Braves feel fourth-rounder could be special

Braves feel fourth-rounder could be special

ATLANTA -- There is no baseball team at Billings (Mont.) High School. That, in itself, is not that strange because Montana is one of three states in the country without high school baseball.

But just because there aren't high school teams doesn't mean there aren't prospects for the First-Year Player Draft, which is being held this week. And in the fourth round, the Braves called the name of one of those prospects from the Treasure State.

The Braves selected center fielder Justin Black on Tuesday with the 149th overall pick. To hear scouting director Tony DeMacio talk about Black, it seems like the Braves unearthed a treasure.

"[He's an] 80 runner and he's got power," DeMacio said, grading Black on the 20-80 scouting scale. "We like the ability to run and the size and strength that goes along with that, which is hard to find."

2012 Draft Central

But the Braves did find him. Without a high school team to play for, Black plays American Legion ball for the Billings Scarlets. That took him to various high-profile showcases last summer, including the Tournament of Stars, which brings the top high school juniors to the USA Baseball complex in Cary, N.C. Black also played for the Langley Blaze, a club team in British Columbia.

The remote location of some of Black's games made him difficult to scout at times. DeMacio said on one trip, two Braves scouts drove 13 hours to watch him play.

Last week, so key decision makers could watch Black play, the Braves brought him to Turner Field for a workout before the Draft.

"Everybody liked what they saw," DeMacio said.

Still, Black remains a raw talent, someone the Braves will have to be patient with if he forgoes his commitment to Nebraska and opts to begin his professional career. DeMacio is willing to wait for Black to develop.

"He just doesn't have the opportunity because of the winter," DeMacio said. "But you can't hold that against a kid."

Teddy Cahill is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.