The Worst Draft Since 2000…The 2001 Draft
|Anthony Lerew | By RCSmith84 (Own work) |
[CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
How important is it to hit on your draft choices? In 2001, the Atlanta Braves had six picks in the first 105 selections. Three never made it to the majors. Of the other three, the only one who went on to have a decent career re-entered the draft after not signing with the Braves. Of the 10.9 WAR Basebal-Reference currently attaches to this draft, two players account for 13 WAR. Neither signed with the Braves after being drafted in 2009. When people talk about the horrid drafts of the Frank Wren years, it’s important to remember than John Schuerholz had his fair share. This one stands out.
The Braves came into the 2001 draft with the #29th overall pick based on their 95-67 finish the previous year. Chipper Jones was entering his Age-29 year and Andruw Jones was just 24, but the team was getting old in a hurry. Kevin Millwood, Jason Marquis, and Odalis Perez start 53 games combined in 2001, but the Braves needed an onslaught of young talent to add to the frey. The 2001 draft could have been a way of helping that happen.
Atlanta added three picks in compensation while losing no picks. They received the Dodgers’ #24 pick after Los Angeles signed Andy Ashby while also picking up a supplemental first rounder as well. They also grabbed the Pirates’ second round pick, #52nd overall, when Pittsburgh signed Terry Mulholland. The 2001 draft was a top-heavy collection of talent with Joe Mauer going #1st overall and Mark Teixeira going #5. The rest of the first round was a hodgepodge of forgettable contributors like Casey Kotchman, Aaron Heilman, and Noah Lowry. The only real impact talent over the final 39 picks of the first round was David Wright.
Wright was picked #38th overall. He could have been a Brave if he had been higher on the board for Atlanta as they had two shots to pick him. Instead, they stayed in Georgia, drafting two prep Georgians and a Georgia Tech alum over their first three picks. When Atlanta’s first pick came up with the #24th overall selection, the Braves chose Macay McBride. If it’s any consolation, of the next four picks, only Jeremy Bonderman and Bobby Crosby made it to the majors. McBride was a star in Georgia and would have been a Georgia Bulldog had the Braves not grabbed him. Five picks later, they selected shortstop Josh Burrus out of Wheeler High School in Marieta. Their third first rounder was used on Georgia Tech second baseman, Richard Lewis.
The second round included a pair of names the Braves had a shot at that would turn into dependable major leaguers (#56, J.J. Hardy and #72, Dan Haren). Instead, with the #52nd overall pick, the Braves selected Jesuit High School (Sacramento, CA) lefty J.P. Howell. A pick after Haren was selected by the Cardinals, Atlanta stayed in the southeast to grab Decatur High School (AL) third sacker Cole Barthel.
The picks kept coming. Over the next nine rounds, they picked pitchers Kyle Davies, Raymond Nieves, Donnie Furnald, Willie Collazo, and Anthony Lerew along with outfielders Adam Stern, Matt Esquivel, and Bill McCarthy. Only four reached the majors and only Davies stuck around for any length of period. That was a better success rate than they had after round 11. Of Braves they drafted and signed, only Kevin Barry made it to the majors.
It’s hard to screw up three first rounders in one draft, but the Braves in 2001 found a way. Burrus and Lewis went nowhere during their careers. Burrus, a toolsy shortstop was shifted to the outfield and only played 5 games at the Triple-A level during his ten year career. At least Lewis was repurposed as the Braves traded him just three years later to the Cubs in the Juan Cruz deal. He hit .228/.280/.332 during 203 games at the Triple-A level before his career came to a close after 2008. McBride was part of the Baby Braves that reached the majors in 2005 and he looked useful over 14 innings, but his lack of control caught up with him soon after. The Braves traded him to the Tigers in ’07 for Wil Ledezma and after 20 games with Detroit to finish the year, McBride would never again play in the majors.
The second round went worse. While Howell would develop into a solid lefthand reliever, it was only after heading to college. Barthel played just 149 games with the Braves organization over four seasons before being cut after never making it past Rome. Stern and Davies would both make it to the majors with Stern hitting a buck-16 over 54 games while Davies’s career ERA is 5.57. He actually made it back to the majors for the first time in four years last April for one game. Recently, he debuted with Yakult in the Japan Central League.
But as bad as Davies has been, at least he’s received an extended look. The trio of pitchers that reached the majors from the tenth to 14th rounds (Collazo, Lerew, and Barry) combined to pitch 95.2 innings in the majors with Collazo’s ERA of 6.35 the best mark of the bunch.
Atlanta would select just two more players who made it to the majors, but neither signed with the Braves that year (Delwyn Young & Dallas Braden). This was a John Schuerholz/Roy Clark led draft at the height of “The Braves Way.” It’s enough to remind you of the quote from Moneyball when Billy Beane tells Grady Fuson, “I’ve sat at those tables and listened to you tell those parents ‘When I know, I know. And when it comes to your son. I know.’ And you don’t. You don’t.” The variables that go into selecting a player are the only things the team controls. After that, they can’t control how a player takes to coaching, how his pitches look against advanced hitters, how healthy he remains, etc.
All draft choices are made with the best intentions. Sometimes, good things happen. In 2001, the best the Braves could hope for was Kyle Davies – an underwhelming right-hander who has the second-worst fWAR among pitchers who threw 750 innings between 2005 and 2011.