If I’d planned this out, I would have begun with this draft. The 1991 draft was the first under the Schuerholz regime, but resembles the Cox-era drafts in many ways. Maybe it was organizational inertia, maybe it was that the Braves weren’t sure yet in June of 1991 that they’d turned the corner. At any event, the 1992 draft is a typical 1990s Braves draft and set the general pattern: Lots of southern high school pitchers high, none of whom ever amounted to anything.
The Braves took two guys named “Jamie” with their first picks. First up it was Jamie Arnold from Florida, then it was Jamie Howard from Louisiana. Arnold actually did make it to the majors with the Dodgers and Cubs in 1999-2000. He wasn’t any good and is now presumably out of baseball. (Addendum… four longtime major leaguers, three of whom are still playing, went after Arnold in the first round: Rick Helling, Jason Kendall, Charles Johnson, and Johnny Damon.) Howard didn’t make it that far and is long gone. They changed up by drafting a guy named “Carey” with the next pick, Carey Paige. Paige actually was a prospect but blew out his arm, got drafted by the Blue Jays, and apparently never pitched again.
In the fourth round, the Braves drafted the Mayor, Damon Hollins. Hollins never put up the batting averages that the Braves expected, I guess, and drifted out of the organization’s plans. He was in his third year in Richmond when he got a callup in 1998, but didn’t hit. The Dodgers picked him up and he didn’t hit there either. He drifted into the Reds, Twins, and Brewers organization, then returned to spend three more years in Richmond, where I gave him his nickname. He’s now finally getting an extended shot in the majors — well, Tampa Bay — and playing very well. I don’t have any doubt that he was capable of being a decent major leaguer for a few years and he’s certainly better than the current Corner Outfield Monstrosity.
The Braves got a few players who made it to the Show in later rounds. Brad Clontz was taken out of Virginia Tech in the tenth round — the first college player the team took that year. He made it up quickly, in 1995, with uneven results. I had remembered him as starting out well then going to pot, but his ERAs in 1995 and 1997 were good, in 1996 very bad. His control wasn’t what you’d like in a sidearmer. He bounced around for awhile, had a good year with the Pirates in 1999, and is currently in the Atlantic League, were ex-major leaguers go to die.
Bobby Smith, listed as an outfielder but converted to the infield, was their next pick. He made some prospect lists in his time and must have had “tools” since I remember Baseball America liked him a lot. (More than they ever did Marcus Giles.) The Braves let him go to the D-Rays in the expansion draft, and he was fairly productive for them in 1998 but then fell off the face of the Earth. Chris Brock was their next pick, out of Florida State. Called up by the Braves in 1997, he also spent time with the Phillies, Giants, and Orioles. He was pretty awful as a starter in a six-year major league career but consistently pitched adequately as a reliever, so people kept trying to make him into a starter. He is now with — you guessed it — the Devil Rays organization, starting in AAA. (Apparently this was Chuck LaMar’s favorite draft or something.)
The Braves signed one more major leaguer in that draft, getting Darrell May in the 46th round. May pitched well in the minors as I recall but never impressively enough to get the Braves’ attention. Then again, it would be hard for anyone to get the attention of the Braves at that time, considering how good the starters were. He pitched two innings in relief for the team in 1995 then was sent on his merry way. The Pirates picked him up on waivers, then it was off to the Angels, then Japan, then three years in Kansas City — one mediocre year, one good year, one awful year — then San Diego. He’s not much, but he’s a major league caliber pitcher.
There were some other interesting names in that draft. In the thirteenth round, they drafted but didn’t sign Mark Hendrickson. Two years later, they’d draft him again but he wouldn’t sign then either. I guess the idea of a 6-9 lefty fascinated them. He eventually signed with the Blue Jays and is now with… The Devil Rays! In the fifteenth, they drafted Jose Cruz Jr., but of course didn’t sign him either. Cruz would wind up the third pick overall in the 1997 draft. He is not currently with the Devil Rays because they traded him in the offseason.
After drafting a basketball player (Hendrickson) they turned to football players. In the 38th round they drafted Terrell Buckley as an outfielder and this time they actually signed him. Apparently, he was just using the organization to get more from the Packers, who picked him in the NFL draft, and he bolted as soon as he signed there. I blame Deion for the whole thing. In the 44th round, they picked “LHP” Mark Brunell. After a pretty good NFL career, Brunell’s winding down. Maybe he should ask the Devil Rays for a tryout.