Skipping five years before the last entry, the 1994 draft was better than the 1999 but hardly spectacular. I think it’s probably the most representative draft the Braves had in the nineties. Their first three picks alone are a microcosm of the problems with their development philosophy in the period.
With their first pick, the Braves took pitcher Jacob Shumate, a high schooler from South Carolina. Shumate was probably the worst of the many first picks the Braves wasted on high school pitchers in the period and never amounted to anything. He had “great stuff” but a complete inability to throw strikes. For his minor league career he walked well over a man an inning. The Braves kept promoting him — I know he reached Greenville, at least — but eventually he had to go. There’s a cop in Arizona with the same name, maybe that’s him.
With a compensation pick in the second round (booty from the Red Sox for Otis Nixon) the Braves chose a catcher from Texas named Corey Pointer. Now, picking high school catchers high is pretty dumb most of the time. Pointer actually worked out in that he was traded to the Pirates in the Denny Neagle deal. As far as I can tell he has dropped off the face of the earth, and is certainly out of American baseball.
With their regular pick in the second round, they chose George Lombard and gave him a lot of money to skip out on Georgia football, which upset a lot of people. I’m an Alabama guy, so that didn’t bother me so much as that Lombard never has accomplished much. Lombard was eventually shipped off to the Tigers for not much, but has at least made the majors and is now in AAA, making him by far the most successful player taken by the Braves in their first ten picks that year.
The next three guys were high schoolers Joe Giuliano, Eric Pickett, and Mike Russell. Who? None of them has played US baseball any time recently. They took Ron Wright in the seventh round, which was a good pick. Wright was also part of the Neagle deal, and certainly would have been a Major League regular but for his back injuries. He played in the Northern League last year, present whereabouts unknown.
The best player from that draft class was a tenth-rounder, Wes Helms. Now, Helms has been a punching bag for me in the past, but he’s a legitimate Major Leaguer and a fringe regular. He’s not much, but at least he’s something. The Braves took two Major League pitchers in that draft, Scott Downs and Mark Hendrickson (assuming they’re the same guys) but were unable to sign either. The only other player with an entry in the Baseball Encyclopedia is Derrin Ebert, who pitched very briefly for the Braves in 1999, appearing in five games of relief and going 0-1 with a 5.62 ERA.
More to come when I get around to it.