Braves have shaky draft history

sports@macon.comJune 3, 2014 

SPORTS BBN-METS-BRAVES 6 AT

Atlanta’ Chipper Jones acknowledges the crowd during a MLB game against the New York Mets at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia, Sunday, September 30, 2012.

VINO WONG — MCT

Later this week, Major League Baseball will hold its annual first-year player draft, as high school and college players all over the country will turn professional.

The state of Georgia will have several names called early on, which is not a surprise considering the talent that has come out of the Peach State the past few years.

Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost is expected to go in the top 15 picks. Spencer Adams is a right-handed pitcher out of White County. He could be joined in either the late first or second round by Sprayberry infielder Michael Chavis and Gainesville outfielder Michael Gettys.

The Braves will pick 32nd in the compensation round. They gave up their first-rounder to sign Ervin Santana in March, which was necessary considering the injuries they had during spring training in the rotation.

Atlanta has made a habit of picking players from Georgia since 2000, when current St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright was taken by the Braves with the 29th pick of the first round. Five other Georgia high school players (Josh Burrus, Macay McBride, Jeff Francoeur, Jason Heyward and Lucas Sims) have been taken in the first round by the home state team since Wainwright’s selection.

You can expect the Braves to take some Georgia kids at some point in the draft, if not with the first selection Thursday night.

Atlanta’s history has a lot of good and bad first-round picks. Wainwright might turn out to be one of the best, considering he has developed into a top pitcher in baseball. Even though he is not doing it for the Braves, he still has to be considered a good draft pick.

The best pick, of course, was made in 1990 when the Braves selected a scrawny shortstop out of Bolles near Jacksonville. Larry Wayne Jones (they call him Chipper) did pretty well in his career and will be in Cooperstown in a few years.

Dale Murphy was a lanky catcher when he was picked in the first round back in 1974, and then four years later the man who would become his partner in the lineup for a good number of years was taken. Bob Horner was the first pick overall out of Arizona State in 1978 and went straight to Atlanta.

When the Braves changed the focus to pitching in the late-1980s, they had several first-rounders who were pretty good. Kent Mercker (1986) and Steve Avery (1988) stand out in that group.

Heyward (2008) and Mike Minor (2009) are two players on the current roster who look like good first-round selections.

However, there have been some bad first-round draft picks. Preston Hanna (1972) and Pat Rockett (1973) will make Braves fans from the late-1970s squirm with fear for remembering how bad they turned out. Then in 1979, there was the dreaded pick of Brad Komminsk, who was supposed to be the next Dale Murphy but instead became the poster child for overhyped prospects who never made it.

Drew Denson (1984) was projected to be a power-hitting first baseman, but he never made the big leagues. Then a name that many Macon Braves fans will remember -- Tyler Houston, who was taken in with the second overall pick in 1989 -- never made it in Atlanta. The Braves could have drafted Auburn slugger Frank Thomas instead. He went to the Chicago White Sox five picks after Houston’s name was called.

Two years later, in 1991, the Braves took Mike Kelly, an outfielder from Arizona State. He flopped, and it will pain you to know that Manny Ramirez was taken 11 picks later by Cleveland. Other first-rounders in the 1990s who were busts include Jacob Shumate, A.J. Zapp and Troy Cameron.

There are more disappointments than stars, which is normal for first-round picks. A lot of them don’t pan out for one reason or another. But the Braves will hope they’ll pick a name we will all remember for being a star when they make their selection Thursday. And, as always, it’ll be a gamble that might pay off, and it might not.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at www.twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com

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