Yes, college players! In the top ten! I assume some of this is change-in-ownership related, plus I think that Frank Wren was with the front office at the time. The Braves went with a typical first two picks that year, when they had three in the first round because of the signing of Andy Ashby by the Dodgers. (Does that explain the decline of the Dodger organization in the nineties, or what?) With the first of the Ashby picks, 24th in the first, they took Macay McBride. (The next two players taken, both by the A’s, were Bobby Crosby and Jeremy Bonderman. Ouch.) McBride’s had his ups and downs and is now mostly a reliever. He’s got some time left, but I’d rather have Bonderman.
With their own pick, the Braves took shorstop Josh Burrus, like McBride a high schooler from Georgia. Burrus has progressed very slowly and is only now in Myrtle Beach. He’s handling the place as well as can be expected, .269/.338/.434. (Nine picks later, the Mets took David Wright.)
Then, suddenly, dramatically, with the 40th pick of the draft, the Braves took a college player, Georgia Tech second baseman Richard Lewis. I think it was their first first round pick of a college player since Mike Kelly in 1991. Unfortunately, he sucked for the Braves (just like Kelly!) and was shipped off in the Juan Cruz deal. He was pretty great for the Cubs in AA last year but has gone back to being terrible in AAA.
Second round high schooler J.P. Howell (pick from the Pirates for Terry Mulholland, and does giving up a second rounder for Mulholland say “Pirates”, or what?) didn’t sign. Cole Barthel, a third baseman from Decatur AL, spent four years in the organization, never got above Rome, and has now quit to play football. In the third round, they went nuts again and took Nebraska outfielder Adam Stern. Stern never did figure out Myrtle Beach, but has hit everywhere else and was impressive enough that the Red Sox took him in the Rule 5 draft, and you have to assume that the Sox know what they’re doing. He’s currently “injured” and on the DL.
Back to the high schoolers in the fourth, and this one looks pretty good — the local kid, Kyle Davies. Let’s not nominate him for Cooperstown just yet, but the first couple of outings were certainly impressive. Texas high school OF Matt Esquivel is looking pretty good so far; currently he’s in Myrtle Beach and isn’t letting the place keep him down, hitting .300/.357/.471; he’s someone to keep an eye on. They went back to college for their next pick, Billy McCarthy. I’ve talked about him a lot, let’s just say that if he stays healthy he should at minimum be a Jason Michaels-type player.
The best pick of the draft may turn out to be eleventh-rounder Anthony Lerew. Brad rates him the sixth-best prospect in the organization (behind Davies but ahead of everyone else from this draft) and he apparently has great stuff. He’s had some mixed results in AA so far, but if he gets his walks in check he has a chance to be good because everything else is there. The only other name from this draft I normally see on prospect lists is Kevin Barry, a college pitcher taken in the 14th. He was pretty great last year but has gone Kolbous for Richmond this year, walking 12 in 13 innings. He may be hurt, I don’t know.
As happened the year before, the Braves didn’t wind up signing many of their lower draft picks. After Dominique Partridge 28th, only two other players signed. Neither of them seems to be in organized baseball now.