A position-by-position list of the can’t-miss prospects who did:
C: Tyler Houston was selected second overall in the 1989 draft, ahead of a future Hall of Famer, Frank Thomas, and a slew of future All-Stars, including Jeff Bagwell, John Olerud, Mo Vaughn, Chuck Knoblauch, Tim Salmon and Charles Johnson. Seven years later, the Braves traded him for Ismael Villegas.
1B: Had Ken Smith come along 25 years later he might have received more than 63 MLB plate appearances. He was the black Scott Hatteberg, getting on base nearly 39 percent of the time despite a career .259 BA in the minors. But you expect more than a .381 slugging percentage from a first baseman. Worse, the Braves passed over Alan Trammell, Leon Durham and Bruce Hurst to draft Smith.
2B: Glenn Williams was supposed to be Australia’s first baseball star, signed by the Braves for $1.3 million when he was just 16. 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: Andres Thomas is not remembered fondly by Braves fans but he was Derek Jeter compared to Pat Rockett, selected 10th overall in the 1973 draft ahead of Fred Lynn and Eddie Murray. Hapless at the plate and in the field and disinterested off it, Rockett batted .214 in 152 games as a Brave with 28 errors.
3B: (tie) 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.
Honorable mention: Mike Macha was a hitting machine at Rice University, setting records that would soon be broken by Bob Horner. Two years after selecting Macha with the 10th overall pick in the historically weak 1976 draft, the Braves picked Horner with the first overall pick. Macha was no longer the Braves top third base prospect and would go on to appear in only six big league games.
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, minus the power.
CF: It’s rare when pennant contenders hold the second overall pick in the draft, as the Braves did in 1991. Mike Kelly was thought to be close to major league-ready, which may explain why the braintrust chose him ahead of Manny Ramirez, Shawn Green and Cliff Floyd. But that trio were accomplished big leaguers by the time the Braves traded Kelly to the Reds for Chad Fox and Ray “The Burger” King. Jordan Schafer ranks a close second.
RF: Jeff Francoeur was a disappointment, but there was no bigger bust than Brad Komminsk, whose 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: With the third pick in the first round of the 1977 draft, the Milwaukee Brewers selected Paul Molitor. With Ozzie Smith and Tim Raines still on the board, the Braves opted for Tim Cole, a lefty high school hurler from New York who struggled through 10 years in the minors, walking 706 in 883 innings.
*The Braves’ 1981 draft is worth a mention, and not because they selected an Aaron (Larry) and a Hammer (Michael). Not one of their picks made the majors, and their first, chosen 10th overall, didn’t even play high school baseball. Not surprisingly, Jay Roberts never learned to hit a curveball, nor much else. Roberts batted .187 in four seasons, failing to advance past A-ball. He later returned to college, becoming a special teams stalwart for the University of Washington Huskies.