Monday, February 17, 2014

A Look Back: 2008 Draft

Before my second daughter's birth, I began a series that analyzed the impact, or lack thereof, of the recent amateur draft classes for the Atlanta Braves organization.  Beginning with the 2012 draft, I followed the outcomes of four different years.  If you would like to look back at those articles, you can do so by clicking one of the following links:  2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.

Today, let's continue it with the fifth addition to the club, the 2008 draft.  While the first two picks petered out as busts, the draft did give the Braves a few major league talents, including the best closer in baseball.  The Braves did not have a first round pick that season, losing it as compensation for signing Tom Glavine from the Mets.  Um, a waste.  The Mets took current first baseman Ike Davis with the pick.  Unknown who the Braves would have targetted with the 18th overall selection, but Andrew Cashner was picked next.  That would have been a nice addition.

The Braves did get a supplemental pick after the Royals signed left-hander Ron Mahay.  So, the first pick could technically be added to the Mark Teixeira deal.  Unfortunately, it does not help that terrible deal's outcome.  The Braves also got an additional second round pick after failing to sign Josh Fields the previous year.  Like previous editions, I'll go over the top ten rounds and add any interesting picks.

Keep this in mind.  Of the 51 players selected in 2008, only two remain with the Braves organization.  

1. Brett DeVall, LHP, Niceville High School (Niceville, FL)

It was supposed to be a good fit.  Crafty left-hander with surprising velocity from the southeast goes to the Braves.  This is how successful pairings begin.  However, DeVall would only appear in 33 games with the organization before being cut before the beginning of the 2011 season.  What went wrong?

Injuries definitely played a role.  He made just 10 starts with Rome in 2009 before his season ended in June.  The following year, his final with the organization, he got a late start to the year and made only 19 starts with pretty forgetful numbers.  But it was more than just injuries from what I read.  He showed up overweight and apparently refused to undergo Tommy John surgery even after being advised by Dr. James Andrews that he needed it.  And according to his twitter account, he's a douchenozzle.  Last October 26th, he tweeted, "not many more things in baseball i enjoy more then asian relievers shitting the bed."  Wow, really?  Suffice it to say, since the Braves cut him, his phone hasn't been ringing off the hook.

2. Tyler Stovall, LHP, Hokes Bluff High School (Gadsden, AL)

Back-to-back high school lefties to open the draft, back-to-back busts.  Stovall could run it up to the low 90's with a good curveball and again, it looked like a good fit.  Stovall was a two-sport star signed on to play baseball at Auburn when he signed with the Braves.  However, his production was minimal and he was switched to the bullpen, which is hardly a good sign for a second rounder out of high school.  The Braves cut Stovall after the 2011 season and after a stop (but no appearances) with the Royals and a year in independent ball, where he didn't fair too well, Stovall was out of baseball.  But the story doesn't end there.  Like 2011 8th rounder Kurt Fleming, Stovall has found second life in the SEC as a football player as a walk-on backup punter and holder for the Auburn Tigers.  Bonus...as part of his original contract with the Braves, Atlanta is on the hook for 8 semesters.  Shrewd.

2.  Zeke Spruill, RHP, Kell High School (Marietta, GA)

While the first two picks of 2008 washed out, Spruill has persevered, even as the Braves cut bait with the former Georgia product.  Spruill continues the string of crafty guys former scouting director Roy Clark loved to grab early and often.  Only thing about craftiness is that it's not very exciting and rarely do the players ever contribute in a meaningful way in the majors.  Spruill climbed the ladder steadily, though he was never a big prospect.  Last offseason, he was added to the Justin Upton trade and appeared in six games with the Diamondbacks last year, including two starts.  He also faced the Braves last June 28th out of the pen and gave up an RBI single to Reed Johnson.

3. Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Wallace State Community College

Oh, you've heard of him?  The best reliever in the game has always been a reliever.  Atlanta originally took him in the 33rd round in 2008, but could not sign the Lee High School alum.  Fortunately, they got a second chance and got the young reliever and it did not take long for Kimbrel to rocket up the charts.  In 151 minor league innings, he struck out 242.  He had one potential problem to a successful career in the majors and that was his control.  He walked nearly 6 per nine innings during his minor league career, but it all clicked for him in 2011 as he took home the Rookie of the Year award and sported a 3.7 BB/9 rate.

