The Braves, of course, have been successful at this. The sixth round (Clint Sammons, James Jurries, and Bill McCarthy) has been kind to this team, but look at some of the players drafted after the 11th round the last few years: Anthony Lerew (11th), Wes Timmons (12th), Kevin Barry (14th), Trey Hodges and Jon Mark Owings (17th), Charles Thomas (19th), Chuck James (20th), Matt Wright (21st), Brandon Jones (24th), Adam LaRoche (29th), and of course, Marcus Giles (53rd).
So let's now review the Braves other draft picks starting in the sixth round:
TYLER BULLOCK - 6th round - Mainly at catcher at Baylor, the Braves believed Bullock could take his limited experience as a pitcher and become a serious prospect. He pitched well last year in Danville, appearing in fourteen games as a reliever. The Braves wanted him to get some innings this season, so they started him off as a starter in a piggyback situation in Rome. So far, Bullock has done well going 4-2 in nine games (three starts). The Braves are now moving him into the bullpen, where he'll spend the rest of the season as a reliever. Bullock is still just learning how to pitch, so be patient with him. But right now he is showing that this was not a bad pick at all. A catcher is becoming a pitcher, and if his development continues, he's going to be a legit prospect real soon.
BRANDON MONK - 7th round - The 1980s had Glenn Hubbard. The 90s had Mark Lemke, and now in the 2000s the Braves have Marcus Giles manning second base. Could Brandon Monk be the next small second baseman for the Braves? He's listed at 5'11", which might be generous. But he's the same type player as the other three: a scrappy, gritty player that helps his team win. Monk may not have some of the tools as those other three players, but the Braves love his heart and makeup. They are confident he can develop into a big league prospect, and it's just up to him as to how good a prospect he might be.
KYLE COFIELD - 8th round - A lanky right-hander out of Alabama, the Braves hope Cofield can develop into a reliever. He appeared in ten games out of the GCL bullpen last year, and now he'll spend 2006 in the Danville bullpen. Not every pitcher can be a starter, so Cofield gets the call to try and become a relief prospect in the system. He's got good size and projectable stuff, so the Braves have to see if he can fill the relief role.
STEPHEN GARCIA - 9th round - They call him "Bubba," and the Braves are going to give him some playing time in Danville this season. He's not very big, and his offense is questionable, but the Braves hope he can develop into a backup catcher in a few years.
MICHAEL NIX - 11th round - With the emphasis on relievers, the Braves took Auburn's closer in the eleventh round. Nix started in Danville last season and dominated in five games (0 runs, 1 hit, 6 IP, 2 BB, 11 K). Then he was promoted to Rome and did not fare as well (7.17 ERA in 18 games, 15 BB and 22 K's in 21.1 innings pitched). The Braves sent him back to Rome to start off this season, and Nix quickly showed the Braves he was ready for a higher level. Nix saved three of the seven games he pitched for Rome and posted a 1.08 ERA. He walked only 2 batters and struck out 18 in 8.1 innings of work. Now in Myrtle Beach, Nix has struggled again with his control walking 9 batters in just over 8 innings. It's almost like he needs time to adjust to a new league, and once he does he's fine. Nix does not have the stuff of a Joey Devine or Will Startup, but he has had good success overall in the system. He'll probably spend the remainder of the season in Myrtle Beach and could move up to Double-A next year. Nix is a middle relief candidate for the big leagues in a few years.
RUDY QUINONEZ - 12th round - Quinonez dominated the Appalachian League last season, striking out 40 batters in 27.2 innings while saving 10 games. The Braves were all set to send him to Rome this spring, but a quad problem kept him in Orlando for a few weeks. The right-hander finally joined Rome in late April to replace Nix as the Braves' closer. He's doing well, with a 3.72 ERA in his first 8 games, only 2 walks and 10 strikeouts. Like Nix, Quinonez is a solid middle relief prospect, which was the Braves' strategy in drafting the large number of college relievers.
