Almost eight years after the 2007 MLB draft, Pirates fans still refer to it as the “Moskos and Wieters draft.” While Daniel Moskos was a bust, Wieters hasn ?t been a Hall of Famer and he ?s even worse once you consider his poor pitch framing. The real story of the draft though might be missed by most Pirate fans and involves the team that we ?ve grown to hate: the Atlanta Braves.
Going into the draft the talk from all the sports beat in Pittsburgh was that the Pirates loved high school 3B prospect Josh Vitters, respected the ability of Matt Wieters but feared his price tag and knew they didn ?t have a chance on David Price and Matt Moustakas who were locked into the first two picks. Realistically, if the Cubs passed on Vitters at #3 he would have been a Pirate, but they didn ?t, making the decision at #4 hard.
There was another named referenced by the Pittsburgh media: high school outfielder Jason Heyward. The reason he was linked to Pittsburgh was that scouting director Ed Creech was from Georgia, knew the landscape there and had good contacts in the Peach state. After the draft, people speculated that Creech wanted Heyward and was overruled by GM Dave Littlefield, but this seems more 20/20 hindsight and piling on of the unpopular ex-GM.
One thing that did come out in the media was how the Braves were somewhat underhanded in hiding Heyward to conceal him until they picked at #14. They had been scouting Heyward since he was 11 and really wanted him. Even if the Braves deny this accusation, the fact that Georgia is swarming with baseball scouts and not every organization got a good look at Heyward supports the sneaky Braves theory. Creech might have been just hesitant enough.
The second part of the story is how the Braves mismanaged Heyward in a way the Pirates and GM Neal Huntington never would have done, once he took over in the fall of 2007.
Heyward signed in 2007 and played a couple games in rookie league ball. In 2008 he started the season in Low A ball and bounced up to High A by the middle of the season, continuing to perform well. In 2009 Heyward started in High A and was at AA by midseason. He played three games at AAA and continued on to the Arizona Fall League.
In 2010 the Braves didn ?t send Heyward back to AA, nor even AAA, as he started the season in the majors as the Braves starting RF. Heyward ?s promotion seemed intelligent in 2010 by his All Star level performance, but it cost a year of control for the Braves and got his arbitration clock started early. Huntington no doubt would have kept Heyward in the minors until the Super Two deadline in 2010 or possibly 2011 in an effort to gain a half year of control and maximize the performance on the field. Imagine having Heyward line up in RF next to Marte and McCutchen.
Heyward regressed after his freshman campaign and got expensive due to arbitration, leading to his trade to St. Louis this offseason. He ?s still very young and very talented with extreme defensive value in RF; when he hits free agency after this season he will be heavily sought after.
One could say that rushing Heyward and trading him was karma for the Braves smokescreens of high school Heyward, but if the Braves resign Heyward next offseason we ?ll have to revisit this topic again. Maybe the Braves will have duped baseball with Heyward again ?.at least at the Cardinals’ expense this time.