TOP 5 LAST 5 is a look back on each MLB team and sees how each of the top 5 draft picks since 2008 fared this past season. While some players have reached the major leagues and flourished like Chris Sale, Buster Posey and Craig Kimbrel; some players have seen their dreams of playing in the show fall by the wayside as they are no longer in the game, playing abroad or in independent leagues. Every player flashed some sort of potential otherwise they wouldn’t have been selected in the first 5 or 6 rounds. Lets start by taking a look at one of the reigning National League Wild Card champions, the Atlanta Braves, and see how well their front office has drafted over the last 5 years.
2008 - In 2008 the Braves started their draft by selecting high school lefty pitcher Brett DeVall with the 40th pick overall in the 1st round. He was selected as compensation for free agent Ron Mahay signing with Kansas City. Unfortunately , DeVall did not play professional baseball in 2012. His last professional season was 2010 in A ball with Rome at age 20. He posted a 4.39 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 71 strikeouts to 28 walks and a 7-9 record over 106 2/3 innings. Elbow troubles marred his career and he was released Spring of 2011. They followed DeVall with another high school lefty, Tyler Stovall, in the 2nd round as the 64th overall player selected. This past season saw the southpaw pitcher in the independent leagues with the Normal CornBelters of the Frontier League making 22 appearances including 16 starts. Over 83 2/3 innings, Stovall struck out 91 batters but also walked 90. He posted a 2-9 record with a 5.70 ERA and 1.90 WHIP while surrendering 7.3 H/9. Their next pick was also in the 2nd round 6 picks later with the 70th overall selection of Zeke Spruill, a high school righty pither. In 2012, he spent the year in AA Mississippi making 27 starts and logging 163 2/3 innings. Srpuill didn’t exactly blow hitters away but was very durable and saved the bullpen more often than not when he toed the rubber. He would finish with a 3.63 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 106 strikeouts to 47 walks while allowing 8.69 hits per 9 innings. Everyone and their mother know about their 4th pick of the 2008 draft as somehow a young righty power reliever from junior college fell to the Braves in the 3rd round with the 96th overall pick. This was Craig Kimbrel, the most prolific strikeout artist the major leagues have seen. He saved 42 games for the Braves while pitching to a 1.01 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 63 appearances spanning 62 2/3 innings and a 3-1 record. He managed to set a new major league record for highest strikeout rate by a reliever with 16.66 per 9 innings (116 total) while only walking 2.01 per 9 (14 total). He had an otherworldly rate of 8.29 strikeouts to every batter he walked. Atlanta would follow that pick with their 4th round selection of junior college catcher Braeden Schlehuber with the 130th overall pick. Schlehuber peaked at high A Lynchburg this past season while posting a .768 OPS over 319 plate appearances and playing behind the dish. He sent 8 balls out of the park and plated another 42. He came around to score 36 times while also hitting 29 extra base hits and was plunked by the pitcher a career high 17 times.
