June 9, 2009 at 9:54 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves, Draft, Farm System, Pitching, Player Analysis, Prospects, Scouting
I’d like to start this entry with a personal anecdote:
I got home at about 6:45 PM EST this evening. Anxious to find out who the draft selections thus far had been, who the Braves have picked (if they have), or who is left for them to pick (if they haven’t), I opened up my browser and immediately went to mlb.com. I had heard on the radio that the first 3 were Strasburg, Ackley, and Tate. I was happy to hear that Tate went to the Padres because that moves one of the pitchers that they could have taken down on the draft board and increases our chances of hitting a home run with our pick. I had previously read that the Pirates will draft Sanchez. So I figured we had a pretty good chance of grabbing a super-high upside arm. Back to 6:45 and mlb.com. I open the draft tracker. I saw that 5 and 6 were Hobgood and Wheeler. I almost peed my pants with excitement when I put 2 and 2 together and realized that Matzek was still available. I thought to myself, “No way we pass on an opportunity THIS great.”. The thought of Matzek in our farm was thrilling to me. Absolutely thrilling. Then all the hype I had built up came crashing down into reality when I hit “f5″ (refresh).
Why did all my hype come crashing down? Because instead of taking Tyler Matzek or Aaron Crow or Jacob Turner or Grant Green or Matt Purke or Shelby Miller, we took Mike Minor. I understand why we took Mike Minor. I do, I get it. But I still have every right to be frustrated about it.
First of all, let’s start with the good, because it isn’t Minor’s fault that our organization disappointed me. Minor is probably close to the least risky pick in the draft. He’s a 6’3″ 175 LB Left-Handed Pitcher from Vanderbilt University. He throws a fastball that sits in the 86-89 range (he struggles to hit 89), a slider, a curveball, and a change-up (his best pitch). None of his pitches are above-average, but his command and above-average control make him a very safe bet. He’s basically the classic high floor low ceiling guy. He’s got an excellent chance of making it to the majors. He’s polished. He doesn’t have mechanical issues or control issues or new pitches to develop. He’s had 4 years of college work and he’ll probably make it to the bigs very quickly.
But the ceiling is low. We’re talking a number-3-starter-on-a-good-day low. He’ll most likely never make an all-star team. He won’t be in any sort of conversation for Cy Young, MVP, Rolaids award, etc. The stuff just isn’t there. I’m not saying it won’t happen, but there’s a very, very, very, VERY slim chance that he’ll turn into a legitimately great pitcher.
I’m not upset that he’s in our organization. He’ll make it to the big leagues and be a serviceable back end of the rotation starter. There’s little chance he won’t make it, and we’ll be getting value out of our draft choice. But with the 7th overall pick, the highest we’ve picked in *18 years*, I wanted to see the Braves select someone exciting. Someone with upside through the roof. Someone who has the chance to be the next Sandy Koufax.
The real reason the Braves went with Minor is because of his signability. The Braves are close to their payroll limit and it’s no secret that they want to save money in the draft. Mike Minor will most probably sign for the slot recommendation, so the Braves won’t be breaking the bank with their first pick. It makes sense to want to actually sign the player you select. The scouts have put a lot of work into this draft and all of the Braves’ allotted resources would essentially be wasted if they were unable to sign their pick. But I still think that the number 7 pick was too good of an opportunity to waste on a guy who projects to be a number 4 starter. I would’ve drafted Matzek and hoped his demands went down. And if they do, the Braves have a super-high upside pitcher who is only 18 years old. If he doesn’t lower the demands? Well, the Braves would have the number 8 pick in next year’s draft. And next year’s draft class will likely be stronger than this year’s. Especially in the position players department.
Roy Clark is a great scouting director, but Minor isn’t the guy he wanted to take. Minor was the guy that he wanted to take among the players that management and ownership approved of drafting. The distinction is key. Clark simply plays the hand he’s dealt. Ownership put him in this tough position by dealing him this hand.
But the Braves do know how to develop pitchers. They had a left-handed pitchability pitcher who didn’t throw his fastball 90 MPH and whose change-up was his best pitch on the mound for about 17 years and that seemed to work out alright (despite recent circumstances). His name was Tom Glavine and he’s a 300 game winner. I’m not saying Mike Minor will ever be as good as Tom Glavine. It is EXTREMELY unlikely he’ll ever be close to as good as Tom Glavine or have half the career Tom Glavine did. But the Braves don’t not know what they’re doing. And they could’ve just picked the next Tom Glavine.
Only time will tell, but I have a feeling that in hindsight we will regret this draft pick further on up the road.