Recapping the Braves Drafts: 2018
It was a year to forget as the Braves searched for talent in Anthopolous's first year
Previous Recapped Drafts
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The goal of the amateur draft every year is to add players to the mix that will eventually affect your major league squad in a meaningful way. But not every year works out like that and today’s focus proves that.
In terms of impact talent, the 2018 draft will probably go down as one of the weaker ones for the Atlanta Braves. Not because there is no talent here, but four years later, only one player has gotten to the majors of a draft dominated by college picks. Of course, it doesn't help that you only get to make two of the first 111 selections of the draft because your third-round pick was lost due to the very many punishments from your old general manager's actions.
And it really doesn't help when your top pick doesn't, ya know, sign.
As always, I'll give you the round (first number) and overall selection (second number). From the fourth round on, the Braves will select eighth in every round.
1.8 RHP Carter Stewart - The Melbourne, Florida native was potentially the player with the most value in the entire draft. Carter was already showing upper 90's heat and a nasty curveball in high school. His changeup, though not nearly the pitch his top two offerings were, was developing into an average pitch with projection. The Mississippi State commit was rated as high as the second-best player available by Keith Law and the fifth-best by MLB.com. For a system full of pitching prospects at the time, Stewart looked like he might become the best one.
But then...that didn't happen. Stewart had some wrist problems that had the Braves a bit apprehensive about investing millions of dollars into the youngster. As a result, they offered him the minimum requirement in order to qualify for a compensation pick the next year. He chose not to sign and the Braves got the pick which became Shea Langeliers. On Stewart’s behalf, the Major League Baseball Player's Association filed a grievance, hoping to (1) get Stewart declared a free agent and (2) bar the Braves from getting a compensation pick. Obviously, he lost.
Rather than honor his commitment to Mississippi State, Stewart went to Eastern Florida State College, a junior college which allowed him to re-enter the draft in 2019. And then, he opted out of the whole draft scenario by signing a six-year contract with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. Stewart has spent much of the last three seasons in the Japan Western League, one of two minor leagues for Nippon Professional Baseball. Steart did appear in eleven games in with the first squad in 2021, striking out 36 in 23.2 innings, but also walking 21 on his way to a 6.08 ERA.
Will Stewart's trailblazer approach lead to a success down the road? Or will he be a cautionary tale for other potential high school arms to just stay in America, attend a college, and improve their skills that way for a bigger pay day later? That question remains unanswered, but for the Braves, losing out on Stewart didn't have the overall impact many worried it would. Langeliers became a top catching prospect and the centerpiece on a deal to acquire a franchise cornerstone. But losing your top pick definitely made this draft look worse.
2.49 1B/OF Greyson Jenista - Considered one of the top power prospects from the college ranks in the 2018 draft, the sledding has been slow for the 6'4" slugger. While, in some ways, the power has developed as hoped, the overall results have lagged behind. Jenista has struggled to make good contact throughout his professional career, including 125 K's in just 350 PA last year with Gwinnett. He has, at times, shown a willingness to take walks, though only 25 walks in 2022, about as half as many as he took the previous season despite receiving 21 more plate appearances. Jenista's defense in the outfield has been a bit better than expected, but the results at the plate just aren't good enough to think there's much of a prospect here.
4.112 RHP Tristan Beck - The former Stanford arm looked like a potential rotation filler pick with enough projection left for slightly more. Long-term injury concerns led to Beck lasting until the fourth round, where he was considered a coup for the Braves. His time in the Braves' organization was short-lived as the team sent him to the Giants in the Mark Melancon deal at the deadline just a year after drafting him. He's had a slow climb up the Giants organization from there and has rarely been that impressive. Injuries and the pandemic, though, have been a factor. Last year, he made 23 appearances including 22 starts with a 5.25 ERA. Most of that came with Triple-A Sacramento. He did strikeout 116 in 111.1 innings and showed good control. Beck's ceiling hasn't really changed since he was drafted.
5.142 RHP Trey Riley - After pitching just one inning in 2017 with Oklahoma State, Riley transferred closer to home and attended John A. Logan College in Carterville, IL. There, he became a top junior college arm as he received a lot more innings. Armed with a strong mid-90's fastball and one of the better sliders of the draft, the rub was that Riley looked like a potential high-leverage arm out of the pen and, if a third pitch developed, a good value pick as a starter. The latter never happened and control issues have dogged him. He seemed to have that a bit under control in 2021, but they came back in a big way last season. His command issues also lead to too many pitches in the middle of the zone and an unacceptable homerun rate.