2009 - This would be the first year the Atlanta Braves saw a top 10 selection in the draft since 1991 when they took Mike Kelly 2nd overall. Taking the 7th pick overall, the Braves drafted another southpaw, but this time with some college experience in the form of Mike Minor. He would go on to complete his first full season in the bigs in 2012 making 30 starts for the parent club, compiling an 11-10 record with a 4.12 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 2.59 K/BB, and 7.58 H/9. He was very homer prone this past season though, giving up 26 in 179 1/3 innings. The Braves would forfeit their 2nd round selection to Los Angeles by signing Derek Lowe in the offseason and took a college righty named David Hale in the 3rd round, 87th overall. Hale started 27 games for AA Mississippi posting a 3.77 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 7.66 K/9 and 7.48 H/9 in 145 2/3 innings. He would also win 8 games opposed to 4 losses. The 3rd pick of the year would be JC short stop Mycal Jones who would later transition to the outfield. Taken 114th overall in the 4th round, Jones spent the year split between High A Lynchburg and AA. The majority of his year was spent in Lynchburg where he appeared in 102 games compared to 28 for Mississippi. Over the course of the season he would post a 233/310/323/632 slash line with 3 HR, 33 extra base hits and 29 stolen bases over 535 plate appearances. He struck out more than twice as many times as he walked (89K to 43BB), but did manage to cross home 56 times. Their 4th selection was a college righty, Thomas Berryhill, who went off the board at number 148. He was released by the organization in July 2011, signed on with Toronto and finished the year with their Rookie affiliate Bluefield in the Appy League and has not since played professionally. His final season saw him post a 6.45 ERA, 1.93 WHIP, 13.7 H/9, 8.5 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 between both clubs. Atlanta’s 5th pick of the year was another college righty, Ryan Wooley, taken 178th overall in the 6th round. He turned down the Braves offer and returned to school where he was selected by Texas in the 39th round in 2010. He passed once again and was taken by Detroit in the 13th round of the 2011 draft where he signed and began his pro career. 2012 saw him split time between A ball West Michigan and High A Lakeland out of the bullpen. He appeared in 31 games with 1 spot start for Lakeland compiling a 3.57 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 7.6 H/9 and 7.9 K/9 in 63 innings. He would finish 15 games and record 1 save while not allowing a home run all year.
2010 - The organization would take a different approach in 2010 by taking a high school position player in the first round. This pick would be taken 35th overall as compensation for losing Mike Gonzalez to Baltimore and the player was short stop Matt Lipka. Lipka would make the same transition Mycal Jones did in becoming an outfielder this past year. He would miss time playing at High A in 2012 due to a hamstring injury and posted a 271/335/337/672 slash line in 229 plate appearances. He only tallied 12 stolen bases, 8 extra base hits and 2 home runs. He only drove in 13 runs but managed to score 32 times himself. The second pick of the year would be college outfielder Todd Cunningham who was selected in the 2nd round, 53rd overall, also as compensation for Mike Gonzalez leaving. Cunningham spent the year in AA and had a break out year. He put up a 309/364/403/767 slash line with 32 extra base hits, 77 runs scored, 24 stolen bases and 51 RBI. He also showed a keen eye by striking out only 51 times but drew 40 walks. Atlanta’s 2nd pick of the 2nd round saw them take junior college short stop Andrelton Simmons with pick number 70. Simmons spent the year between AA and the majors and played a total of 93 games due to injury and made 385 trips to the plate. His bat was much better than anticipated and he posted a 291/358/418/775 slash line. He would score 46 times, have 27 extra base hits, 6 HR, 11 steals and 40 RBI. His defense was regarded by some as once-in-a-lifetime type talent similar to the greats like Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel. Hindsight is definitely making this pick look like an absolute steal. Round 3 would see Atlanta going after college 3B Joe Leonard with the 101st pick. He would spend the year in AA as well appearing in 124 games making 487 plate appearances. Leonard managed to amass a 263/341/392/733 slash line with 9 HR, 66 RBI, 34 extra base hits, and 56 runs scored. He also won the minor league Gold Glove at 3B this past season. Pick number 5 of the 2010 draft was college righty David Filak who would go 134th overall in the 4th round. Filak spent the year in A ball Rome making 18 starts and 8 relief appearances spanning 101 2/3 innings. He had a rough year posting a 5.67 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 16 wild pitches, 16 hit batsmen, 9.7 H/9 and 4.5 BB/9 but did strikeout a batter per inning. He also managed a 5-9 record with 1 complete game and 1 save.
