This anonymous commenter from yesterday's post brings up a valid point:
My point wasn't that the Baseball America claims should be dismissed outright, just that it would be an extremely tough claim to substantiate and that from what I have seen, they made no attempt to do so. Now, if they have reams of data in their super secret basement complex that prove this, then I'd be more than happy to see the results of their analysis and change my mind. Until then, I believe that the saying goes, "In God we trust; all others must bring data." A simple example would be a statistic measuring of how many of the pitching prospects drafted by the Braves during that timeframe were traded to bolster the major league team. During most of the period in question, the major league rotation was pretty set at the top three, which could have affected everything from the level of risk taken during the draft (taking more high risk guys who were less likely to pan out) to when pitching was drafted (i.e. they may have drafted pitching later in the draft because of this which could have led to the low success rate). Basically, all that I am saying is that to make a claim like that, there should be extensive analysis behind it, and I would like for them to "show their work" so to speak.
Now, I had begun to respond within the comments section when I realized that the response was getting pretty lengthy. Hence, post.
I agree to an extent about the showing their work. We are talking about almost 15 years in which Dayton Moore was heavily involved in player development. Since we know what has happened since Moore got to Kansas City, it is best to look at what went on while he was in Atlanta.
Going into the players that were signed out of Latin America is simply going to be too difficult for little old me to cull together. I can say that Neftali Feliz looks to be the real deal, and I'd imagine Moore was somewhat involved in his initial signing out of Latin America, but he was traded to the Rangers at the age of 19. He's still not a starter, although one would imagine he will be in the near future. Moore was hired by the Royals in the summer of 2006. Feliz was still in Rookie ball when the Braves traded him the next year. I think his development can safely be attributed to the Rangers.
Of the draftees while Moore was still in Atlanta, 2005 is the last draft of theirs we can look at that Dayton Moore was involved with. Then-spelled Tommie Hanson was taken in the 22nd round of that draft, and when Moore left for Kansas City, Hanson was sitting in Rookie ball.
Their first round pick that year was Joey Devine, taken out of NC State. He was in the Majors for a drink of water by the end of that season, and then he spent the next two seasons pitching mostly in Triple-A, with short stints with the club in Atlanta before being shipped off to Oakland. At all stops, he has been a reliever. His stop in Oakland in 2008 was the first time in which Devine was given a chance to play a majority of the season in the Majors, and he pitched quite well, for what it's worth.
Understandably, these are the only two from the 2005 draft who have substantial experience at the Major League level.
From the 2004 draft, there have been no players who have made an impact at the Major League level. It should be noted that they did draft a first baseman named Joey Lieberman, though.
Matt Harrison—drafted in 2003—was sent off to Texas in the Teixeira deal as well, but does he qualify as a quality ML starter? At the time of the trade, Harrison sat in Double-A. The other pitchers to have made it to the show from that draft were Jo-Jo Reyes and Sean White, neither of whom left their mark at the highest level.
Chuck James and Dan Meyer were both drafted in 2002, but neither could reasonably qualify as quality Major League starters.
Macay McBride, Anthony Lerew, Kyle Davies, and Kevin Barry are the only products of their 2001 draft with any ML experience. We're not still basking in the glow of Kyle Davies's sterling September of 2008, are we?
From their 2000 draft, Adam Wainwright advanced through their system to AA before being traded to the Cardinals. Here we've got our first argument for the Braves' system potentially putting out a prospect, but he did end up going to St. Louis, where Dave Duncan is a god. At most, the Braves can be partially credited for his development. After all, he was the 29th pick of the draft that year, so he already had some skills when he entered the organization.
Other drafted pitchers from the 2000 draft who have made it to the Majors? Blaine Boyer, Zach Miner, Trey Hodges, and Kelly Johnson. Well, Johnson made it to the show but as an outfielder/second baseman.
In 1999, the Braves had Andrew Brown, Ben Kozlowski, and John Foster who made it to the Majors and were drafted as pitchers. I'd imagine that the rest of you are as surprised as I am that these three players were Major Leaguers.
