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 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 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, but they 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.