6.172 OF Andrew Moritz - A strong hit tool led to the athletic UNC Greensboro outfielder to get selected this high. And his hit tool has remained a bit of a calling card as a professional. The problem is that he's flashed little else. He doesn't walk very often (at least not until 2022), has hit just four professional homers, and his 36 steals in 3+ seasons isn't super noteworthy. Moritz is coming off his best season (.283/.371/.362) where he added walks and hit 17 of his career 42 doubles. But overall, he looks like organizational depth.
7.202 RHP Brooks Wilson - Not too much was expected out of an $80,000 senior signing who had a fairly unspectacular career at Stetson University. But Wilson has, at every turn, showed that he's got a lot of talent in his right arm. In 165 innings, he's struck out 182 (9.9 K/9), walked just 53 (2.9 BB/9), and allowed a scant eight homers. Unfortunately, 2022 was a lost season for Wilson due to injuries, though the Braves were so high on the kid that they added him to the 40-man last year. He might not be in the picture at the start of the year as he rounds back into form, but Wilson could become the next 2018 draftee to get to the bigs.
8.232 SS AJ Graffanino - A bit of a legacy pick as his dad played for the Braves, Graffy hit .364/.440/.455 in his final season at Washington before the Braves grabbed him. He continued to hit as a professional, batting .318 to close out 2018. He came to the plate just once in 2019 due to injury, making it a lost year, before he was traded to the Orioles in the Tommy Milone deal in 2020. He never got going for the O's and was cut by them at the end of June this year. Quickly picked up by the Phils, he spent a month in their organization before also being released. His .250/.309/.313 professional slash line would look a lot worse if not for his 2018 hot hitting.
9.262 RHP Ryan Shetter - I'm not going to pronounce his last name because this is a family-friendly blog. The Texas Tech righty was solid in the minors for the Braves, though he didn't particularly wow anybody with his pitch-to-contact and throw strikes profile. Released in 2020, he spent a little time in independent ball.
10.292 3B Brett Langhorne - After putting up back-to-back seasons with a .900+ OPS at Carson-Newman, the hope was the former Tennessee Volunteer could flash a strong hit tool at a variety of positions. And, briefly, he did just that, batting .281 with a .375 OPS in rookie ball after the draft. But a terrible 2019 season quickly hurt the hope the tenth rounder would play up bigger than his draft spot. After the pandemic, he hit an abysmal .189 at Rome, striking out 104 times in 212 AB. Not great. After the season, he was released and I have not seen any signs that he played anywhere in 2022.
11.322 LHP Jake Higginbotham - After being used as a starter at Clemson, the Braves quickly moved the southpaw to the pen. He missed much of 2021 because of injury, but overall, he has a 3.30 ERA and just over a strikeout an inning in 155.1 frames. He's getting kind of old, but lefties are always in demand so you could see the Braves continue to try to get something out of Higginbotham moving forward even if the results haven't been overwhelming.
12.352 RHP Nolan Kingham - Born in Las Vegas, Kingham has been in the picture the last two seasons with 34 appearances at Triple-A, including twenty starts. The problem is that he has a 5.99 ERA with Gwinnett in 100.2 innings. He's looked much better at Double-A, where he's also logged time the last two years. Kingham is a "sum of the parts" arm who lacks a big skill or pitch, but when he's humming, he's going to give you a chance to win because he won't hurt himself much. The problem is he probably won't fool many hitters when he needs to.
13.382 1B Brendan Venter - He slugged a dozen homers at Auburn ahead of the draft, becoming this draft's Austin Bush/Bryce Ball. Unfortunately, the hole in his swing and his power leading to more doubles than homers ended his professional career a lot quicker than either the Braves or Venter would have liked. Fun fact - he was born in South Africa, which has only produced two major leaguers (Gift Ngoepe & Taylor Scott).
14.412 RHP Victor Vodnik - Only one selection from the 2018 draft has played in the majors so far, but Vodnik has a good chance to be the second. The Rialto High School product was the first high schooler taken by the Braves since Stewart at the top of the draft. Braves wouldn't take another until the 38th round when they would finish with three prep picks, none of which signed. Vodnik has always had a big arm. Harnessing that arm so he can become the pitcher the Braves believe he can be has been the challenge. The Braves have also been very careful with the righty. But he's real close to being ready. Last year, he K'd 33 in 27.2 innings at Triple-A, his first taste of the highest minor league level. He did walk 16 so that remains a concern. But entering his Age-23 season, Vodnik looks like a potential high-leverage arm out of the pen.
