The Braves Drafts Reviewed Part IV 2003-2007

draftreviewIf this is the first time you’ve seen this where have you been  . . So far I’ve looked at:

The Braves philosophical view of prospect selection
The current view of others who believe our minor league system today
is mediocre
The beginning of the draft and a statistical look at the Braves draft history  since 1965
Reviewed draft years 2000 to 2002

Today I finish my look at the drafts by  looking at 2003-2007 and see how those choices turned out so far.  When that’s complete we’ll have a basis for identifying how well  their philosophy matches up to how they actually draft.

As I go through the drafts I mention the player’s Baseball America ranking. Rankings although backed with tons of objective data these days are of course subjective in nature; one man’s number one may be another man’s number five.  Generally however, there isn’t a huge difference between players as ranked by various recognized organizations. I chose to Baseball America’s rankings where possible because. they are widely viewed as the authority on draft eligible – college, junior college and high school – players and have a track record that backs up that view. Thanks to their Executive Editor Jim Callis for helping me obtain prior year ranking information. Without his help my head would have exploded. After reading this some may think it did.

The 2003 Draft

Here are the players taken in the 2003 draft by the Braves, all except Salty are pitchers.

Round Pick Player Pos. Pre- Draft BA Rank
1 35 Luis Atilano    P        103
1 36 Jarrod Saltalamacchia   C          42
2 43  Jo-Jo Reyes   P          46
2 67  Paul Bacot   P          85
3 79 Jake Stevens   P           41
3 97 Matt Harrison   P           61

I’m sure everyone remembers Jo-Jo and Salty and after the World Series last year most know Matt Harrision, but none of them ever made a serious impact fir the Braves in Atlanta.

This draft was once again very  thin on above average talent  by the time the Braves drafted at #35 and 36 (first round sandwich picks.) Players still available when the Braves picked included:

Round Pick Player      Pos. Pre- Draft BA Rank
1 37 Adam Jones      SS/P 47
2 62 Andre Ethier      OF 93
3 89 Drew Stubbs      OF 87
4 115 Michael Bourn      OF 185
6 181 Matt Kemp      OF Unranked

I have no idea why the Braves didn’t draft Jones instead of 103 ranked Atilano. It could have been that Jones told them he wanted to play every day and the Braves didn’t like him as a shortstop or see him as being worth the effort of moving to a new position as they have twice done so far with Matt Lipka.  I can see them saying Stubbs strikes out too much and even passing on Michael Bourn. Kemp was a novice baseball player at the time, no one knew how he’d adapt to the game so no taking him is also understandable. Passing on Ethier is more difficult to understand.

Ethier could always hit. As a senior at St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, Ariz. in 2000 he hit .527 and was named first team all-region and second-team all-state. That impressed Oakland enough that they drafted him in the 37th round. He chose junior college instead and transferred to Arizona State his sophomore year. While at ASU he was twice named first team Pac-10 and finished  with a 371 average, 113 runs, 27 doubles, seven triples, 14 home runs and 118 RBI. His junior (last) year there he had a 23 game hitting streak and hit in 28 of his last 29 games and led the team in outfield assists. He seems to have been a ‘Braves type player’ as well, quiet well spoken and a superior athlete. I know other teams passed on him too but all of those teams drafted an everyday players early and were adding pitching.

The 2004 Draft

To say the 2004 draft was a nonevent for the Braves would be an understatement. Their first pick was in the second round at #71.

Round Pick Player Pos. Pre- Draft BA Rank
2 71 Eric Campbell  3B 114
3 101 J.C. Holt  2B 77
4 131 James Parr  P Not Rated

When the Braves chose Campbell a lot of the top players were gone. Still available then and for a long time thereafter were a couple of guys that might make you raise your eyebrows.

Pick Player Pos. Pre- Draft BA Rank
410 Dexter Fowler OF 30
533 Mark Trumbo P 31

Fowler is a Georgia native who was hit  .457(14-37 in 105 ABs) and stole 23 bases for Milton High in Alpharetta that year, enough to make him a first team All –American so it’s hard to understand why the Braves didn’t take a shot at him considering who they drafted instead. Baseball America’s roundup of the Rockies draft in 2004 had this to say about him:

. . . (Fowler) fell because of concerns about his signability and the strength of his commitment to the University of Miami. A 6-foot-5, 185-pound outfielder, Fowler is very athletic and has drawn comparisons to Andre Dawson and Andruw Jones. His plus-plus speed is his best tool, and he also has lots of raw power potential.

