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06/06/06 6:17 PM ET
Dream come true for Braves' first pick
Johnson grew up rooting for Atlanta, idolizing Chipper Jones
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- When the Braves selected Chipper Jones with their first pick in the 1990 First-Year Player Draft, Cody Johnson still hadn't celebrated his second birthday. Thus he didn't know that 16 years later, his dream would come true and that he and Jones would share something more than simply being prized baseball prospects produced in Florida's fertile land. Having spent most of his life following one organization and considering Jones to be his favorite player, Johnson was overwhelmed with emotion Tuesday afternoon, when the Braves took him with their first selection in this year's First-Year Player Draft. "It's an honor to be drafted by the Braves," said Johnson, who is projected to be an outfielder. "I grew up watching them and it's the only team I've really ever rooted for. It's the one place I've always wanted to play. It's amazing to be drafted by the Braves." When they saw that Johnson was still available to take with the draft's 24th selection, the Braves were ecstatic. They saw him flash his power on the way to earning MVP honors in last year's Perfect Game wood-bat tournament that was held in Marietta, Ga. In addition, they continued to like what they saw as he completed his prep career at Crawford Mosley High School in Lynn Haven, Fla. "Cody is a premier power bat in the draft," Braves director of scouting Roy Clark said. "He's also a year younger than most of the guys in this draft. We're just delighted to have Cody." Johnson, an impressive 17-year-old who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 195 pounds, possesses a powerful left-handed swing that helped him hit .525 with 15 homers, six doubles and 43 RBIs during his senior season. His production was enough for him to be named Florida's 5A state Player of the Year. But scouts around the country were well aware of him long before he completed his impressive prep career. He was the 2005 Aflac National High School Player of the Year. Some scouts have been concerned about a hitch in his swing and have doubted his ability to hit consistently at the professional level. But Clark believes the young outfielder has a very bright future. "We've seen him at his best," Clark said. "We've seen him struggle. We feel very comfortable with his makeup and ability."Clark and scouts got their final look at Johnson when they brought him to work out with Christopher Parmalee, who was taken by the Twins with the 20th selection, and Hyun Choi Conger, who was taken by the Angels with the 25th selection. According to Clark, the trio hit so many balls over the Turner Field walls that they had to go to the clubhouse to get a new supply. "I had a very strong showing," Johnson said. "I took a very good round of [batting practice]. I ran well. I threw well. I felt like I showed the complete package." Although he's spent some time at first base, Johnson has started becoming comfortable in the outfield since moving there last year. He has an above-average arm, and with time, he should begin taking better routes and getting better reads on fly balls. "My speed profiles better in the outfield," Johnson said. "I'm a little more comfortable in the outfield. I'm still adapting to really adjusting to reading the ball off the bat and learning how to throw runners out." Johnson is the first outfielder taken with the Braves' first selection since 2002, when they nabbed Jeff Francoeur. They had taken a pitcher with their first selection six of the previous eight years. Although Johnson has committed to Florida State, the Braves are expected to have little trouble signing him. They've given him a chance to realize a lifelong dream. "I sort of expected it," Johnson said. "But even if you know where you're going, it's still a surprise to hear and see your name called. I was speechless when I saw my name come up."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.