenchek with their second round selection. The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1.
Braves add righty Fulenchek in second round
ATLANTA -- If Garrett Fulenchek proves to be as successful as Andrelton Simmons and Evan Gattis, the Braves might opt to place a statue of veteran scout Gerald Turner outside their new Cobb County Stadium.
Fulenchek stood as a rather obscure prospect for many Major League organizations until approximately nine months ago. But by that time, Turner had already become quite familiar with the hard-throwing Texas high school hurler.
So when it came time for the Braves to make their second-round selection in the First-Year Player Draft on Thursday night, the Braves once again followed Turner's advice by selecting Fulenchek, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound right-hander from rural Howe, Texas.
"You can't get anything by Gerald in Texas," Braves director of scouting Tony DeMacio said in reference to Turner, who signed Simmons (second round) and Gattis (23rd round) out of the 2010 Draft.
After taking power-hitting outfielder Braxton Davidson in the first round, the Braves extended their tradition of filling early draft picks with pitching. Fulenchek learned he was taken with the 66th overall selection while hosting friends and family members at his home in Howe, which has a population of slightly more than 3,000.
The Braves had taken a pitcher with their first selection in five of the previous six Drafts.
"It's nice to have two 17-year-olds that have huge upside," DeMacio said in reference to Fulenchek and Davidson.
Fulenchek, who turns 18 on Saturday, was not on the radar of many clubs until he impressed scouts at Perfect Game's World Bat Association World Championship in October. The hard-throwing hurler has a live fastball that has been clocked at 90-94 mph and a slider that improved as he spent his senior season at Howe High School.
The Braves believe Fulenchek's projectable 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame will allow him to add velocity as he goes through the early portion of his professional career.
"He just kept getting better this year," DeMacio said. "He's got a real projectable body and a lot of life on his fastball. Everything that he throws moves."
Fulenchek is committed to play at Dallas Baptist University. But if the Braves extend their near perfect record of signing their early draft picks, the young hurler will likely agree to a signing bonus worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $866,000.
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com pregame show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.