Atlanta Braves: Draft Review

General Manager: Frank Wren
Farm Director: Kurt Kemp
Scouting Director: Tony DeMacio

2006-2009 Draft Results:
First three rounds included
x- over-draft signees ($200,000 or more)

2009 1st Round: Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt U
2. None
3. David Hale, RHP, Princeton

Perhaps looking for a “safe pick” since the organization lacked a second-round selection, the team nabbed Minor with the seventh-overall selection. The organization passed on the likes of Jacob Turner and Tyler Matzek, both of whom are talented, hard-throwing prep pitchers. Minor’s fastball is fringe-average at 87-89 mph and his best pitch is a plus change-up. His secondary pitches are still developing, but he’s a durable, left-handed pitcher with solid control and a proven track record. In his debut in low-A ball, Minor did not walk a batter in 14 innings and he allowed just 10 hits. He projects to be a solid No. 3 starter if everything clicks.

Hale is basically the opposite of Minor. He’s a hard-thrower with less polish – and he’s right-handed. He did well in his debut but he was a college pitcher performing in rookie ball. Hale allowed just seven hits and five walks in 16.0 innings.Because he has yet to fully develop his secondary pitches, Hale projects to be a late-game reliever.

Fourth-rounder Mycal Jones had a nice debut, albeit in rookie ball. The 22-year-old infielder hit .258/.337/.430 in 244 at-bats, while also showing solid gap power (18 doubles, .172 ISO) and good speed with 19 steals in 23 attempts.

2008 1st Round: None
1S. Brett DeVall, LHP, Florida HS
2. Tyler Stovall, LHP, Alabama HS
2. Zeke Spruill, RHP, Georgia HS
3. Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Alabama CC
6x – Adam Milligan, OF, Tennessee CC
10x – J.J. Hoover, RHP, Alabama CC

The club recovered nicely from the lack of a first-round pick by loading up on prep pitchers with its three selections before the third round. Both DeVall (hindered by injury problems) and Spruill have developed nicely so far. Spruill appears on the club’s Top 10 list, along with Kimbrel and Milligan. Stovall has shown flashes of potential – 36 hits allowed in 52.0 rookie innings in ’09 – but control issues are a huge red flag for him. He posted a walk rate of 9.69 BB/9 this past season. The left-hander is going to have make some big adjustments if he’s going to get out of A-ball.

Hoover has flashed excellent control in pro ball (1.67 BB/9) and he had a nice ’09 season in low-A ball. In 134.1 innings, Hoover allowed 135 hits and posted a strikeout rate of 9.92 K/9. He has a four-pitch mix with a fastball in the low-90s so keep an eye on him in 2010.

2007 1st Round: Jason Heyward, OF, Georgia HS
1S. Jon Gilmore, 3B, Iowa HS
2. Joshua Fields, RHP, Georgia (Did not sign)
2. Freddie Freeman, 1B, California HS
3. Brandon Hicks, SS, Texas A&M
x- Benino Pruneda, RHP, Texas JC

The best Braves pick in quite a few years, Heyward is easily the club’s No. 1 prospect and he could play regularly in the Majors in 2010 at the age of 20. Freeman is the second best bat in the system, so he joins Heyward on the Top 10 list.

Gilmore was used in the Javier Vazquez trade with the Chicago White Sox and he has been slow to develop. He’s maintained a respectable batting average throughout his career (with a small-sample-size hiccup in ’08) but he has not shown much power (.087 ISO in ’09) for a third baseman. His walk rate was also rather low at 6.3%.

Hicks received some attention after slugging 20 homers in ’08 but he has struggled to hit above .240 in his minor league career. The strikeout rate of 28.2% in double-A in ’09 is also a big problem. Pruneda is an under-sized right-handed reliever who posted a big strikeout rate (11.29 K/9) and a big walk rate (5.65 BB/9) in high-A. He’s also maintained a solid ground-ball rate in his career.

