Time to once again visit a recent draft. While the 2011 and 2012 drafts have yielded just one major leaguer, the 2010 draft has given the Braves a tremendous influx of talent, including 22% of their expected starting lineup next season. Much like 2011, the Braves focused on college players, though not nearly to the same extent, even going so far as selecting a high school student with their first pick. The Braves did not have a first round selection after losing it for signing Billy Wagner. However, the Orioles’ signing of Mike Gonzalez did give them a supplemental pick (35th overall) and an extra second round pick (53rd overall).
Again, I will go over the top ten with some extra picks highlighted if they interest me. One pick outside the top ten will definitely hold a good deal of interest.
1. Matt Lipka, SS, McKinney High School (McKinney, TX)
Lipka was considered a great athlete with raw talent when the Braves made him their first pick of the draft. Many were already unsure if Lipka would stay at shortstop, but his potential pop and speed made him a borderline first-round talent. Lipka was a quick sign and played 52 games in 2010, almost all in the Gulf Coast League. Production was very solid (.288/.344/.723, 21-of-24 SB) and Lipka quickly rose to full-season ball at 19. In three years since, the last two at Lynchburg, Lipka’s numbers have languished. He was limited to just 51 games in 2012 due to injury, but he strikes out too often (19%) and doesn’t walk enough (5%) to be much of a prospect. He turns 22 in April and shifted to CF before 2012’s season. He still might become a good prospect, but appears limited to a ceiling as a nice utility player.
2. Todd Cunningham, OF, Jacksonville State University
Cunningham as a high-floor guy who scouts had a good idea about. At his best, he would play decent enough defense and get on base. At his worst, he would be a good enough fourth outfielder. So far, that idea has remained. After posting a .676 OPS at Rome after signing, Cunningham posted a .700 OPS while limited by injuries with the Hillcats in 2011. Cunningham reached prospect status the following eason, slashing .309/.364/.403 with 24 steals while with Mississippi in 2012. The season garnered him a spot on the 40-man roster to avoid exposing him to the Rule 5 draft. His numbers fail considerable (outside of his OBP) during 2013 while playing 116 games in Gwinnett and going 2-for-8 in eight games with the big league club. His defense seems good enough to play left field and he could easily be Reed Johnson-lite. He will have a chance to impress for a spot on the bench next season.
2. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Western Oklahoma State Junior College
The Braves weren’t positive what they had with Simmons. Most teams preferred him at pitcher where his 98 mph fastball could thrive and possibly make him a stellar reliever. However, Simmons wanted to be an everyday player and the Braves were willing to give that a shot. Guess they figured they had a fallback option and Simmons could use that arm at shortstop. After 62 games with Danville, Simmons entered prospect lists after a .311/.351/.408 season with the Hillcats in 2011. MLB.com ranked him 62nd entering the 2012 season while Baseball America had him 92nd. His numbers again improved, posting a .293/.372/.420 slash with Mississippi. At the beginning of June, with Tyler Pastornicky struggling badly, Atlanta called up Simmons to take over. Though he missed time with an injury, Simmons posted a .751 while playing other-worldly defense. The following season, the other-worldly defense became defense unique to this universe, but his offensive production split. Though he powered his way to 17 homers, he hit just .248 while on-basing .296. For too long, he was the team’s leadoff hitter. Nevertheless, he took home the Platinum Award as the game’s best defender and finished 14th in the MVP ballot. With a better offensive year, Simmons will be recognized as one of the premier players at his position.
3. Joe Leonard, 3B, University of Pittsburgh
I did a Prospect of the Day look at Leonard in 2012. With his profile (6’5″), there was expectations that Leonard’s power would come and he would develop into a good option at third base, especially in a post-Chipper Jones world. In college, Leonard was a guy who hit for a high average and played great defense. It took some time before he would sign, but once he did, he appeared in 39 games, all but ten with Rome, and OPS’d .749. So far, so good. Since, he has posted OPS’s of .689, .733, and .568 while playing year at all three spots along the way. Things were so bad in Gwinnett last season that Leonard failed to homer. By sheer accident, you assume he would homer. He made some offensive improvements with Mississippi during 2012, but after an ugly season with Gwinnett last season, Leonard has definitely fell out of favor. He remains a great defender at third, but without considerable offensive improvement, Leonard won’t be getting to the bigs any time soon.
4. David Filak, RHP, State University of New York at Oneonta
Filak had some hope and he posted 22 solid innings with Danville after signing. Control was bad (10 walks), but Filak pitched well enough to head to Rome in 2011. The result was ugly 7.54 ERA in 45.1 ING with 33 walks to 32 strikeouts. He wasn’t much better after being demoted back to Danville. After 101.2 innings with Rome in 2012, the Braves saw enough and cut Filak. He spent last season with New Jersey of the Canadian-American Association, though he only got four ugly starts. Maybe pitching isn’t in his future.