The Rockies had no doubt he was worth a shot in the late rounds. Scouting director Bill Schmidt echoes my thoughts on seeing a guy with his tools still available in the 14th round.

“When you have a chance to add those types of tools to your system, you have to do it. “He’s very athletic and there’s some adjustments that need to be made at the plate. He has a chance to be an impact player and we thought it was worth the risk.”

It’s hard to understand why the Braves didn’t take a shot at him considering his qualifications and the fact that he would have been another home grown talent on display at Turner Field one day. It’s harder to understand when you consider who they drafted instead.

Pick Player Pos. Pre- Draft BA Rank
161 Van Pope  3B Not Ranked
191 Clint Sammons  C Not Ranked
221 Johnnie Wiggins  LHP Not Ranked
251 Derrick Arnold SS Not Ranked
281 Jeff Katz  RHP Not Ranked
311 Brady Endl  LHP Not Ranked
341 Wes Letson LHP Not Ranked
371 Jeff Long RHP Not Ranked
401 Todd Blackford RHP Not Ranked

Even if you thought he wouldn’t sign, why would you pass up the chance to have those skills in the system? They signed six unranked and never again heard from pitchers were taken instead of Fowler, that seems a blinding miscalculation to me. Ignoring Mark Trumbo seems even harder to explain.

Trumbo’s number 31 ranking was as a pitcher but Angels scouts – and anyone else who chose to watch – saw that he displayed a lot of raw power when he played the infield and had an arm suitable for third base.  The Braves should have been drawn to his as a pitcher; he was a pretty good one too. He finished his high school career with a 1.71 ERA and a bucket load of strikeouts.  A post draft BA article confirmed that even the Angels acknowledged his talent on the mound.

“The last time he pitched, he threw 96 mph with 11 94s, so maybe we’re crazy,” Anaheim scouting director Eddie Bane said. “We were going to send him out as a two-way guy when we drafted him. . . .Every time our scouts would go to see the guy, balls were jumping all over the place.”

The answer to why the Braves weren’t interested in Trumbo more than likely comes down to money. Trumbo signed with the Angels for $1.425 million a record for a non-draft-and-follow 18th-round pick.  Fowler cost the Rockies $925K as well and that was likely a factor in the decision not to draft him.

This year they tried to trade with the Rockies for a center fielder plus a third base prospect and were willing to give up Martin Prado and an established pitcher to get them.

The 2005 Draft

Round Pick Player Pos. Pre- Draft BA Rank
1 27 Joey Devine P 35
1 41 Beau Jones P 155
2 75 Yunel Escobar SS 188
2 77 Jeff Lyman P 87
3 107 Jordan Schafer OF 167

The Braves prize from the 20005 draft was undoubtedly shortstop Yunel Escobar. Escobar’s presence and all around talent was one of the reason’s the Braves felt able to deal Elvis Andrus to Texas in that now infamous trade for Mark Teixeira. Jordan Schafer too was expected to be a future star.  Joey Devine threw 19 1/3 innings in 25 games over three years posting a 6.86 ERA and 2.186 WHIP. Beyond those three no one made an impact in Atlanta.

When the Braves took Beau Jones they left 41st ranked Jed Lowrie on the board probably because they had Escobar in their sights. Why they preferred Schafer to #77 ranked Austin Jackson (taken at 259) and #179 ranked Daniel McCutchen (taken at 380) is probably down to scouting preferences. Between Schafer and Jackson the Braves chose:

137          Michael Broadway RHP 163
167             Will Startup LHP Not Ranked
197            Tyler Bullock RHP Not Ranked
227            Brandon Monk 2B Not Ranked
257           Kyle Cofield RHP Not Ranked

If you read those name and said “Who?” you aren’t alone. Leaving ranked players like the ones mentioned and by the way,  Anthony Varvaro, (62 taken 353), Justin Smoak (95 taken 491) and Ike Davis (119 taken 568) as well,  looks like philosophy taking precedence over common sense to me.

The 2006 Draft

The 2006 six draft year produced Kris Medlen and . . . well Kris Medlen so far.

Round Pick Player Pos. Pre- Draft BA Rank
1 24 Cody Johnson OF 82
1.1 38 Cory Rasmus RHP 91
1.2 43 Steve Evarts LHP 75
2 51 Jeff Locke LHP 60
2 68 Dustin Evans RHP 167
2 72 Chase Fontaine SS 173
3 100 Chad Rodgers LHP 96
4 130 Lee Hyde LHP Not Ranked
5 160 Kevin Gunderson LHP Not Ranked
6 190 Steven Figueroa RHP Not Ranked
7 220 Adam Coe 3B Not Ranked
8 250 Casey Beck RHP 103
9 280 Tim Gustafson RHP 156
10 310 Kris Medlen RHP Not Ranked

Aside from Medlen the rest of our top ten have not made an impression.