2006 1st Round: Cody Johnson, OF/1B, Florida HS
1S. Cory Rasmus, RHP, Alabama HS
1S. Steve Evarts, LHP, Florida HS
2. Jeff Locke, LHP, New Hampshire HS
2. Dustin Evans, RHP, Georgia Southern
2. Chase Fontaine, SS, Florida CC
3. Chad Rodgers, LHP, Ohio HS
9x – Tim Gustafson, RHP, Georgia Tech
19x – Duente Heath, RHP, Tennessee
22x – Cole Rohrbough, LHP, Nevada JC

A controversial selection at the time, the jury is still out on Johnson. He has massive power but you can drive a bus through the holes in his swing. The club appeared to have scored on both Rasmus and Evarts but their careers have been derailed by injuries. Evans missed all of ’09 due to injury, and Rodgers appeared in just seven games. The injury bug has certainly taken a huge bite out of this draft.

Locke was sent to Pittsburgh in the trade for outfielder Nate McLouth. Fontaine was flipped to Tampa Bay in ’08. Heath reached triple-A this past season but he’s struggled with control issues throughout his rise up the minor-league chain. Rohrbough looked like a huge steal after his ’08 season, but he took a step back in ’09 while posting a 5.77 ERA (4.34 FIP) and allowing 129 hits in 117.0 innings in high-A. His command and control both slipped, which led to a huge drop in strikeout rate to 7.69 K/9. He’s still just 22 so he could easily rebound.

Up Next: The Atlanta Braves Top 10 Prospects




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


5 Responses to “Atlanta Braves: Draft Review”

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  1. dovif says:

    i would have through they drafted better than this

    Heyward seems like the only good prospect from those 3 years

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  2. China Grove says:

    Freeman is at least a playable first-bagger by opening day 2011. Heyward will be an absolute stud, and several of the pitchers also project well. The Bravos have a good history with development, and judging by a lot of their young talent (i.e. Hanson) today, that hasn’t changed for the worse. I’ve had the opportunity to see Hale, and the kid is an absolute fireballer, could be a great closer someday.

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  3. Where is Kris Medlen? He was a 2006 draftee.

    ( Below is from http://gameofinches.blogspot.com/2010/01/free-kris-medlen.html )

    With the trade of vasquez and extention of hudson, this sets the 2010 Braves rotation with Hudson-Hanson-Lowe-Jurrjens-Kawakami. Not bad, but it could be better. Why? Lost in this mix is a hidden gem: Kris Medlen.

    Kris Medlen, who dominated the minors in 2009 (1.66 FIP, 10.51 K/9, 2.39 BB/9 in AAA last season), was called up a few weeks prior to super prospect Tommy Hanson. In 4 MLB starts, Medlen posted an ugly 6.38 ERA, but the underlying numbers show something better. Despite his struggles with command when promoted (5.40 BB/9 in his 4 starts), Medlen still managed to fool his share of hitters (9.33 K/9, 77.8% contact rate (80.5% MLB average)) and keep the ball in the yard at a respectable rate (0.98 HR/9, 1.05 MLB average). Beneath the ugly ERA was a much less ugly 4.57 FIP/xFIP. After being moved to the bullpen, Medlen’s contact rate fell to 75.3%, his strikeout rate rose to 9.67 per nine and the walk rate, which only once (AA, 2007) eclipsed 2.63 per nine in the minors, fell to an MLB-average 3.47 per nine.

    The result? A stellar 2.89 FIP/3.38 xFIP in 49.1 IP from the pen. Medlen posted the 19th best FIP and 25th best xFIP of all MLB relievers who tossed 40+ innings last season (out of 176 RPs). By comparison, super closer Joe Nathan posted a 2.88 FIP last season. Yeah, Medlen is just that good. As the season progressed, Medlen just got better.

    Medlen sports three pitches: a devastating change up, a quality fastball and a league-average curveball. His arsenal is so effective not just because of the quality of his stuff, but also the effectively deceptive nature of his release point (check his pitch FX data clustering)

    The moral of the story here? Kris Medlen is very good. He is much better than Jair Jurrjens and Kenshin Kawakami and probably even Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson, despite the ERA disparities. The Braves are wasting a golden arm.

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