Reviewing Atlanta Braves' Last 9 First-Round Draft Picks

Daniel Kock@@dannykockContributor IIIMay 25, 2015

Reviewing Atlanta Braves' Last 9 First-Round Draft Picks

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    DG/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Braves have always put a focus on drafting, scouting and developing within the organization.

    New president of baseball operations John Hart has put an even greater emphasis on the draft and restocking the farm system. Hart prioritizes the draft, as evidenced by the Braves' six selections in the first 89 picks of this year's draft —the most of any MLB team.

    The Braves will be looking to use those picks in the upcoming June 8 MLB draft to further upgrade the talent in the organization and build toward the future.

    As the 2015 MLB draft approaches, let's take a look back at the past nine first-round picks for the Atlanta Braves.

    Note: This list excludes supplemental picks.

2014: OF Braxton Davidson

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    Todd Kirkland/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Braves looked for some power in the outfield when they selected Braxton Davidson with the 32nd pick in the 2014 draft. The Braves selected the 18-year-old out of T.C. Roberson High School in Asheville, North Carolina.

    Davidson throws and hits left and projects as a corner outfielder.

    It is too early to tell if this pick will pan out for the Braves.

    Davidson has a career .231/.383/.333 slash line with four home runs in 89 games at the minor league level. He currently plays for Single-A Rome and is hitting .238 for the season.

2013: RHP Jason Hursh

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    Dave Tulis/Associated Press

    The Braves selected Jason Hursh out of Oklahoma State with the 31st overall pick in 2013. The right-hander had some arm issues during his college years, but came in with an elite fastball.

    The goal in selecting a college pitcher is to have the prospect ascend quickly through the minors to help out the big league team. Hursh is currently at Double-A Mississippi and has struggled in 2015. To date, Hursh is 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA in 39.2 innings.

    Hursh isn't as highly rated in the organization after the Braves acquired several top pitching prospects this offseason. The 23-year-old may need to develop a niche out of the bullpen to help out the MLB team in the future.

2012: RHP Lucas Sims

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    Dave Tulis/Associated Press

    The Braves selected a talented pitcher out of high school in Lucas Sims. The Braves took Sims with the 21st pick out of Brookwood High School in Snellville, Georgia.

    Sims immediately became one of the organization's top pitching prospects, and he remains one of the top young arms in the farm system.

    The 21-year-old right-hander has displayed his potential as a starter, but struggles with consistency. In 2015, he's 2-3 with a 5.20 ERA with Single-A advanced Carolina. In his last outing, Sims went seven innings and allowed just one run (unearned) while striking out six batters.

    He still has time to develop, but Sims will need to be more consistent to reach the MLB level and be effective once he's there.

2011: LHP Sean Gilmartin

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Sean Gilmartin could never get over the hump in the Braves organization. The left-hander out of Florida State and No. 28 pick in the 2011 draft never appeared in a game for the Atlanta Braves.

    He worked his way up to Triple-A and seemed to be on the verge of getting an opportunity with the big league outfit. However, Gilmartin never cracked into the rotation or bullpen and was traded to Minnesota for catcher Ryan Doumit in the 2013 offseason.

    He was selected by the New York Mets in the 2014 Rule 5 draft and finally made his MLB debut this season. He is currently pitching out of the bullpen with a 2.13 ERA in 12.2 innings for the Mets.

2009: LHP Mike Minor

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    Brandon Wade/Getty Images

    It will be interesting to see how the rest of Mike Minor's career unfolds.

    The No. 7 pick out of Vanderbilt in the 2009 draft was one of the most promising left-handed pitchers in baseball after the 2013 season. In that season, he was 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA and won a playoff game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, he took a step back in 2014 as he battled injuries to go 6-12 with a 4.77 ERA.

    There was hope that a healthy 2015 season would get Minor back on track, but he suffered tightness in his shoulder before a spring training start and eventually underwent season-ending surgery.

    Minor is signed on a one-year deal (arbitration eligible next two seasons), and you have to wonder if he's thrown his last pitch with the Braves.

2007: OF Jason Heyward

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    We find another familiar name on this list in Jason Heyward.

    The Braves took Heyward with the No. 14 pick out of Henry County High School in McDonough, Georgia, in the 2007 draft.

    Heyward tore through the minors and was seen as one of the top prospects in baseball. He did nothing to temper the expectations when he homered in his first career at-bat as a 20-year-old on Opening Day in 2010.

    After a promising rookie season in which he was selected as an All-Star, Heyward seemed to regress at the plate. Despite turning into one of the top defensive corner outfielders in the game (two-time Gold Glove winner), he has continued to struggle at the plate.

    In an unpopular move at the time, Heyward was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals this past offseason for right-handed pitcher Shelby Miller, as Heyward was under contract for just one more year.

    Heyward was a fan favorite and delivered some exciting moments for Braves fans, but it's hard not to look at his career as a disappointment. He currently has a .238/.293/.377 slash line with the Cardinals.

2006: OF Cody Johnson

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    On the flip side of Heyward, here is a player who never made a name for himself.

    The Braves selected Cody Johnson out of A. Crawford Mosley High School in Lynn Haven, Florida, with the No. 24 pick in the 2006 draft. The outfielder played five seasons in the Braves organization before playing three years in the New York Yankees organization.

    Johnson was a career .245 hitter in eight minor league seasons and is now out of baseball. He managed to make it to Triple-A, but hit just .167 in 18 games before retiring.

2005: RHP Joey Devine

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    GREGORY SMITH/Associated Press

    Joey Devine is a name Braves fans would likely prefer to forget.

    The Braves selected the side-armed right-hander out of North Carolina State with the 27th pick in the 2005 draft.

    Devine progressed quickly through the minors quickly, and actually made his debut with the big league team on August 20 of that year. However, it was all downhill for Devine from there.

    He is unfortunately remembered for giving up the game-winning home run to Chris Burke of the Houston Astros in the bottom of the 18th inning of Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS. The loss eliminated the Braves from the postseason.

    Devine pitched in 10 games apiece over the next two seasons in Atlanta with mixed results before being traded to the Oakland Athletics for Mark Kotsay.

    Devine had his best season in 2008 as he produced a 0.59 ERA in 42 games. Unfortunately, he dealt with injuries and pitched just one more season in 2011 before retiring.

2002: OF Jeff Francoeur

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Jeff Francoeur is another player who's been on a wild journey.

    The Braves took Francoeur out of Parkview High School in Lilburn, Georgia, with the 23rd pick. He and catcher Brian McCann (selected in second round of 2002 draft) were seen as the future faces of the franchise. Like Heyward, Francoeur homered as a 21-year-old in his MLB debut in front of many family and friends.

    Francoeur enjoyed a few good seasons in Atlanta before struggling with strikeouts, and was later dealt to the New York Mets for outfielder Ryan Church. Since then, Francoeur has been traded, cut and signed on many occasions. He has played for a total of seven teams, which includes six different teams over his last six seasons.

    He is currently with the Philadelphia Phillies, and the highlight of his 2015 season was a four-hit performance in a 5-2 win over the Atlanta Braves on May 4.

    Francoeur is another example of a player who didn't have the career so many envisioned for him after his rookie season.