Seven Up: The Atlanta Braves Best Draft Picks of This Decade
The Major League Draft is fast approaching, so it's time to take a look at some of the best picks the Braves have made over the past 10 years. We can only hope the Braves do as well this year.
Jonny Venters – 30th round pick in 2003 has been great so far in 2010 (1.29 ERA in 21 innings) and has the potential to be a good LOOGY for years to come. That late in the draft, any MLB player is a pretty good value.
Tyler Flowers – 33rd round pick in 2005 (also drafted by Atlanta in the 27th round of the 2004 draft) has barely played in the majors and is struggling this year in AAA, but he was the main piece that brought us Javy Vazquez
To Be Determined
Mike Minor – First round pick in 2009 hasn’t been as good as expected (ERA wise) in 2010 but has seemingly become a strikeout artist and is tied for the minor league lead with 80.
Freddie Freeman – Second round pick in 2007 has major potential, and could eventually be a star for the Braves at first base.
Craig Kimbrel – Fourth round pick in 2008 (also drafted by Atlanta in the 33rd round of the 2007 draft) could be closing in Atlanta as early as next season. I think he has all the tools to be just as good as Drew Storen.
7. Kris Medlen
10th round pick in 2006
Medlen still has plenty of time to move up on this list, but for now I have him at the seventh spot.
Assuming Medlen lives up to his potential, he will be a steal in the 10th round for the Braves.
The early returns on Medlen have been good. After a solid rookie year in 2009 (4.26 ERA in 37 games, four starts) he has far exceeded expectations in 2010.
Again spending time in both the rotation and bullpen, he has posted a 2.85 ERA and has shown enough to stay in the Braves rotation even after Jair Jurrjens returns.
6. Adam LaRoche
29th round pick in 2000
LaRoche’s career numbers haven’t been tremendous for a first baseman (.273/.344/.491) but he has proved to be a solid starter in Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and now Arizona.
But when you’re drafted in the 29th round, just about any MLB starter is a steal. LaRoche could have gone higher in the draft as a pitcher, but he wanted to play every day.
The Braves took a chance, and won big time with LaRoche.
5. Adam Wainwright
First round in 2000
When the Braves used the 29th overall pick on Wainwright, they didn’t expect to wind up with one of the best pitchers in the National League.
With a 3.07 career ERA (spanning six seasons) I would have him higher on this list, except none of his major league experience has come with the Braves.
Shipped to St. Louis as part of the J.D. Drew trade, the Cardinals ended up being the big winners of the Braves' good drafting with Wainwright, who owns a 53-27 career record.
4. Yunel Escobar
Second round in 2005
After defecting from Cuba, many teams were unsure of what to expect from Escobar. The Braves had an advantage, because Brayan Pena (who at the time was in the Braves farm system) grew up on the same street as Yunel.
Since his rookie season in 2007, Escobar has shown he can hit. A career .294/.369/.411 line makes him one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball, and he is excellent on defense too.
Although he occasionally seems to lose focus, Escobar has performed great for a second-round pick.
3. Brian McCann
Second round in 2002
The best offensive catcher in the National League, McCann has compiled a .291/.358/.493 line over the course of his six-year career.
McCann has gone to the past four All-Star games, and could be headed for a fifth if he continues to recover from a bad April.
Although McCann’s defense leaves something to be desired, he has become a consistent middle-of-the-order staple for the Braves, and should continue to be one of the best catchers in baseball.
2. Jason Heyward
First round in 2007
I’ll admit, the J-Hey Kid is this high partly based on hype, but his performance is already making this pick (14th overall) look like a steal for the Braves.
Already compared to Willie McCovey, Ken Griffey Jr., Fred McGriff and Albert Pujols, Heyward has done nothing but impress in his rookie season.
The NL leader in Win Probability Added (that shouts MVP) is among the top 10 in the NL in most major statistical categories (including HR, RBI, OBP, SLG, OPS).
While anything can happen, I can’t see any reason not to believe in the first two months of Heyward’s career.
1. Tommy Hanson
22nd round in 2005
Last year, Hanson was ranked the Braves top prospect (ahead of Jason Heyward) and a top 5 prospect in all of baseball.
Although he struggled in his MLB debut, Hanson’s rookie season was phenomenal, and (in my opinion) he should have won Rookie of the Year).
With all the makings of a future ace, Hanson was a huge steal in the 22nd round. Through his first 32 starts he has produced a 3.19 ERA and 8.4 K/9.