Evolution (Third in a series)

BravesBeat.com–2000 Draft Picks

Skipping back ahead, we’re in an area where the players are still in the minors for the most part, but the decision time on them is coming soon.

At any event, things don’t change all of the sudden for the most part. 2000 is a transition year, in which you can start seeing some changes in the Braves’ drafting philosophy but most things are still the same. What strikes me is that beginning with this draft it seems that the team put a much higher priority on signing their higher draft picks, while apparently not making much of an effort lower in the draft. In the first 30 rounds, the Braves signed all but four players. Only one player after the thirtieth round (Frank Arteaga, who is apparently no longer in the system or professional baseball) is listed as signing. In 1999, they had signed eleven players after the thirtieth round. (I should remind you that in 1996, Marcus Giles was a 53rd round pick. They don’t even draft after 50 rounds anymore.) I am just guessing here, but that may be an attempt to save a little money at the cost of a little system depth. I don’t know how important the tradeoff is.

The Braves were, however, continuing to focus on drafting high schoolers. This was a big draft for the team, which had four first round picks because of the free agent departures of Russ Springer and Jose Hernandez. Yes, they got two first-round picks for Russ Springer. With their first pick, one of the Springer comps, they got Adam Wainwright, since traded to St. Louis in the Drew deal. (Wainwright is pitching well for Memphis; I expect he will get a permanent callup soon, perhaps at the next starter injury for the Cards.)

With their own pick, the Braves took Scott Thorman out of Canada. Thorman’s had some injuries but right now is hitting fairly well at AA. He’s a first baseman now, and it’s hard to see his future with the organization, but I think he’ll eventually have some sort of Major League career, or at least one in Japan.

With the first of the Hernandez picks, the Braves took Kelly Johnson. As I’ve said, I don’t think that Johnson will be a star, but it’s possible he’ll surprise me. Certainly a guy hitting .299/.429/.558 at AAA and who plays multiple positions is a prospect.

With the second Springer pick the Braves took Aaron Herr. Okay, you can’t win them all, and they would do better with a legacy pick later in the draft. Like Wainwright, Herr is now with the Cardinals organization, currently in the Texas League.

That’s just the first round! The next few picks were High School Pitcher City. With a second-round pick, also in exchange for Hernandez, the Braves took Bubba Nelson, sent to Cincinnati in the Reitsma deal. Whether I think that was a good deal depends upon how Reitsma’s last outing went, so I feel pretty good about that now. Nelson is closing in Chattanooga right now and doing okay. Their other second-round pick, Brian Digby, never did much of anything and is now not doing so well as a reliever in Myrtle Beach. Blaine Boyer has appeared on some prospect charts but is pitching poorly in Mississippi and is probably going to be done in the organization soon. Zach Miner has shown some signs of life recently and may survive another year.

But the most interesting part of this draft is the middle rounds. The Braves got three college players who have already made their Major League debuts, including one who is their youngest regular. In the 17th round, they took LSU pitcher Trey Hodges. Hodges moved rapidly through the system, making his Major League debut in 2002; most of you know about him, and that he’s back with the organization now. In the 19th round they took “Chuck Thomas” from Western Carolina. Of course, Thomas was traded to the A’s in the Hudson deal after his fine 2004 and is currently hitting like Raul Mondesi would if you chopped his arm off.

And in the 29th round, just one round before they stopped signing guys, they took a community college first baseman/pitcher. I figure there’s a good chance they only took Adam LaRoche because of who his father was. (A few picks later they took a flyer on Anthony Gwynn but didn’t sign him.) At any event, getting a Major League regular in the 29th round will make any draft look really nice.

24 thoughts on “Evolution (Third in a series)”

  1. How does LaRoche compare to other young first basemen at a similar point in there career?

    LaRoche seems to be an organizational untouchable, but to me he appears to be merely average at best.

  2. Nothing wrong with average. You need average players. He’s the kind of guy you use for four or five years and let go after that.

    He doesn’t have enough experience yet for a Bill James type simscore. Baseball Prospecutus has Cecil Cooper as his top comp, though he doesn’t have Cooper’s defensive abilities. Others in the top five are Randy Bush, Clint Hurdle, Bob Watson, and Tino Martinez. That type of player.

  3. I like LaRoche okay, too, but speaking of comps, here’s one that’s likely to crop up assuming LaRoche continues at this level of production:

    Age 25 Season OBP/SLG

    Player A .333/.484
    Player B .342/.485

    Player A is LaRoche. Player B, unfortunately, is Rico Brogna (whom I believe was mentioned in a previous thread as a LaRoche comp possibility).