4. Braeden Schlehuber, C, College of Southern Nevada

Breaden was the first Random Prospect of the Day back in June of 2012.  Unfortunately, he received zero boost from the Walk-Off Walk bump and has been classified as an organizational catcher since signing.  He's currently in camp as a non-roster invitee, but even if Gerald Laird wasn't with the Braves, Schlehuber was headed back to the minors regardless of what he does this spring.  Since signing, he has hit .224 with a .622 OPS and has rarely been a team's primary catcher.  Over the last three seasons, he has played with both Lynchburg and Mississippi.  Chances are he'll be back in Mississippi.

5. Jacob Thompson, RHP, University of Virginia

What was with Roy Clark's obsession with soft-tossing guys?  Add Thompson to the crowd and also add him to the list of former Braves.  Thompson was never that good, but he steadily climbed the ladder to appear with the Gwinnett Braves in 2011.  The results were not that good and Thompson surprisingly retired at age-24, a day after giving up seven runs in 2.1 ING to Toledo on May 14th.  I saw Thompson pitch for Myrtle Beach against the then-Pirates-affiliated Lynchburg Hillcats and he looked every bit of a low-ceiling guy.

6. Adam Milligan, OF, Walters State Community College

Milligan was drafted three times by the Braves before the native of Tennessee finally signed.  The Braves hoped that left-handed hitting imposing figure would add some more raw power.  However, Milligan could never stay healthy despite some relatively solid numbers along the way.  He struggled in 2012 with Mississippi and was banished to Lynchburg, where he never could turn it on and before last season, the Braves parted ways with Milligan.  A shame he was never able to stay healthy.

7. Paul Clemens, RHP, Louisburg College

One of the most ridiculous numbers last season came from Clemens, who split time with Oklahoma City and Houston.  With the Astros, he gave up 16 HR in 73.1 ING.  To put that into different terms, for every nine innings Clemens could throw, he would give up 2 homers.  That ratio tied him with Joe Blanton and tying Blanton with anything is a bad sign.  Clemens has been with the Astros since the trading deadline in 2011 when the Braves acquired Michael Bourn.  That was also his first year as a full-time starter after splitting time between starting and relieving before that.  He's never been better than decent.

8. Brett Oberholtzer, LHP, Seminole Community College

Also going to the Astros in the Bourn trade was Oberholtzer, a stocky left-hander who is, as the theme goes, crafty.  Oberholtzer was a fast-riser and was already in AA-Mississippi and holding his own at the time of the trade.  He made it to the majors last season and looked like he belonged.  He picked up a pair of complete games, including a four-hitter against the Mariners last September 1st.  Oberholtzer could be a late bloomer, but I doubt he's much more than a bottom-of-the-rotation cog.

9. Kyle Farrell, RHP, Western Nevada College

139 innings.  That's all the Braves needed to see from Farrell to grow disinterested with keeping the 6'4" righty in the system past 2010.  He never made it out of rookie ball and hasn't played organized ball since.

10. J.J. Hoover, RHP, Calhoun Community College

Blessed with a heavy fastball, Hoover displayed great strikeout numbers as he climbed the minor league ladder, rarely staying in one place for very long.  Hoover was eventually transitioned to the bullpen in 2011 and looked like he could be a sleeper for the 2012 roster, but instead of making the roster, he was dealt to the Reds for Juan Francisco.  It didn't take him long to get to the majors from there and he has been a steady reliever in the pen for the Reds.

Other interesting picks...

-Former Georgia Tech pitcher and 17th rounder pitcher Mark Pope didn't sign with the Braves and was eventually drafted again by the Padres, where he played for two seasons before getting cut.  The Braves tried their luck with Pope and he opened 2013 with the Hillcats, but was released a month later.

-A pair of picks were used on guys who didn't sign and eventually were drafted by the Nationals. 16th rounder OF Billy Burns and 27th rounder infielder Anthony Rendon.

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