2011 - Atlanta went back to a polished college lefty to start off the 2011 draft by selecting Sean Gilmartin with the 28th overall pick. He split time between AA and AAA during 2012 making 27 starts and throwing 157 innings. The majority of his starts came in AA (20) but over the course of the whole season he had a 3.84 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 8.7 H/9 and 2.85 K/BB. He compiled a 6-10 record and tossed 3 complete games as well. Their second selection of the year would come in the 2nd round at pick number 85 and Atlanta took college short stop Nick Ahmed. He skipped Rome and went to High A Lynchburg to start 2012 and he would play 130 games and come to bat 571 times while putting up a 269/337/391/728 slash line. He only put 6 over the fence but did manage 46 extra base hits, 40 stolen bases and 84 runs scored. Ahmed also drove in 49 but struck out a little over twice as many times as he drew a walk. Round 3 saw Atlanta take another college position player in 3B Kyle Kubitza. He fell off a bit after a solid debut year but still managed to produce a 239/349/393/742 slash line. He cracked 9 HR, 42 extra base hits, 68 runs scored and 59 RBI with 18 stolen bases to boot. He also showed the ability to take a walk, drawing 74 of them. On the flip side he also struck out 127 times. Pick number 146 overall and Atlanta’s 4th of the draft was another college righty. JR Graham was taken and had a phenomenal 2012, earning himself Pitcher of the Year honors by Atlanta’s front office and the #1 prospect in the system according to John Sickels. He drew all this acclaim by making 26 starts between High A Lynchburg and AA Mississippi with the majority (17) coming in High A, and limiting the opposition to a 2.80 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 3.24 K/BB, and only 7.5 H/9 over 148 innings. He finished with a 12-2 record and 1 complete game. The 5th round pick of the draft would go to a junior college catcher, Nick DeSantiago, with the 176th pick overall. 2012 saw DeSantiago split time between Rookie ball and A ball Rome equally and finished the year with a 217/335/299/634 slash line. He didn’t get one out of the park but did have 13 doubles, 14 RBI, 24 runs scored and 26 BB to 43 K. These are almost identical to his debut stats last year.
2012 - This past season saw Atlanta go after both hometown pitchers and young toolsy position players. Their 1st round pick went to high school righty Lucas Sims 21st overall. Sims made 11 starts after signing for both Rookie level teams. He posted a 2-4 record, 3.71 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 7.41 H/9, 10.3 K/9 and 3 strikeouts to each walk over 34 innings. Their 2nd pick would be number 85 overall and they selected college lefty Alex Wood and immediately sent him to Rome for A ball where he excelled. He was a bit old for the league but he made 13 starts pitching to a 2.22 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 6.7 H/9, a 1.01 WHIP, and 3.7 K/BB. This resulted in a 4-3 record as he amassed 52 2/3 innings over the year. Atlanta would then select high school catcher Bryan De La Rosa with the 3rd pick of the draft and 116th overall. He would spend the year in Rookie ball after signing and tossed a paltry 162/194/221/415 slash line over 73 plate appearances. It is a very small sample to work with but 30 strike outs, only 2 walks, 11 hits, 5 runs, and 1 HR in 29 games wont cut it. The 4th round pick, 149th overall went to high school outfielder Justin Black who was marginally better than De La Rosa. His 182/292/258/550 line needs a lot of work but he did manage 15 runs, 2 HR, 7 RBI, and 3 steals in 157 plate appearances. He is very raw but the Braves front office sees a solid power/speed guy in a best case scenario. The 5th round selection of Blake Brown went 179th overall and he bested both Black and De La Rosa in their debut seasons. Brown had a 196/308/307/615 slash line with 4 HR, 10 stolen bases, 27 runs, and 18 RBI in 210 plate appearances. He did strike out almost 3 times as many times as he drew a walk
Overall the last 5 drafts have seen Atlanta take 3 players who have already seen time in the majors. Mike Minor has proven himself as a member of the starting rotation, Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in the MLB, and Andrelton Simmons has established himself as the starting short stop and one of the best defensively in the game. One player has moved on to the independent leagues (Stovall), one is playing with another organization (Woolley - DET) while 2 players have left the game altogether (DeVall and Berryhill). One player finished the season in AAA Gwinnett (Gilmartin) and 6 ended the season in AA Mississippi (Spruill, Hale, Jones, Cunningham, Leonard, and Graham). High A Lynchburg had 3 players cap off their season’s there (Schlehuber, Lipka, and Ahmed) and Low A Rome had 4 players (Filak, Kubitza, DeSantiago, and Wood). That would leave 4 players, all from this past draft class, finishing up in either Rookie level Danville or their Gulf Coast League affiliate (Sims, De La Rosa, Black, and Brown).