The All-Bust Braves
A position-by-position list of the can’t-miss prospects who did:
C: Tyler Houston. The second overall pick in the country was selected ahead of Frank Thomas, John Olerud, Mo Vaughn, Chuck Knoblauch, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Salmon and Charles Johnson, among others. He turned out to be a poor man’s Eli Marrero.
1B: Not many high-profile busts at this position – Scott Thorman was a first-round pick but never really stood out as a prospect. The Braves oversold him, as is their wont. Runner-ups: A.J. Zapp, Drew Denson, Ken Smith.
2B: Glenn Williams was supposed to be Australia’s first baseball star, signed by the Braves when he was 16 for $1.3 million. It took him 12 years to reach the majors, with the Twins, for whom he hit .425 in 40 AB’s. He’s now managing in the Australian league.
SS: Yes, Andres Thomas didn’t quite pan out but he at least showed some flashes. Pat Rockett, selected 10th overall in the 1973 draft ahead of Fred Lynn and Eddie Murray, showed none. Hapless at the plate and in the field, Rockett batted .214 in 152 games as a Brave with 28 errors.
3B: Andy Marte. I was wary when the Braves dealt him for Edgar Renteria. The slick fielding third sacker had been ranked as the 9th best prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the trade, showing solid plate discipline (.878 OPS) at Richmond in ’05. But he never could figure out major league pitching, hitting .218 in 838 career AB’s.
LF: George Lombard. The erstwhile Georgia Bulldog appeared on the verge of stardom following his Double-A debut in 1998 when he hit .308 with 22 homers, 35 steals and a .410 OPS. But he never could take that next step, striking out at an Adam Dunn pace without the power.
CF: Mike Kelly. It’s rare when pennant contenders hold the second overall pick in the draft, as the Braves did in 1991. Kelly was viewed as being close to major league-ready, which explains why the braintrust chose him ahead of Manny Ramirez, Shawn Green, Cliff Floyd and (brace yourself, stat geeks) Scott Hatteberg. The Braves finally admitted defeat in ’96, trading the free-swinging Kelly to Cincy for Chad Fox and the Burger, Ray King. Jordan Schafer ranks a close second.
RF: You say Francoeur, I say Brad Komminsk. Both were busts, but Komminsk has to rank as the biggest disappointment of them all. His lone highlight as a Brave came when he won a radio listener $100,000 with a grand slam during the Goody’s HR Jackpot inning.
P: Tim Cole. With the third pick in the first round of the 1977 draft, the Milwaukee Brewers selected Paul Molitor. The Braves followed with Cole, a lefty high school hurler from New York who never made it to the majors. He lasted nearly 10 years in the Braves system, walking 706 in 883 innings with a 1.748 WHIP. Cole was drafted ahead of Ozzie Smith, Tim Raines, Bob Welch and Dave Henderson.