Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Look Back: 2011 Draft

A few days ago, I went over the 2012 draft's first ten picks with a few more interesting ones to review how the 2012 players are progressing.  Today, let's look at the 2011 draft.  The 2011 draft has yet to graduate a player to the majors, though a few have made it to AAA.  The draft is known for the Braves selecting an insane amount of college players, including the first ten and 27 of the first 29 picks.  That meant a lot of people signed with the organization (their first 19 all signed), but the low ceilings with college picks meant impact talent from the draft was minimal outside of the first eight picks.

Again, after the top ten, I'll add a few additional players from the system that are interesting for whatever reason.

1. Sean Gilmartin, LHP, Florida State University

With the success of Mike Minor, the Braves again tried their luck with the low-ceiling, high-floor left-hander model, grabbing Gilmartin with the 28th overall selection.  Immediately, he was given the quick-riser, fourth-or-fifth starter label.  However, his success was not as immediate or stark like Minor.  After signing late, Minor made one start in the Gulf Coast League before a handful of starts with Rome to close 2011.  He followed that up with 27 starts and 157 innings, 4/5's of which occurred at Mississippi, during a 2012 campaign that can be best described as "meh."  6.4 K/9 between Mississippi and Gwinnett with a 2.2 BB/9.  Too many homers (0.9 HR/9) and an uninspiring 1.22 WHIP put a limit on any excitement for the season.  Injuries severly derailed his 2013 season, but when he pitched for Gwinnett, the results were miserable.  After the season, the Braves traded Gilmartin to the Twins for Ryan Doumit, a solid trade for the Braves.  Was he a waste of a first round pick?  Well, he brought in a capable major leaguer.

2. Nick Ahmed, SS, University of Connecticut

Drafted out of the Big Easy, Ahmed was a speedy defender who quickly made it to Lynchburg after 2012.  Expected to provide solid defense at a premium position, Ahmed was blocked by the progression of Andrelton Simmons.  After his 2012 season that saw him slash .269/.337/.391 with the Hillcats with 40 steals, Ahmed was involved in the trade that brought Justin Upton and Chris Johnson over from the Diamondbacks.  In his first season in the Arizona organization, Ahmed posted a .613 OPS at AA-Mobile.

3. Kyle Kubitza, 3B, Texas State University

Keeping with the college theme, the Braves took Kubitza in the third round.  A teammate of 2012 30th rounder Casey Kalenkosky, Kubitzka was a guy with developing power, solid on-base skills, and expected to be a good defender.  So far, so good.  After a good debut run in Danville after signing, Kubitza struggled with his average at Rome during 2012, but still posted a .349 OBP.  Last season, he came back into his own with the Hillcats, slashing .260/.380/.434.  He strikes out a ton (132 in 527 PA last season), but he also walks a lot and added 46 extra-base hits, including a dozen homers.  He might want to give up trying to steal (8 SB, 16 CS), but Kubitza could be knocking on the door as soon as 2015 with a good year this season.  All the Braves are waiting on is power and maybe a little more contact.

4. J.R. Graham, RHP, Santa Clara University

In Graham, the Braves have a potential star.  He's undersized and has drawn comparisons to Roy Oswalt so that can help fans salivate.  He possesses a tremendous fastball that has excellent sink with a plus slider and an improving change-up.  If that last pitch becomes a solid third pitch, Graham could be a starter that gets the call in a playoff game.  If it doesn't, his profile could carry him into important innings out of the pen.  Graham reached 93rd in the Baseball America Top 100 before 2013 on the heels of a 2012 season that saw him go 12-2, 2.80 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 6.7 K/9.  Expectations were high, but shoulder issues limited him to just 35.2 ING.  Provided he is healthy for camp, he could sneak his way onto the team as a reliever.  More likely, he heads to the minors to start for Gwinnett.  See his Random Prospect of the Day profile from last July.

5. Nick DeSantiago, C, Blinn College (JC)

A year before selecting two catchers in the top ten, the Braves took DeSantiago with the 176 overall pick.  DeSanitago was expected to hit a little, but was considered raw behind the plate.  Well, he may still be raw, but he has yet to hit and injuries have limited him since signing.  In 107 career games, 70 with Danville and the rest with Rome, DeSantiago has just .209 with a .599 OPS.  He was limited to just 13 games last season.  He takes walks, but has just 22 extra-base hits in 422 PA and they are all doubles.  Probably will get another shot at Rome this season.

