The 2014 MLB Amateur Draft begins today and everyone who’s paying attention has heard about the top 10, 50 and 100 prospects. The draft however goes on for three days and up to 40 rounds this year while in past years drafts have lasted over 50 rounds. When you get past the first 10 rounds more than 300 players (including compensation and and competitive balance picks) will have been chosen. We know that in the later rounds there are some odd picks and some “courtesy” picks – we took John Schuerholz Jr. a few years back – but is there any value when you dig that far into the barrel? Well, yes and no. When you get past the first 300 or so players or at best the top 500 you will likely have as much luck throwing darts at a list but every now and then nuggets are found that make the grind worthwhile. Here’s a look at some players Braves fans will know who were plucked from oblivion.
Panning for gold
From 1965 through 2012 the Braves drafted 2440 players, 1402 of those with pick 400 or higher. By sifting through the names I found 42 who made it to the big leagues as a result. Not included are players drafted that high who chose not to sign with the Braves and were drafted in subsequent drafts and succeeded in having at least a cup of coffee in the majors. Thirteen of those went on to have long careers and/or names you’ll remember.
Johnnie B. (Dusty) Baker:
Perhaps the best known of this list so far, Dusty Baker was the 503rd pick in the 1967 draft had a cup of coffee with the Braves in 1968 and 69 and remained a Brave through 1975 appearing in 628 games and posting a .278/.351/.440/.790 slash. He was also the on deck hitter when Hank Aaron hit 715.
Hubbard was the Braves 473rd pick in 1975 and the Braves regular second baseman from 1978 through 1987 posting a .245/.328/.351/.680 slash and was selected for the All Star team in 1983. He returned as first base coach for Bobby Cox and stayed until regime change after Bobby’s retirement left him on the outside looking in.
Butler was the 573rd pick in 1979 but spent only three years wearing the Tomahawk, making his mark on the west coast with the Giants and Dodgers .
Lemmer was the 677th pick in 1983 and took over as regular second baseman in 1990. While his bat never set the world on fire during the regular season he delivered some key at bats in post season play. In the 1991 World series Lemke posted a .417/.462/.708/1.170 line. In the 92 NLCS he shined again with a .333/.462/.381/.842 slash and in the 96 World series he hit a homer, 2 doubles and drove in 5 runs and a .444/.519/.630/1.146 line.
Dye was supposed to replace David Justice as the Braves right fielder of the future but spent only one year in Atlanta. He went on to have a long and successful career earning a World Series ring with the White Sox in 2005 when he was the Series MVP.
Rocker was the 516th pick in 1993. He became the Braves closer in 1998 and saved 83 games for them from 98 through 2001. Unfortunately he lost control of his mouth and his fastball and was out of baseball two years later.
As the 1511th pick in 1996 Giles has the honor of being the player picked farthest from the start to have a successful career. Marcus platooned as the Braves second baseman in 2001 and 2002 and became the regular there in 2003. he was chosen for the ASG that year but a week before the game received a concussion when he collided with Mark Prior. He returned after the ASG and continued to put up solid numbers through 2005. His bat started to decline in 2006 and he was nontendered following that season. he signed with the Padres but like Dan Uggla recently he seemed to lose his hitting ability all at once. As a Brave he posted a .357/.412/.571/.983 line in the 2003 NLCS and a career slash of .285/.361/.448/.809.
LaRoche was the 880th pick in 2000 and joined the big team in 2004. From 2004 through 2006 LaRoche put up a .274/.337/.504/.841 line with 65 homers and 213 RBI. In a move that was the first domino in the now irrationally infamous Mark Teixeira trade, the Braves decided they couldn’t afford his 2007arbitration salary and traded him to the Pirates. While the Braves struggled to find a permanent first baseman until Freddie Freeman arrived LaRoche continued to deliver an average of 26 homers and 90 RBI wherever he played. The Braves traded for Adam again in 2009 and he showed how glad he was to be back in Atlanta by hitting a strong .325/.401/.557/.957 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI in 57 games but the Braves once again nontendered him following that season.
Venters was the 907th pick in 2003 and as most know exploded on the Braves scene in 2010 appearing in 79 games in relief posting a 1.95 ERA and finishing 8th in Rookie of the year voting. He repeated his success in 2011 with an 1.84 ERA and 1.091 WHIP in a league leading 85 appearances. he is currently rehabbing from his second TJ surgery and may return in a week or so.
Big Red was the 665th pick in 2005 but made that look like a joke by rocketing up Baseball America’s prospect list to become the number four prospect when he landed in Atlanta in 2009. As we all know he was soon touted as the future ace of the staff but injury ended that hope and he was traded to the Angels following the 2012 season.
Evan Gattis and Shae Simmons:
Gattis was number 704 in the 2010 draft while Simmons was 689 in 2012. Fans know El Oso Blanco’s story as well as I and we’ve all seen Simmons arrive and act like he belongs. Their future lies ahead of them but so far it looks very promising. Here’s the complete list. Teams where players made their debut are listed. Garrett Jones was released by the Braves in 2002 and signed by the Twins.
That’s A Wrap
Looking at where players who have become or were household names for Braves fans was interesting. Even though they are known for sniffing out pitching, the Braves seemed to draft a lot of second baseman late and get them to the majors successfully. A lot of their late round success rests in the scouting department’s ability to recognize under valued players before sabermetrics took hold. These days the scouts have to be even better as every team is armed with enough data to choke a horse. That makes success in the late rounds even tougher.
Alan gave you his picks for the draft and I’m mostly in tune with him. I like Alex Blandino more than he does because of his hit tool and I really hope Monte Harrison falls to us and we grab him. I like Foster Griffin but if he doesn’t get to us Kodi Madeiros is a dark horse as well as Justus Sheffield. We can hope that we snag a jewel or two and maybe even find another Dusty, Brett, Adam or Evan in the backwoods of the draft as well.