15.442 2B Greg Cullen - A three-year starter at Niagara University, Cullen's calling card was his hit tool in college, including a Divison I-leading .458 batting average in 2018. He's hit fairly well at times in his professional career though he carries just a lifetime average of .271. He'll also take his walks, but that's about all you get at the plate from Cullen. In 2020, he was part of the package that went to the Orioles for Tommy Milone. He's made a number of stops since going to the O's, including hitting .317 in 28 games with Triple-A Norfolk last year. He could fashion a role as a bench bat or even platoon option against right-handed pitching.
16.472 RHP Ty Harpenau - So, this one is weird. What I know is this: Harpenau was selected in the 16th round out of Texas Tech by the Braves. On June 28, 2018, he signed for $125,000. His innings went from 20.2 innings to 57.2 innings over his last two years in Lubbock so the belief was that the Braves were being cautious with him and that's why he didn't pitch after the draft. But then, he never pitched in 2019 or 2021 or 2022. His MILB page says he's on the restricted list while his LinkedIn page says he's a CPA in Lubbock. So...yeah.
17.502 OF Justin Dean - The athletic Dean has been a bit of a find for the Braves after three years with Lenoir-Rhyne. He's stolen 116 bases in 365 games. He also hit .284 in both 2018 & 2019, but his 2021 and 2022 seasons have dragged his career average down to .258. He can still be valuable with his career .360 OBP, speed, and ability to cover center field, but because his hit tool isn't good enough and he doesn't bring much power, the chances of Dean being anything more than a fourth outfielder are pretty limited. He could, though, be the gritty fan favorite type.
18.532 RHP Cameron Kurz - The season Kurz put up ahead of being drafted was ridiculous. Pitching for UC-San Diego, Kurz allowed three earned runs in 36.1 innings (0.74 ERA). He struck out 63 to just 11 walks. And his professional career was solid, too. Brief, but very solid (16 innings, 2 runs, three walks, and 19 K's). Despite that, Kurz was cut in July of 2019.
19.562 RHP Zach Daniels - The former Iowa Hawkeye is another guy who had fairly decent professional numbers (107 innings, 3.03 ERA), but never seemed to get much movement in the organization. Losing a year due to the pandemic really hurt college-age signings the most because they need to really impress to stick in regular circumstances. Take a year away and that's even harder. Daniels retired in March and opted to return to college in order to finish his degree.
20.592 3B C.J. Alexander - When Alexander showed up and hit every pitcher he saw in the Gulf Coast, Appalachian, and Florida State Leagues in 2018, he made a lot of quick fans. In 52 games after the draft, Alexander hit .352/.429/.495 with 17 extra-base hits. But injuries and weak hitting killed his momentum from there. He hit just .117 in 43 games during 2019 and .197 over 87 games in 2021. Playing for the third time with Mississippi in 2022, he found his power stroke and belted 15 big flies, but only on-based .294. Prior to the 2022 draft, he was part of the package that went to the Kansas City Royals for the 35th pick. He upped his average 14 points after the trade and finished 2022 with a .264/.302/.477 line and 25 homers. Not a bad line for the corner infielder coming off two fairly abysmal showings sandwiched around the lost year of 2020.
21.622 LHP Tanner Lawson - Braves love their big-bodied pitchers. Lawson started his collegiate career at Houston before transferring to St. Edward's. He pitched rather well in Rome during 2019 with a 2.14 ERA and 65 K's in 67.1 innings. But after a brief run with Rome in 2021, he was released. Unlike many of the players from this class that didn't play at all after being cut, Lawson caught on with the independent Chicago Dogs of the American Association in 2022, pitching 33 times with a 4.13 ERA and 3 saves.
22.652 C Ray Soderman - The former Oregon Duck hit just .225 in the Pac-12 during 2018 and, well, didn't hit as a professional either. After 31 games over two years (but mostly just 2018) with Danville, he was released. He's taken advantage of his economics degree and works as an investment consultant for Fidelity.