6. Mark Lamm, RHP, Vanderbilt University

A reliever in the SEC, Lamm also underwent Tommy John surgery and was a fifth-year senior by the time the Braves got him.  He has been a fast riser, though control issues have limited his effectiveness.  Last year, he split duties between Mississippi and Gwinnett, walking 4.8 per nine innings to go with his 9.3 K/9.  Like many Braves relievers, Lamm has the power profile, but he will only get to the next step with improved control.

7. Cody Martin, RHP, Gonzaga University

A 20th rounder that the Twins didn't sign after 2010, Martin was a reliever for the Zags.  After a year out of the pen where he dominated at both Danville and Rome, Martin made the move to the rotation in 2012 and was very successful for the Hillcats with ratios like 1.18 WHIP, 0.6 HR/9, 2.9 BB/9, and 10.3 K/9 in 107.1 innings.  He stuck with the rotation for 2013 and was nearly knocking on the door for a major league promotion by the end of the season.  After 16 games (11 starts) with Mississippi, Martin finished the year with Gwinnett and struck out 66 in 69.1 ING, though his control was much worse (4 BB/9) than it was at Lynchburg the previous season.  Martin is a longshot to compete in camp and will likely return to Gwinnett.  Could be a sleeper.

8. Tommy La Stella, 2B, Coastal Carolina University

The object of affection for many Braves fans, La Stella has hit everywhere, but two questions have followed him.  Can he stay healthy after 90 games during 2012 and 88 last season?  Too early to say as freak injuries can skew the results here.  The other question also remains unanswered and apparently was the reason that Phillip Gosselin was promoted to the majors last season.  Can La Stella play enough defense?  The New Jersey native OPS'd .896 in 81 games at Mississippi with a ridiculous .422 OBP, helped by a .343 AVG and 37/34 BB/K rate.  He has a shot - a GREAT shot - to grab a major league spot in camp and the Braves could use another left-hand bat in the lineup.  However, unless he can play good enough defense, it is unlikely that he will be a long-term option for the Braves.

9. Chase Larsson, OF, Cameron University

Well, that didn't last long.  A former 18th rounder out of Canada for the Royals, Larsson went to school and had great power.  He posted a .799 OPS with Danville in 2011.  The hope was that Larsson could build on his eight homers for Danville and become a good corner outfield prospect.  However, his year in 2012 was limited by injuries and by mid-August, he was cut after just over a year in the system.  I don't know if maturity was a reason, but no one came calling and Larsson spent last season struggling for a pair of independent teams.

10. Logan Robbins, SS, Western Kentucky University

Another of the super fielding shortstops with the question "will he ever hit?" tag firmly attached, Robbins played 36 games in the Gulf Coast League after signing and OPS'd a serviceable .729 with 12 steals.  In 2012, Robbins played briefly for the Rome Braves because of injury and looked pretty awful before being demoted to Danville.  After their season began, he played center field for the D-Braves and OPs'd a miserable .593.  Rather than wait on the toolsy athlete, the Braves released him just before Christmas in 2012.  He didn't appear to catch on anywhere last year.

Other interesting picks...

-11th rounder Seth Moranda was the first high school selection by the Braves and has not made it out of rookie ball just yet.  Still, he on-based .341 for Danville last year.  Still looking for a position, he settled into second last season and finally 21, he will get a shot to climb the ladder this season.

-12th rounder Matt Chaffee out of Arizona University has a career 11.0 K/9, but when he does get hit, results are ugly.  14th rounder John Cornely from Wofford College spent the fall in Arizona after a good year wth the Hillcats.  Ancient for his level(24 during 2013), Cornely has a career 13.5 K/9 to go wth a 5.1 BB/9.

-17th rounder Gus Schlosser has been very good at every stop so far and will head to Gwinnett next season.  He throws side arm and might be best suited for a move to the pen soon as a guy who kills rallys by inducing groundball double plays.

-Son of new Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker, 19th rounder Troy Snitker didn't last long in the system before being traded last spring to the Pirates.  He was released there and played briefly with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (Atlantic League).

-A 25th round selection, OF Will Skinner belted 16 homeruns for the Hillcats last season, good for second on the team, and slugged .483.  He also walked eleven times all season and on-based .252.

-2012 Random Prospect of the Day Matt Talley, who was picked in the 28th round during the 2011 draft, appears to be out of baseball after my profile piece got him released (maybe I'm overestimated the impact of the Walk-Off Walk bump).

-37th rounder Ryne Harper has stuck with the organization while many drafted after Skinner either never signed or were already released.  He pitched in Mississippi last year with a 1.79 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 8.8 K/9 in 41 games out of the pen.  He has great control (4.11 career K/BB) and will get a shot to prove himself again with Gwinnett.

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