So far in this series, I’ve looked at the fifth worst and fifth best drafts since 2000 for the Atlanta Braves. Today, I’ll head back to the bad side with a look at the fourth worst Braves draft.
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4th Worst Draft Since 2000…2004
From a talent standpoint, the 2004 draft may be the worst draft Atlanta has had since at least 2000.
But the draft gets a bit of pass because Atlanta’s hands were tied by some decisions by John Schuerholz and the big league club. Coming off a 2003 in which Atlanta bashed their way to 101 wins while surrendering 740 runs, the most since 1990, Atlanta tried to reverse course. They waved goodbye to Greg Maddux, but unlike the previous year, they did not offer him arbitration. They also didn’t offer arbitration to Gary Sheffield, losing each without any sort of compensation. Meanwhile, they added Paul Byrd and John Thomson on the free agent market. The latter was especially painful as it cost them their first rounder, the 30th overall selection. It’s unknown who they would have selected, but my money is on J.P. Howell, taken 31st by the Royals. Atlanta had originally drafted him out of high school in 2001 with a second round selection, but failed to sign him. The next ten picks included lefthander Gio Gonzalez and reliever Huston Street, but very little beyond them.
When all was said and done, Atlanta didn’t draft until the final pick of the second round, 71st overall. They went with third baseman Eric Campbell out of Gibson Southern High School in Indiana. A different Eric Campbell would later play for the Mets, but the Eric Campbell the Braves selected failed to make it to the majors during a rocky minor league career.
Every thirty picks, Atlanta added another player – mostly guys you’ve never heard of. LSU second baseman J.C. Holt was their second rounder followed by righty James Parr, infielder Van Pope, and catcher Clint Sammons. Picks like Johnnie Wiggins, Derrick Arnold, and Jeff Katz were added to the haul, as unimpressive as it was. They finished the first ten rounds with southpaw Brady Endl out of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
14th rounder Mike Rozema, a shortstop out of St. John’s, never hit, though his accomplishments of making it to AAA is rare with this group. 17th rounder and Georgia prep start Jon Mark Owings hit .293 with 13 homers for Danville in 2005, but struggled to stay healthy and when he finally did, he struggled to reclaim the glory of his coming out party. Righty Jaime Richmond was selected in the 31st round out of Canada and signed the next season. In 2006, he owned the Appalachain League with a 1.21 ERA in 67 innings with 52 K and 4 BB. Two years later, he was part of the Mark Kotsay trade and by 2010, his career was essentially over.
Atlanta did draft Tyler Flowers in the 27th round out of Blessed Trinity High School (Roswell, Georgia). He declined to sign and attended Chipola College. A year later, the Braves would draft him in the 33rd round and signed him the next season as a draft-and-follow. The Braves also drafted a pair of players near the end of the draft, but each went to college and became richer for it with higher draft spots (Sean Doolittle and Eric Farris).
From the 2004 draft alone, Atlanta drafted just two players that they signed who later reached the majors. Parr pitched 13 times and Sammons played in 31 games. That’s it. Again, they get a bit of a pass because they drafted just twice in the first 101 picks and none in the first 70 picks, but that’s a pitiful amount of talent to add to the organization. For awhile, Campbell looked like he might develop into a good offensive player for the Braves and possibly save this draft from being such an ugly show. In 2005, he dominated the APPY League, belting 18 homers over 66 games.
But Campbell had a problem. He just didn’t give a damn – at least not enough of a damn to put the effort in. He was sent home from his winter league team in Hawaii after what seemed like a solid campaign with Rome in ’06 (.296/.335/.517). His numbers flatlined in 2007 with Myrtle Beach before he was suspended and sent him home early. He looked improved in 2008, but dealt with injury issues. After an ugly campaign at the plate in 2009, the Braves cut the cord. Campbell would bounce around for a few years before his career came to an end following a run with Fargo-Moorhead in the independent American Association to end 2012.
Neither Holt or Pope developed into much. Holt was a decent contact guy with average speed while Pope was a great defender without a bat. In 2010, Pope tried to re-invent himself as a reliever, but wasn’t able to throw strikes. Even the guys who did get to the majors were never that exciting as prospects. Parr’s minor league numbers were never that great, but with bad pitching staffs in need of arms, he made cameos in both 2008 and ’09 with the Braves. Last year, he pitched 42 times for Sugar Land in the Atlantic League. Sammons was an all-glove catcher who looked horribly overmatched when he did spend time in the majors.
Overall, 2004 was a failure by the scouting and coaching team, but it’s not all their fault. They weren’t aided by signing Thomson, nor were they aided by what was a shallow draft. Matt Bush‘s recent arrival in the majors withstanding, the talent was pretty poor. Only three first rounders have reached 20 bWAR in their career, 3 more in the second round, and not another until sixth round pick Ben Zobrist. It was not a pretty draft and the Braves couldn’t help that. Because of that, I only rank this awful mix of players as the fourth worst since 2000.
Still, Parr and Sammons? That’s just awful, Schuerholz and Roy Clark.