With the 2016 draft tomorrow, it’s time to get to the end of this series. Just three more articles remain after this one.
2nd Worst Draft Since 2000 – The 2011 Draft
|Gilmartin | By Kaotate [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], |
via Wikimedia Commons
On one hand, Atlanta’s haul in the 2011 draft produced eight major leaguers. On the other hand, the Frank Wren/Tony DeMacio-led approach of cheap, sign-able college players effectively reduced the chance that the Braves would bring an impact player into the system. The 2011 edition would possibly be their worst draft together.
Flash back to 2010. The Atlanta Braves would win 91 games in Bobby Cox‘s final year and were batting on the young duo of Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens to lead their rotation while the also young core of Brian McCann, Martin Prado, Jason Heyward, and the just-arrived Freddie Freeman would give the Braves a big boost at the plate. The Braves also had high hopes for the foursome of Mike Minor, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado, and Julio Teheran. You could forgive Wren and DeMacio if they felt they had a dynasty on their hands.
Of course, they didn’t and the 2011 draft certainly didn’t help matters. Their first pick finally came with the 28th overall selection. As they had done two years before, they went with a left-hander out of a big southern college program. But Sean Gilmartin wasn’t Minor – who certainly raised his share of eyebrows when the Braves drafted him. Minor’s floor was noticeably higher than Gilmartin for one. Gilmartin was a borderline Top 50 player heading into the draft. He was a perfectly fine second rounder, but the Braves played it safe as they had done so often during the Wren years. Either there was an edict that they needed to compete and needed cheap depth players to fill in the gaps rather than hope for the best with an 18 year-old out of high school or the Braves were just flatout missing. Regardless, Atlanta made the choice to knowingly give up on the high reward and play the chances that they have grabbed a high enough floor guy to play in the majors.
They were successful. They also had very bad drafts as a result. 2011 stands out because the Braves not only drafted a college player in the first round once again, they did so in 18-of-the-first-19 rounds. They went with smart kids out of UConn (Nick Ahmed) and Gonzaga (Cody Martin) along with smaller school standouts like Kyle Kubitza and Tommy La Stella. The draft could have just easily been a winner. Instead of Joe Panik or Henry Owens, it was Gilmartin in the first round. Instead of Andrew Susac in the second, it was Ahmed. Instead of Carter Capps, it was Kubitza in the third. Rather than draft Greg Bird in the fifth, they took Nick DeSantiago. Could have had Ken Giles, but took Martin in the seventh.
Is this unfair? You betcha. But 2011 showed just how warped the Braves valued talent in the draft under Wren and DeMacio. I’m not a guy who buries Wren. I think he shoulders too much of the blame. But when it came to the draft, the Braves simply were missing and missing badly.
Here is a sign that something went wrong. The 2011 draft was just five years ago. Nobody from the draft remains the system. Some, like Gilmartin and Martin, were given away. As was J.R. Graham, who the Braves lost voluntarily in the Rule 5 draft. Kubitza and La Stella were traded for arms with higher upside. John Cornely and Gus Schlosser were sent packing. As was Ahmed, though at least he was a piece that helped the Braves acquire Justin Upton.
If a year stands out as a reason to not play it safe and draft for need, it’s 2011. The Braves got exactly what they sought – good bets to make it to the majors. Eight of them did that – so far. But their roles in the majors reflect the conservative draft philosophy the Braves followed. Each player that has made it to the bigs has little chance of developing into much more than they were when they were drafted.