1998's draft produced the following Major League pitchers: Matt Belisle, Scott Sobkowiak, John Ennis, Tim Spooneybarger, Mike Perez, and Brad Voyles. Not impressive.
In 1997, the list of draftees logging Major League time who were drafted as pitchers are Joey Nation and Horacio Ramirez. I think I speak for all of us when I say that I'd like to never see the name Horacio Ramirez in print again.
From 1996's draft Jason Marquis, Joe Nelson, and Aaron Taylor were the only draftees that reached the Majors as pitchers.
(All of the above info was culled thanks to the links to the Baseball Cube Braves draft results listed on the Braves draft history sidebar listed over at the old blogspot location for the Baby Braves blog that at one point moved to MVN but now appears to be defunct.)
Insofar as how many pitchers were drafted and the importance the organization put on pitching versus other positions in those drafts, it is probably easiest to look at how many of their top 10 picks were pitchers in each of those years. It's not a complete picture, but it certainly informs one as to what sort of importance they placed on pitching each year.
- 1996 - 11 picks in the first 10 rounds—pitchers were taken in the sandwich portion of the first, fourth, sixth, ninth, and 10th rounds
- 1997 - 10 picks—second, fifth, ninth, and 10th rounds (the ninth and 10th round picks did not sign)
- 1998 - nine picks, no first round pick—second, fourth, seventh, eighth, ninth (eighth rounder not signed)
- 1999 - 9 picks, no first rounder - second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and 10th round (eighth rounder not signed)
- 2000 - 15 picks, four picks in the first, two in the second, two in the fourth—this year, it's easier to say when pitchers weren't taken, two of their first rounders were position players, and their eighth and ninth rounders weren't pitchers; Kelly Johnson was one of the first rounders drafted as a pitcher and converted later on, and again Wainwright was their first pick
- 2001 - 13 picks, three first rounders and two second rounders - their first pick in the first round was a pitcher; J.P. Howell was drafted with their first pick in the second round but was not signed; Davies was taken in the fourth, and then they took inconsequential pitchers in the seventh, ninth and tenth rounds
- 2002 - 12 picks, extra supplemental picks in each of the first two rounds—their supplemental first round pick was Dan Meyer, followed by pitchers in the third, fourth, seventh, and ninth rounds
- 2003 - 13 picks, one extra supplemental pick in each of the first three rounds—again, this year, it is easier to look at when they didn't take pitchers: Saltalamacchia was their supplemental first round pick and first baseman Jamie Romak was taken in the fourth round
- 2004 - 9 picks, no first rounder—fourth, seventh, ninth, tenth
- 2005 - 12 picks, one extra supplemental pick in the first two rounds—both first rounders, the last second round pick, and the fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, and tenth rounders were pitchers
Judging by this data, it seems as though pitching at the very least wasn't wholly ignored. If I am reading the drafting correctly, the italicized names on those lists were non-signed players. It should then be noted that there seemed to be an organizational shift in drafting philosophy.
Up until 2001, the Braves had a large chunk of unsigned draftees. After that point, nearly all of their drafted players were signed, indicating to me at least that the Braves shifted their focus to sign-able players, taking the cheaper, lower-risk route—one that we can all agree is less likely to be getting later top-notch talent than say signing players with sign-ability concerns to contracts grossly out of line with recommended slotting. And that is largely why Moore has been able to accumulate the bevy of arms currently populating the lower levels of the Royals minor league system.
Of the players drafted and successfully signed from 1996 until 2005—Moore's last official draft with the Braves—the only legitimate impact arms produced by the Braves were Adam Wainwright and Tommy Hanson.
Jason Marquis has been intermittently effective as a starter at the Major League level. Hanson's development took place mostly outside of the purview of Dayton Moore. Wainwright was successful in the Braves' minor league system but wasn't a successful pro starter until pitching under the eye and tutelage of Dave Duncan, perhaps the best pitching coach in the Majors.
Again, this research is bound to be incomplete without access to international signings who were then traded, but Neftali Feliz is the only traded international player that springs to mind as a standout pitcher who was traded out of the system, but he's not quite an established starter.
Where does this leave us?
Well, speaking for myself, I'm worried.