QUENTIN DAVIS - 13th round - All Mr. Davis has done since being drafted out of Francis Marion University is hit. He hit .323 last season in Danville in 201 at bats, and so far in his first 149 at bats in Rome he's hitting .302. Davis doesn't have much power (only 4 career home runs), but he's got good speed (11 steals this season) and does a good job in the outfield. Davis seems like a Charles Thomas-clone, although he's shown better offensive potential. But at this point, Davis might be a decent reserve outfield prospect in a few years, which is what you're looking for in the 13th round.
JAYE CHAPMAN - 16th round - Chapman was 6-4 at Chipola this season with a 4.68 ERA, but he struck out 76 in 75 innings. The six-foot right-hander has a fastball that tops out at 95, but usually stays in the 90-94 mph range. He's also got a slider, his best out pitch, and a changeup that has really developed. The Braves will use Chapman as a reliever for the Danville Braves this summer.
COLE MILES - 19th round - Miles hit .282 with 1 home run and 13 RBI in 78 at bats this season out west. He's a 5'9" second baseman with decent speed. There's a chance he could be Danville's starting second sacker.
TOMMY HANSON - 22nd round - The crown jewel of the draft and follow class, Hanson just dominated his California junior college league. He was 11-3 in 17 games, allowing only 85 hits in 114.2 innings, 26 earned runs, 29 walks, and 154 strikeouts. If he had gone back in the draft, it's possible he might have been as high as a fifth round draft choice. So signing the tall right-hander was a must. How good is this kid? Well, his fastball (89-95 mph range) could make him very special. Word is he knows how to spot it better than anyone the Braves have discovered in a while. He can be overpowering, but it seems that Hanson also knows how to pitch. His Braves' career will start next month in Danville, where he'll combine with Mike Broadway to create a tall duo capable of big things.
TYLER FLOWERS - 33rd round - The Player of the Year in the Panhandle Conference, Flowers hit .380 with 16 home runs. He's mainly been a catcher, but with Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Clint Sammons, and Max Ramirez ahead of him, the Braves have decided to move him to first base. Flowers has awesome offensive potential, with legit power. The only question is where he will play in the field. The Braves will still let him catch a bit, but they really hope he can become a long-term option for first base. He'll start his Braves' career in Danville in a few weeks, but don't be surprised if he's in Rome before the end of the season.
DAVID WILLIAMS - 37th round - Williams was a late signee last summer and was outstanding in his 20 games in the system. The lanky right-hander was dominating in 13 games in the Gulf Coast League, posting a 0.47 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched. Then in Rome, he did not walk a batter and struck out 12 in 11.2 innings. That's 37 total strikeouts in 30.2 innings. The Braves kept Williams in Extended Spring Training, mostly because of Nix, Quinonez, and Startup being ahead of him. He'll go to Danville in a few weeks and compete for the closer's job.
JAMES CURTIS - 40th round - The right-handed pitcher was at Manatee Community College this past season, and was 5-4 overall with a 3.80 ERA in 97 innings pitched. Curtis has a fastball in the 88-92 mph range, along with a curve. The Braves hope to develop his changeup when he joins Danville's rotation in a few weeks. Curtis has improved greatly since high school, and the Braves hope the development will continue.
NATE WEIDENAAR - 48th round - Weidenaar was signed in late August and spent some time in the Instructional League in October. He's still in Orlando at Extended Spring Training, and he'll probably be in Danville's outfield picture in a few weeks. Weidenaar needs to build up his strength and develop physically.
DERICK HIMPSL - 50th round - Don't panic at these numbers: 3-1, 3.70 ERA, 7 hits in 24 innings pitched, 29 walks, and 34 strikeouts. Wow. There's some stuff here somewhere, and the Braves are going to try to harness it and develop it. Himpsl throws a 93 mph fastball, along with a hammer curve. He'll be brought along very slowly, and probably see action in the GCL bullpen this summer.
So how good was this draft? Well again, let's wait and see how some of the draft and follow players do this summer. The group of DNFs signed so far could make the class even better if they are productive. But there is no doubt the early success of guys like Startup, Jones, Lyman, and Escobar could make this class very special. And don't forget Mr. Devine. The Braves still believe he can develop into a top-notch closer. If he does, this group might be hard to beat, especially if one of the young starters can join the Atlanta rotation in a few years.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. Email Bill at email@example.com.