I’ve followed the draft for what feels like forever. My earliest moment was back in 1996 just after the draft when I watched an NCAA Tournament game featuring recent first round pick R.A. Dickey (Tennessee). I still remember Josh (Hamilton) vs. Josh (Beckett) and the two big time draft picks by the Phillies in the late 1990’s that were both expected to change their franchise- JD Drew (1997) and Pat “The Bat” Burrell (1998). I also remember Lance Berkman coming out of Rice with his 41 homers in 63 games in his draft year (pre-bat change) and Mark Prior out of USC, among others.
Then came 2007, the Jason Heyward/Freddie Freeman draft. This draft marked the first time the draft was televised by anyone. This was the first time I really started to get more interested in the draft after seeing Heyward, Mike Moustakas, David Price, Madison Bumgarner, and Rick Porcello come off the board in the first round.
The 2008 draft came and was the first time that I really started to dig into the guys the Braves drafted beyond the top guy or two. I didn’t know anything about them pre-draft, but remember being excited by Brett DeVall, Zeke Spruill, Tyler Stovall, and a hard throwing JUCO reliever by the name of Craig Kimbrel.
By the time 2009 rolled around I started to look into prospects ahead of the draft and get to know who they were. At this time I was just using Baseball America for info as I wasn’t yet researching and trying to evaluate prospects on my own - that started around 2012, and it wasn’t until 2015 that I really started going beyond the Top 200 to look at 500+ players.
I wasn’t just looking into players at this time, I was making my own picks as if I was running the Braves to compare my drafts to the Braves. The idea came from John Sickels of Minor League Ball, as he did the same thing with the Twins. Sometimes I would take the same guy as the Braves, most times I wouldn’t. I did however try to not overspend, even pre-bonus pool restrictions.
This series of articles takes a look at the Braves drafts from 2009 through 2014, and compares the results of how the real Braves drafted to how I would have drafted. I chose 2014 as the end point because it is too soon to start really judging the 2015 class, and also because I was looking through a similar number of prospects each year until 2015. On another note, up until 2015 I was only picking for picks in the first 10 rounds. This is going to be a series of posts. Originally, it was going to be one post but 5,000 words later...the powers that be decided to break things up. (I apologize for nothing. -Eric)
Note that a lot of my picks match the Braves. Every pick the Braves made I gave myself the option to match the pick or take someone different. Also my pre-2012 depth of draft knowledge wasn’t as strong as it is now so I didn’t have strong opinions about some of those guys in the second half of the Top 10 rounds.
1 - Braves pick: Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt
My pick: Shelby Miller, RHP, Texas HS
Mike Minor was worth the pick as he had a good career with the Braves before got hurt. Still I wouldn’t have taken him this high at the time- though to be fair I may have if he experienced his post draft velocity spike prior to draft day. I was watching this draft hoping for Zack Wheeler to fall, but he didn’t drop to the Braves. I would have loved to take Matt Purke (high school version, pre-injury), but I couldn’t see the Braves meeting his asking price. That would have left me picking between a pair of talented prep right handers, and I preferred Shelby Miller slightly to Jacob Turner at the time. And in case it comes up, Mike Trout would not have been on my radar this high as I was relying only on others scouting reports back then.
3 - Braves pick: David Hale, RHP, Princeton
My pick: Scott Bittle, RHP, Ole Miss
Hale has made it to the big leagues, but hasn’t been able to cement himself as a full time big leaguer. I was hoping to take one of a pair of top college bats here, but Kyle Seager (UNC) and Chris Dominguez (Louisville) got taken just before the Braves pick. I was looking at Wil Myers, but didn’t think an overslot bonus would be logical with Shelby Miller being expensive in the first round. I would have taken Scott Bittle, an Ole Miss right hander taken in the fourth round. Bittle never had much of a pro career as the once elite draft prospect (2nd rounder in 2008 as well) saw his career derailed by injury.
4 - Braves pick: Mychal Jones, SS, Miami-Dade
My pick: Same
Mychal Jones never reached the big leagues, but this was the first Braves pick that I would have matched. Jones had high end speed and a little bit of pop in his bat that made him intriguing, but he just never hit enough.
5 - Braves pick: Thomas Berryhill, RHP, Newberry
My pick: Ryan Jackson, SS, Miami
The Braves took Berryhill, who never made it out of A ball. I would have selected another shortstop here as University of Miami in glove first infielder Ryan Jackson. Jackson has had a few cups of coffee in the big leagues, but he’s been more of a AAAA journeyman.
6 - Braves pick: Jason Woolley, RHP, UAB (not signed)
My pick: Same
The Braves took a chance on a talented but (legally) troubled pitcher from UAB, Jason Woolley. Woolley ended up not signing but pitched a few years in relief for the Tigers system. I would have also picked Woolley at the time because despite his troubles, he was talented.
7 - Braves pick: Robby Hefflinger, OF, Georgia JUCO
My pick: Same
This is where my draft knowledge in 2009 cut off and as far as I was able to try to pick along with the draft, so I would have just matched the rest of the Braves picks. Hefflinger stuck around for a few years and even hit 27 homers in 2013 as a decent offensive org player.
8 - Braves pick: Kyle Rose, OF, Alabama JUCO
My pick: Same
Rose never really hit all that much, though he stuck around for a few years.
9 - Braves pick: Matt Weaver, SS, New Jersey JUCO
My pick: Same
Weaver never hit at all and didn’t last all that long.
10 - Braves pick: Aaron Northcraft, RHP, California HS
My pick: Same
Northcraft was a longtime fringe prospect in a system that wasn’t particularly strong for a while. He may not have made it to the big leagues, but he was an effective minor league pitcher who made it to AAA.
Additional Picks: Ryan Weber (22nd round)
This wasn’t a particularly strong draft. Outside of Mike Minor, whose Braves career was shortened by injury, there was no real big league impact. If I was running the draft, I would have taken Shelby Miller over Minor, but the class as a whole would have had a similar impact.