  • Locke threw 16 innings with a 1.8 WHIP and 6.86 ERA for Pittsburgh last year. He went to Pitt along with Morton and Hernandez for Nate McLouth.
  • Gunderson pitched well in Mississippi last year and finished with Gwinnett.
  • Evans was with the Mississippi Braves last year.
  • Cody Rasmus missed 2007 and Chad Rogers were in A+ ball last year..
  • Johnson and Evarts are in the Yankee system. Hyde with the Nats, Beck with Toronto, and Gustafson with the Reds
  • Fontaine is played for Newark in an independent league last year.
  • Figueroa and Coe were out of pro ball, Coe since the end of 09.

Of the remaining 40 draftees:

  • 17 did not sign
  • Four p J.B. Paxson, Cole Rohrboug, Adam Milligan and L.V. Ware – were in the Braves system at the end on 2011
  • One – Mason Tobin – threw 5.1 innings for Texas last year
  • Two are still in affiliated ball, one was in the Oakland system, one in the White Sox system,
  • Four played independent ball and
  • 18 were no longer playing at any recorded level.

Players available but not taken that have made an impact elsewhere include:

Round Pick Player Pos. Pre- Draft BA Rank
   1 41 P Joba Chamberlain 7
9 284 P Mark Melancon 35
11 333 P Matt Latos 44
2 66 P Trevor Cahill 83
1 36 3B Chris Coghlan 89
9 283 CF Ryan Kalish 95

The 2007 Draft

As bad as 2006 was, 2007 was good.

Round Pick Player Pos. Pre- Draft BA Rank
1 14 Jason Heyward OF 9
1.1 33 Jon Gilmore 3B 84
2 69 Josh Fields RHP
2 78 Freddie Freeman 1B 118
3 108 Brandon Hicks SS 172
4 138 Cory Gearrin RHP 147
5 168 Dennis Dixon OF
6 198 Michael Fisher SS
7 228 Travis Jones 2B
8 258 Colby Shreve RHP 165
9 288 Tim Ladd LHP
10 318 Tommy Palica LHP

That draft saw the arrival of Jason and Freddie as well as the just waived Brandon Hicks and our young Peter Moylan clone, Corry Gearrin. It’s really way too soon to judge this draft but there were some players available that the Braves left out there and took an unranked or lesser ranked player that you will recognize.

Round Pick Player Pos. Pre- Draft BA Rank
2 67 Jordan Zimmermann   P 97
2 76 Mike Stanton 1B/OF 128
5 174 Will Middlebrooks 3B/P 36

The player that stands out for me is Will Middlebrooks.

MiLB’s Draft Tracker said of Gilmore “His defense isn’t as sharp, but he will be drafted because of his bat potential.”  The Braves did just that, choosing power potential over the all around ability and of  Middlebrooks – ranked 36 – who the same Draft Tracker summed up as “ . . . a legitimate two-way threat. Aside from running speed, he possesses the tools scouts like to see at the plate.”

Even if you liked Gilmore why not take Middlebrooks over recently departed  Brandon Hicks? MiLB said of Hicks “. . . a speedy shortstop with excellent defensive skills and tremendous makeup. All of that won’t make him an everyday shortstop at the next level unless he can hit enough, something that scouts question.”

After Hicks but still before Middlebrooks came Dennis Dixon, of whom MiLB said “Who?” Dixon was so committed to baseball that he played 28 games of Rookie ball  then signed with the Pittsburgh Steeler in the 2008 NFL draft.

Gilmore was traded to the White Sox as part of the Javier Vazquez/ Boone Loganshakinghead deal.

Middlebrooks fell to the Red Sox at #173/ The Braves have been trying to pry him away since then.


That completes my review of the drafts. What have we learned? Have the Braves shown any draft tendencies that might need rethinking?  I think the answer is yes. I’ll spell those out in Part V.

Let me know what you think of the series so far and any other comments you may have.I’m on Twitter @fredeowens and email [email protected]

Tags: Adam Jones Andre Ethier Drew Stubbs Favorite Freddie Freeman Jarrod Saltalamacchia Jason Heyward Jo Jo Reyes Joey Devine Jordan Schafer Kris Medlen Matt Harrison Matt Kemp Michael Bourn Will Middlebrooks Yunel Escobar

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