23.682 RHP William Woods - And here is the only player from the 2018 draft who has played in the majors so far. After high school, Woods went to Dyserburg State Community College. That got him on the Braves' radar. He started to flash his potential in 2019, striking out 58 batters in 51 innings with Rome in just his Age-20 season. The pandemic and injuries have kept him from performing at a high level the last few years, though he did get to the majors last year and threw two scoreless innings with a walk and two K's. Woods is gifted with a high-90's heater with plenty of movement. His slider is damn good, too. Woods profiles as a pretty solid reliever is he can stay healthy and perform at the level he's capable of.
24.712 C Rusber Estrada - Originally born in Venezuela, Estrada hit .313/.411/.500 at Faulkner University in 2018. Like Soderman, he was more known for his glove than anything. Also like Soderman, Estrada is no longer in the organization He lasted into the 2022 season before he was cut, hitting .196 with a .636 OPS over 148 games. He landed with the Lexington Legends next and helped to replace former Brave farmhand Jose Briceno after the latter signed with the Royals. A recouple of other familiar names from last year's Legends' team: Brandon Phillips and J.J. Hoover.
25.742 3B Michael Mateja - North Central College in Naperville, IL has produced one major leaguer and, of course, you know that's Jack Hendricks, who hit .207 between 1902-03 for the Giants, Cubs, and Senators. After producing a 1.042 OPS over 133 college games, Mateja actually kind of produced as a professional, too. He hit .283/.405/.406. But it didn't keep him from getting cut during the 2019 season. He spent 24 games with the Windy City ThunderBolts (cool name!) of the Frontier League. One of his teammates was named General McArthur. That's just something that happened.
26.772 LHP Zach Guth - Another big lefty, this time out of Harford Community College, Guth spent a very minor amount of time in the Braves' organization (19 total games) before being released. He quickly landed in the Rockies' organization, but didn't last long there either. He's currently the pitching coach for Mercyhurst University, a Roman Catholic school in Erie, Pennslyvania. One of their most famous alumni - James "Buster" Douglas. Oh, and I guess Chargers coach, Brandon Staley, but Staley never beat Mike Tyson.
27.802 RHP Zach Seipel - Every time I think of St. Paul, Minnesota, I think of how many of Team USA in Mighty Ducks 2 came from that city. Well, Seipel was born there. He pitched 40 games in the Braves' organization with a 5.89 ERA before being released in 2021. Since his baseball career came to a close, Seipel built on his Healthcare Management degree to get into the medical equipment sales industry. I am unaware if he spent his youth rollerblading through the Mall of America with his other hockey friends, but I like to hope he did.
28.832 RHP Derek West - Did not sign. A year later, he was a 14th round pick by the Astros and signed with them. Spent much of last season in Double-A and has a career ERA of 5.38.
29.862 1B Ray Hernandez - After four years at Alabama State, Hernandez did some quick damage by hitting .283/.357/.486 in the then-Gulf Coast League. Unfortunately, he struggled with Danville the next year and was cut. Since then, he's been in the independent leagues. Last year, with the New York Boulders (uh, less cool name), Hernandez had a .855 OPS over 36 games.
30.892 LHP Mitch Stallings - An Atlanta kid out of Lovett School who went to Duke, Stallings was popular local pick by the Braves. He had some good numbers prior to the lost season of 2020, but really struggled once we saw him back on the mound in 2021. His dream to play for his hometown team died last November. Since then, he's landed a financial analyst gig at The Home Depot.
31.922 LHP Gabriel Rodríguez - One of three players to get a $100K or better bonus by the Braves after being picked in the 30th round or later, Rodriguez was a lottery ticket. The year before, he was an 11th rounder out of high school in Puerto Rico by the Twins, but chose to attend Miami-Dade College instead. Announced as an outfielder, he was utilized on the mound instead after the Braves selected him. He pitched precious few innings due to the pandemic and injuries prior to the Rockies taking him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft last December. He's still very raw and has walked 99 in 62.1 career innings. He's also struck out 107. But then, he's uncorked 27 wild pitches and hit 13 batters. Wonder if they'd tried a pair of glasses with a skull on it?
32.952 OF Trey Harris - A four-year start at Missouri, Harris was easy to root for. Signed for just $10K, Harris was a bit on the short size, but stocky with some power. And then, he hit like crazy. After the draft, he hit .302/.409/.434 and then followed it up with a three-stop tour in 2019 that included a triple slash of .323/.389/.498, 26 doubles, and 14 homers. He even excelled in the Arizona Fall League. Sure, physically, there were questions, but there was enough here to have some hope. And then the pandemic happened and he missed a year. When he came back, he hit just .247 with 8 homers in Mississippi. He struggled with Mississippi again this year before being dealt to the Nationals for Ehire Adrianza. Again, it's easy to root for Harris. I still do. But he turns 27 in January and he might be hitting the end of the road in affiliated baseball.
