Monday, January 5, 2015

Reviewing BA's Top Ten: 2004

Once again, it is time to continue the journey through 15 years of Baseball America's Top 10 Braves prospects. This year's list includes nine future major leaguers and six of the famed Baby Braves of 2005. Atlanta would place three players in the overall top 50. Also notable is that all but one of the players that made this list were drafted by the Braves. They hadn't had so much luck in the draft since 1990 when all ten players came out of the draft. To add, the only player who wasn't pdrafted was an international amateur signing that was considered the top prospect in the organization before the 2004 season.

If you'd like to take a view at previous versions of this series, click here.

Atlanta's Top Ten Prospects for 2003 according to Baseball America
1. Andy Marte, 3b - BA Top 100: #11 - Other Years in Braves Top Ten: 2003 (3rd), 2005 (2nd), 2006 (1st)
2. Jeff Francoeur, rf - BA Top 100: #27 - Other Years: 2003 (6th), 2005 (1st)
3. Adam Wainwright, rhp - BA Top 100: #49 - Other Years: 2001 (7th), 2002 (2nd), 2003, (1st)
4. Bubba Nelson, rhp - BA Top 100: #75 - Other Years: 2002 (8th), 2003 (4th)
5. Dan Meyer, lhp - BA Top 100: #82
6. Adam LaRoche, 1b - BA Top 100: #73
7. Macay McBride, lhp - Other Years: 2003 (5th)
8. Brian McCann, c - Other Years: 2005 (3rd)
9. Kyle Davies, rhp - Other Years: 2005 (4th)
10. Anthony Lerew, rhp - Other Years: 2005 (5th), 2006 (5th)

Prospect Spotlight
We all know that the Braves have a history of mining their state for talent as well as any team. Half of the prospects in their 2004 top ten were born in Georgia, including #9, Hiram Kyle Davies. Frankly, I prefer Hiram, but whatever. Selected in the 2001 draft along with McBride (1st round) and Lerew (11th round), Davies was coddled as a young teenager working his way through the rookie levels. He logged 56 innings in the Gulf Coast League after being drafted and followed that up with 69.1 ING in 14 starts with Danville the following year. Both seasons included cameos with Macon, but his time in full season ball really didn't come until 2003, a season that was recognized by Baseball America with a placement on this list.

In 27 starts, Davies, who was still just 19, held his own with a 1.24 WHIP and over a K an inning with very good control. He was definitely deserving of recognition, even with Lerew, Meyer, and Jose Capellan on the inaugural Rome Braves pitching staff with Davies. He followed that up with a 2004 that began with a 2.63 ERA in Myrtle Beach before a 62-inning run with Greenville that saw Davies post an even lower 2.32 ERA. There was good reason to get excited about Davies heading into 2005. He was knocking on the door and all he needed was a chance to advance to the majors.

Injuries to John Thomson and Mike Hampton (shocker) provided that opportunity and Davies made his debut on May 21st, 2005. He was stellar, holding the Red Sox, who averaged 5.6 R/G in 2005, to just four singles, three walks, and striking out six Boston hitters, including David Ortiz looking and Manny Ramirez twice swinging. For a staff that included four pitchers who were 29 or older, the arrival of Davies gave us excitement for the future, but his quick success also made the present look promising. In his first four starts, he posted a 0.77 ERA and nearly a K an inning. But over his next 17 games, things didn't work out so well as his ERA ballooned to 6.44, he nearly walked as many as he struck out,. Plus, hitters were sending too many pitches deep and way the hell out of the park.

We were still hopeful because, well, we had to be. The state of the Braves pitching in the mid-2000's was cross your fingers that the old guys perform and pray that pitchers like Horacio Ramirez, Chuck James, Jorge Sosa, Jo-Jo Reyes, and even Buddy Carlyle don't suck. At least Davies had youth on his side. Unfortunately, that was it. He posted an almost impossibly high ERA of 8.38 in 14 starts in 2006 with a WHIP of 1.94. Since 2000, only eight other pitchers pitched at least 60 innings in a given season and posted a WHIP higher than Davies in 2006. In 2007, he was back and was better, but that's only because you can't be but so much worse than putrid. By July, the Braves had soured on Davies and shipped him off to the Royals for Octavio Dotel. The Royals endured four-plus years of Davies before finally releasing him. His performance on the mound was deserving of a boot, but it was getting booked on disorderly intoxication that ultimately earned him a release.

Davies last game in the majors came fittingly in Fenway Park where he again, shutdown the Red Sox. Davies would go to pitch for the Blue Jays, Twins, and the Indians organizations since his release working through injuries along the way. A free agent, Davies is just 30. His career ERA is 5.59.

Biggest Bust
It would be easy to call Davies the biggest bust out of this group, but let's look at the 6'2" lefty Meyer. Baseball America originally had the Braves' selection of Meyer as the 34th overall pick as a stretch, projecting him as a late third rounder, but the Braves were excited about the future with Meyer's mid-90's heat. Personally, Meyer was quickly one of the guys I followed because he was selected out of the college I wanted to transfer to - James Madison University. As Meyer dominated the Appalachian League, thrived in SALLY and Carolina, and impressed in the Southern and International Leagues, it looked like the Braves were redeemed with their selection. Meyer was already on the doorstep before the 2005 season. Considering the 2004 Braves relied on the unlikely contributions of Jaret Wright and needed to get younger, it only seemed like a great fit for them to welcome Meyer into their rotation. The fact that he had never posted an ERA over 3.00 only made fans more excited to see him take his place as the next great lefty in the staff.

But you know the story. The offseason between 2004-05 included the shocking trade of Meyer, along with Juan Cruz and Charles Thomas, for Oakland A's ace Tim Hudson. Meyer's time with the Braves looked to be through, but he was still a top prospect and the crown jewel of the deal for Billy Beane. However, Meyer struggled to stay healthy or even pitch all that well and wouldn't even play for the big league club until 2007. An equally bad 2008 cameo hurt Meyer, who was not only out of options but had exhausted the A's patience in him. After the 2008 season, the Marlins picked him up on waivers and he would go to post his only success at the major league level in south Florida during 2009. Appearing in 71 games as a LOOGY, Meyer K'd nearly a batter an inning with a 1.17 WHIP. But the success was good as suddenly as it appeared. He struggled in 2010 and was cast off. A short, woeful run with the Pirates in AAA in 2011 followed. He ended up with the Pirates after failing to make the Phillies bullpen that spring. The player that beat him out? Antonio Bastardo. Meyer showed his displeasure in 2013 after Bastardo was suspended for PEDs.

Since retiring, Meyer has returned to the Braves as Danville's pitching coach.

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