Lucas Sims delivers a pitch in 2014.

Revisiting the Braves’ past 10 years of first-round picks

The Braves’ past decade of first-round picks ended much stronger than it started.

With the MLB draft approaching, we decided to look back at the Braves’ past 10 years of first-round picks. The timeline featured three regimes – led by Frank Wren, John Coppolella and Alex Anthopoulos – and includes the team’s most recent draft, which was the first under scouting director Dana Brown’s leadership.

A look at the team’s earlier picks:

2019: Catcher Shea Langeliers (9th overall), infielder Braden Shewmake (21st overall)

It’s too early to make any determinations about the Braves’ latest duo, though the early returns are what they’d hoped. Langeliers is a polished college product whom the team hopes can one day handle the bulk of catching duties. His maturity impressed during his first spring training.

Shewmake was considered a higher floor, lower ceiling pick. He profiles as a utility type with plus athletic ability. Shewmake played in 65 games last season, ending the season in Double-A Mississippi, where he went 10-for-46 in 14 games.

2018: Pitcher Carter Stewart (8th overall)

The Braves and Stewart couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract, which led to the team receiving the ninth overall choice in the ensuing draft. A righty with an explosive curveball, Stewart was expected to be an early pick in the 2019 draft but instead opted to play in Japan on a six-year deal with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. Stewart felt the decision made him a “trailblazer” of sorts.

2017: Pitcher Kyle Wright (5th overall)

While Wright hasn’t established himself in the majors, he’s been regarded as one of the team’s best two pitching prospects for the past couple of years. The Twins considered Wright at No. 1 in the 2017 draft, but the Vanderbilt righty dropped to the Braves, the team he grew up watching.

Wright, one of the higher-profile additions during the Braves’ pitching influx, has long ranked among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects. He’s pitched just 25-2/3 innings in the majors and 267-1/3 across three minor-league seasons.

2016: Pitcher Ian Anderson (3rd overall)

Anderson wasn’t projected to be a top-five pick, and the Braves easily were able to sign him for roughly $2.5 million under his slot value. It proved brilliant: The New York-born righty has blossomed in the team’s system. Anderson, 22, is the Braves’ top pitching prospect.

If there’s a 2020 season, Anderson might make his MLB debut. Regardless, fans should see him at Truist Park sometime in 2021. He and Wright represent the two most prized unestablished pitchers remaining from the team’s rebuild.

Atlanta Braves new pitching coach Rick Kranitz watches pitcher Ian Anderson work in the bullpen during spring training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in Lake Buena Vista. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

2015: Pitcher Kolby Allard (14th overall), pitcher Mike Soroka (28th overall)

The Braves’ best first-round pick from the past decade was made with one of their lowest selections. Soroka, only 22, is the team’s ace after earning an All-Star nod in his first full season. Barring injury, Soroka should sit atop the Braves’ rotation throughout their wide-open contention window.

Allard, meanwhile, didn’t develop as hoped. He struggled mightily in a very small taste of the majors in 2018 – he allowed 11 earned runs in eight innings – and didn’t pitch beyond Triple-A in 2019 until the Braves traded him to Texas for reliever Chris Martin. Allard had a 4.96 ERA across nine starts with the Rangers.

Another note from this draft: The Braves also snagged third baseman Austin Riley with their next pick, No. 41, perhaps finally finding a long-term answer at third base. Again, the Braves drafted much better beginning in 2015.

2014

The Braves forfeited the 14th overall pick to sign veteran starter Ervin Santana to a one-year deal. That paid off, since Santana later departed for Minnesota, awarding the Braves the pick they used on Soroka. 

The Braves’ first pick in 2014 was slugger Braxton Davidson at pick 32. Davidson hit .235 and racked up eye-popping strikeout numbers over his minor-league career before missing last season with a foot injury. He was reportedly among the players released in the past week.

2013

The Braves also forfeited their 2013 first-round pick for signing outfielder B.J. Upton to a contract that’s looked back upon as one of the worst in team history. The Braves did recoup a pick for departed outfielder Michael Bourn, but their selection – pitcher Jason Hursh at No. 31 – never proved one of consequence.

2012: Pitcher Lucas Sims (21st overall)

The Braves took local right-hander Sims from Brookwood High School. Sims, at one point the team’s top prospect, never lived up to his first-round billing. He finally made the majors in 2017 and made 20 appearances for the Braves across 2017-18. He was traded to Cincinnati in the package for slugger Adam Duvall at the 2018 deadline. Sims had a 4.60 ERA over 24 games with the Reds last season.

Georgia Bulldogs left-hander Alex Wood proved the more valuable pick. The Braves took Wood with their second choice, No. 85, and the southpaw has had an effective career with the Braves, Dodgers and Reds.

Surprise Saguaros starting pitcher Sean Gilmartin, a Braves prospect, throws a pitch in an Arizona Fall League game against the Phoenix Desert Dogs Oct. 28, 2011, at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Ariz.
Photo: Mike Janes/AP

2011: Pitcher Sean Gilmartin (28th overall)

The Florida State southpaw never reached the majors with the Braves. Gilmartin, who was stalled by shoulder injuries, never pitched beyond Triple-A despite previously ranking among the organization’s best prospects. The Braves traded him to Minnesota for utilityman Ryan Doumit in the 2013 offseason.

Gilmartin was a Rule 5 draft selection by the Mets in 2014. He made his big-league debut against the Braves, and later collected his first win against the Braves as a member of the Mets bullpen. After a short stint in the Cardinals organization, Gilmartin spent two seasons with the currently dreadful Orioles, making 13 big-league appearances in that span. In February, he signed a minor-league deal with Tampa Bay.

2010

The Braves relinquished their 2010 first-rounder to sign closer Billy Wagner. In his final campaign of a 16-year career, Wagner found immense success and earned an All-Star nod. This marked the first of three picks the Braves would surrender this decade; he also was the most valuable player they signed under those circumstances.

At No. 35, the Braves took infielder Mike Lipka with their first pick. Lipka has played a 10-year minor-league career but hasn’t reached the majors. He’s been with three franchises since the Braves, most recently the Yankees.

The Braves’ third pick in that draft was the best player on this list: shortstop Andrelton Simmons, whose spectacular defense quickly made him a fan favorite from 2012-15. Simmons has continued his success with the Angels.

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