33.982 1B Mason Berne - I swear, I followed the Braves minor leagues fairly closely at this time and some of these names are just complete mysteries to me. Berne had good size and some raw power, but the Braves needed to find a way to unlock it. Two years of rookie ball produced four homers. He struggled to open 2021 and was traded to the Diamondbacks for Stephen Vogt (wait, he was?). After struggling in Low-A following the trade, Arizona cut him. Well, not literally (I hope). They just released him from his contract.
34.1012 RHP Zack Hess - Did not sign. Getting that Hess truck was like a right of passage for a young boy in the 80's. Anyway, this Hess is from my old stomping grounds - Lynchburg, Virginia. He went to Liberty Christian Academy before heading to LSU. Picked by the Yanks in the 35th round in 2016, he was a 34th rounder by the Braves before being a 7th-round pick by the Tigers. He's a bit of an interesting relief prospect for the Tigers and missed all of 2022 due to injury.
35.1042 C Logan Brown - All in all, Brown has been a good value pick. Considered a nice receiver and handler of pitchers, Brown hasn't hit for much, but keeps advancing because of his other skills. He even took to the mound last year, retiring the only batter he faced. So, Brown has a 0.00 WHIP. Beat that, Shohei Ohtani.
36.1072 LHP Victor Cavalieri - Ah, the first Braves player taken out of Greece. New York. Greece, New York. Cavalieri built on two seasons with Houghton, but his time in the Braves' organization was short-lived and unnoteworthy. Well, he did walk 22 to go with 22 strikeouts so a satisfying 1:1 ratio is something.
37.1102 RHP Alex Camacho - Like so many before him, Camacho was an older draft choice who really didn't need to lose a year due to the pandemic. In 33 games - mostly in rookie ball - Camacho produced a 3.47 ERA and 9.6 K/9. The numbers are fairly solid and maybe even a bit better than his college ones at Vanguard University of Southern California. But released he was on May 28, 2020. Sadly, I don't know what he's doing now.
38.1132 RHP Franco Aleman - Did not sign. Franco had a bit of a run, going to Florida International in 2019, St. John's River State College in 2020, and then landing at the University of Florida in 2021. With the latter, he was a tenth-round pick by Cleveland. He made his professional debut this season with former Braves farm club, the Lynchburg Hillcats. Lots of K's, lots of hits.
39.1162 P Jack Perkins - Did not sign. Did you know Kokomo is actually in Indiana? Man, those Beach Boys are full of shit. That's where Perkins was born and went to high school when the Braves took him in the 39th round. He passed on signing and went to the University of Louisville. After three years there, he transferred to Indiana and got picked in the fifth round by the A's. He pitched just 10 innings after he was selected, but struck out 14 to just two walks so that's a successful debut in my book.
40.1192 C Micky Mangan - Did not sign. So, you're thinking, "hey...I know that last name." And you do as Micky is the son of Ed Mangan, the head groundskeeper for the Braves for, I think, the last 400 years. This was just a thank you to Ed as Micky had no intention of pursuing a baseball career. Instead, he went to Mississippi State where he graduated as a member of the Building Construction Science Class of 2022.
There you have it - 39 players, 33 who signed, one that's made it to the majors. It's still early, but 2018 is shaping up to be one of the worst drafts the Braves have had this decade. Of course, losing your third-round pick doesn't help and then having your first round selection - and 8th overall - not sign really hurts. But so few of those that did sign have taken a step forward.
But there is still some hope. Victor Vodnik is ranked the ninth-best prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline. Another, William Woods, is ranked #25. And it's worth mentioning that C.J. Alexander and Tristan Beck helped acquire J.R. Ritchie and Mark Melancon so that's something. Not to mention that not signing Carter Stewart allowed the Braves to select Shea Langeliers the following year and later acquire Matt Olson.
Nevertheless, the impact talent here is minimal. At best, you're hoping that Vodnik, Woods, and maybe Brooks Wilson become bullpen depth with a chance to pick up high-leverage innings. And that's just not great for a 40-round draft.
Previous Recapped Drafts
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