5. Philip Gosselin, 2B, University of Virginia
The Goose was a lot like Cunningham. You had a pretty good idea of what the floor was and had very limited expectations on a ceiling. And as such, we have seen what you expect to see. He was the only 2010 draftee to play with Myrtle Beach after playing six games there in 2010. He spent 2011 with the Hillcats after the Braves relocated their A+ squad. It was probably his best full season as he hit .264/.324/.392. Since then, he has played 187 games with Mississippi (.627 OPS) and 58 with the Gwinnett Braves last year, where he slashed .266/.308/.324. He also had a week in the majors last year where he went 2-for-6. Organizational guy, but no expectations that he will be a long-term major league talent.
6. Joey Terdoslavich, 3B, California State University-Long Beach
Joey T had plenty of offense, but there were concerns if he had professional-worthy defense at third base. Turns out, he didn’t and quickly was moved across the infield. After looking solid in 2010 offensively, The Big Terd exploded all over Carolina League pitching in 2011 while slashing .286/.341/.526 with 52 2B’s and 20 HR. With Chipper’s pending retirement and Leonard not exactly lighting up minor league pitching, the Braves decided to revisit third base while jumping Terdo all the way to Gwinnett to open 2012. The results were ugly and not just defensively. He OPS’d .515 over 53 games with 22 errors. Atlanta realized their mistake and sent J-Terd to AA, where he posted a .852 OPS to close the year. In 2013, he moved to the outfield and slashed .318/.359/.567 until July 3rd when the Braves came calling. His switch-hitting bat and versatility kept him in Atlanta, where he was a regular bench option for Fredi Gonzalez. He didn’t hit particularly well, but got on base nicely while starting games at first and in left and right. Terdy might never be a starter for a major league team, but he can have a nice career coming off the bench. He’s essentially Eric Hinske with less power.
7. Matt Suschak, RHP, University of Toledo
After 34 games over a year-and-a-half, the Braves saw all the needed from Suschak. He displayed next to no country and when he did get the ball into the strikezone, it often left the park far too quickly. He didn’t play in 2012, but played for a pair of Frontier League teams last year, though he logged just three games of work.
8. Kurt Fleming, OF, St. Christopher’s School (Richmond, VA)
Fleming was headed to Army to play baseball and football there, but chose to sign with the Braves instead and posted a .701 OPS at rookie ball after signing. He spent 2011 with Danville, but on-based just .290. Still, he opened 2012 with Rome, but sucked there and was back in Danville. He didn’t hit so well there either and was released after the season. Not sure what he did last year, but recently, he enrolled with Clemson and will walk-on for the football team next fall.
9. David Rohm, OF, Fresno City College
The Braves went back college for the selection of Rohm, who split time with both rookie teams after signing, posting a .784 OPS. He followed that up with a good year at Rome where Rohm slashed .289/.330/.432 with 47 EBH. A lot of the wind that entered his sails quickly left after struggling through injuries and rotten play with Lynchburg in 2012. After repeating the level with a season that mimics his year at Rome in 2011, Rohm will be headed up the ladder. So far, he has displayed some gap power, but has hit just 12 homeruns professionally. He doesn’t walk, nor steal bases. As a corner outfielder, his offense doesn’t project well.
10. Matthew Lewis, RHP, University of California-Davis
He walked 26 in 21.2 ING coming out of the Danville pen in 2010. He pitched three times the following season, but was quickly discarded.
Some other highlights from the rest of the draft…
-12th rounder Barrett Kleinknecht isn’t going to hit for much, but he makes for a nice utility option. The last two years while playing for Mississippi, he has logged time each year at all four infield positions, catcher, and pitcher. In fact, he was utilized three times out of the pen just last year, giving up one hit (a home) while walking two and striking out four.
-Third Baseman Brandon Drury, selected in the 13th round, was traded last offseason in the Justin Upton deal. He looked really good last year at South Bend, slashing .302/.362/.500 with 51 2B and 15 HR. I miss him already.
–William Beckwith was a Random Prospect of the Day last year. The 21st rounder seems to have cut back on December 22 after a season cut short by a DUI. Also a former Random Prospect was Ian Marshall. He spent last year with Southern Maryland in the independent Atlantic League. Here is his RPOD profile.
-30th round selection Kenny Fleming is 8th rounder Kurt’s older brother. He lasted a season less than his brother did.
-Finally, there is 23rd round selection Evan Gattis from the University of Texas-Permian Basin. The story is fairly old at this point, but because of addiction issues, Gattis’s career took a significant detour before he finally was drafted and signed with the Braves. After slugging an un-Gattis-like .387 in 60 games with Danville in 2010, Gattis destroyed SALLY pitching in 2011 to the tune of .322/.386/.601 and 22 HR, though he was limited by injuries. The following year, again, he dealt with a few injuries, but when he played, he conquered both Lynchburg and Mississippi, OPSing .995 for the year.
After a run in winter league baseball that saddled him with the El Oso Blanco nickname, Gattis headed to spring training with a lot of buzz and was truly excellent early in the season with notable homeruns off Roy Halladay and Stephen Strasburg. The rest of the year was not as good and he was used way too much in LF in order to get his bat into the lineup. That won’t be a concern this year after Brian McCann signed with the Yankees. Gattis was the 24th player selected by the Braves in June of 2010. Only nine of the 23 picked before him are still in the organization. The unlikely success of Gattis really does test logic.