I love prospects. I love monitoring their progress and seeing how they adjust as they move up levels. The draft is always exciting, but it never works out like people predict. In this piece I'll tackle the Braves' recent drafts and see how they made out.
Obviously, the prize of this class was Craig Kimbrel. He's the best closer in the game and he's been tremendous in every aspect of his job. The rest of the notable picks are either with different teams or not playing anymore. Brett Devall hung up his spikes in 2010 and never made it past A ball. The other notable picks were all mentioned in the trade section. None of them ever contributed to the major league squad, but trading them helped the Braves acquire some pretty significant pieces.
Minor is the only one of these players to have any impact in the major leagues so far. After a shaky start in 2012, he's turned into arguably the Braves' best pitcher. This pick was described by many as a typical Braves pick; a projectable lefty with "limited" upside. I've been very impressed with Minor so far, here's to hoping he keeps it up. The others are all still in the Atlanta system at various stops. Hale is currently starting in AAA, but looks like a back end arm at the very best. Robby Hefflinger (22) is currently in AA after a solid start to 2013 in high-A. The bat seems to have plenty of power. He is 23 so he is getting up there in age, but there's no rush considering the OF is pretty well wrapped up for the time being. Northcraft (19) is currently pitching in AA. He could still be a solid piece in the future, but I'd like to see him cut down on his walks if possible.
While it may be too early to refer to Lipka (20) as a bust, there were much better options on the board at the time. Noah Syndergaard, Taijuan Walker, Nick Catellanos, and Mike Olt were all still on the board at the time Lipka was taken. Lipka's improved a little this season and is still only 21, so he still has a little more time. Cunningham (14) has turned himself into a nice OF who could have some value as a fourth OF down the road for someone. Simmons was the obvious gem of this draft. He's the best defensive SS in the game and arguably the Braves' best position player. Terdo has hit his way onto the major league team, but he'll probably ultimately be traded. Everywhere he could possibly play is occupied for the foreseeable future. Evan Gattis has also turned out to be a tremendous value. He may have the starting catcher gig locked up next season; it's hard to expect more than that from a 23rd round pick.
The Sean Gilmartin (10) pick was one of the disappointing moments I've had since following the draft. There wasn't much upside and it honestly just seemed like a waste. He got through the minors quickly, but has struggled this season. He's probably trade bait at this point. Kyle Kubitza (16) is one of my prospect crushes. I love prospects with good walk rates; he does that like a champ. The scouting reports outline the need for improvement on defense, so hopefully that can improve. J.R. Graham (1) has by far the most potential of this group. He should make it to Atlanta soon, perhaps even next season. Worst case scenario we have a high leverage reliever in my opinion. Martin checked in at number 7 on the TC list; they wrote him up in depth. Same for Tommy La Stella who checked in at 12.
The first two picks were pretty good. Wood and Sims checked at 2 and 3 on TC's list, respectively. De La Rosa checked in at 24, while Elander was slotted at 17. Sims has really opened some eyes this season with his performance so far. Alex Wood is similar to J.R. Graham, in the sense that worst case scenario he becomes a high leverage reliever if he can't stick in the rotation. De La Rosa and Elander are beginning to hit and time is on their side. De La Rosa has more time to develop than Elander who is 22 in high-A. He also moved into the OF; so the bat will really have to play nicely.
Notable picks: Jason Hursh (1st), Victor Caratini (2nd), Carlos Salazar (3rd), and Kyle Wren (8th)
I'll admit that I wasn't the biggest fan of the Hursh pick. He has a power arm, which is very nice. I'd much rather have a power arm than a pitchability type like Gilmartin. I would've liked Krook (even though he didn't sign), Devin Williams, or Ian Clarkin in this spot. Hursh is our guy though and has had a solid start to his minor league career and checking in at 6th on the TC prospects list. I really liked the Caratini and Salazar picks. I really love Caratini's approach at the plate; let's just hope he can stick at 3B. Salazar is a youngster, but there is tons of upside there. Kyle Wren was also a nice pick; taken right around where he was predicted. He's had a phenomenal start to his pro career and could be promoted again before the year is up.
Obviously we already know the story with Teheran. He should be a part of the Braves future for a very long time. Salcedo and Bethancourt are still pretty good prospects in the system right now; both were ranked top 11 by the TC staff. If Bethancourt's bat comes around (signs of life lately) he has a chance of being extremely valuable. Avilan has already pitched in his fair share of major league innings. The others are all young and relatively raw, but there is a pretty good amount of potential in the group.
The Braves haven't received rave reviews for their drafts lately, but they've managed to get a fair amount of production out of them. Obviously, you'd like to have more because developing your own players is a lot cheaper than acquiring them through trades of free agency. The 2010 and 2011 selections of Matt Lipka and Sean Gilmartin will probably come back to bite us; they already have in some fashion. We have had a fair amount of success in the international market. I think it's fair to say Wren's greatest strengths are: trades, finding value in disposed pitchers, and the international market. The free agency department really depends on how the Upton contract works out. Overall Frank is a really good GM and I'm glad he is ours. We could've been stuck with Dayton Moore; what a nightmare