  4. Those numbers are actually close to what LaRoche hit last season; the assumption is that he will improve. If he doesn’t, then maybe he winds up on the Brogna path. I think he’ll do better.

  5. Too bad we can’t trade Adam for his little brother, Andy, a 3B in the Dodgers organization. He’s hitting .350 in High A with _18_ homers, including 11 for 20 with 7 bombs in the last 5 games. I think he’s just 20, too, but I could be wrong.

  6. I feel old – I remember watching Dave LaRoche pitch and marvelling how he could get anyone out with a 40 mph blooper ball: LaRoche’s LaLob.

    Mac, I never really though Cecil Cooper was considered a good fielder. Tall, elegant, graceful looking, but didn’t have very good hands or quick feet. With guys like John Mayberry, Andre Thornton, and Bob Watson manning the position, his Gold Gloves were won by default and with his bat ala Derek Jeter last year.

  7. Cooper’s peripheral enough to my memory that my opinion of him is mostly based upon stats and the awards. But my perception is that he was considered a good fielder in his youth. BP rates him pretty good through ’82, then pretty bad after that, but defensive stats at first base, oy.

  8. We need to keep LaRoche. At this rate, he may be our best closer candidate in a few weeks!

  9. I think laroche will continue to develop. He’s got a great swing.

  10. You can’t compare LaRoach and Rico Brogna over the long haul. Brogna had some sort of disease didn’t he? LaRoach is starting to look more and more like and every day player. He has a great swing and I think he could be a Sid Bream (with better knees),Will Clark type of player. I also see a few gold gloves in his future. He has saved Chipper and Furcal a few errors this season already.

  11. Sid Bream: .264/.336/.420 in 1088 career games.
    Will Clark: .303/.384/.487 in 1976 career games.

    Bream and Clark are COMPLETELY different players (obviously, Clark was much, much better). Saying LaRoche is in their vein is very confusing :)

  12. Well, sure, if you’re gonna get all statistical on us ;)

    To this point, he’s getting on base like Bream and sligging like Clark. So maybe he’s just some weird Bream/Clark hybrid who needs to be told when it’s his turn at bat.

  13. It is kind of stupid to even compare baseball players. “You hit the ball, you catch the ball, you throw the ball. It is a simple game! Whats our record?” “8-16” “8-16! How’d we ever win 8?”

  14. Zach Miner has been inconsistent this season but been decent. What they love to call an organizational soldier!! Just lost in the Chuck James hoopla.

    Anyone know what happened to Bong? Did he smoke out..oops flame out?!

  15. Something involving the dreading L-word (labrum). Apparently the Bonger’s issue wasn’t a tear (just needed some “cleanup” whatever the hell that is), but it’s a scary area. Foster is looking like he may be one of the very few to ever make a successful comeback from a Labrum tear.

    This is a good article, but I’m scared I’m either going to inspire a lot of lefty-bashing since it’s from Slate or BP-bashing because because it’s by Will Carroll ;-)

  16. This has nothing to do with anything, but Damon Hollins (The Mayor!) is hitting .330/.365/.570 as the Devil Rays center fielder. Good for him.

  17. I always wonder why the Braves never gave Hollins a decent chance to prove himself…he would be a better player than Jordan I am sure…

  18. Man, Reitsma has looked sharp last night & tonight. Please don’t overwork him, Bobby!

  19. There is no question that he’s a better player than Jordan (or Mondesi). But then you can say that about a lot of guys. I wish they’d given him more of a chance, but they just had to have DeWayne Wise.

  20. Because Wise was a lefty and he runs fast…and he had a good spring…well, we all know what happened…

  21. A lot of the late round draft picks are frequently draft-and-follow guys (Marcus Giles was), so it’s possible the small number of draft picks signed late in 2000 is a reflection of those guys doing poorly in junior college.

    Also, the Braves used to have more total rookie and short-season teams than virtually anyone else. At some point (possibly around 2000), they decided that this resulted in their better prospects being spread too thin throughout the system in their early years, and they cut a team. That might have effected how many fringe prospects they signed in 2000.

  22. Joel, the new pattern is pretty dramatic compared to previous years, and continued pretty much intact in 2001 (coming soon!) so I feel confident that it’s intentional. They may have been draft-and-follows, but if that’s the case they must have had a different and tougher standard on those.

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