With the 2020 MLB Draft set to begin tonight, our “Top Five” series turns its focus to a rich history of first-round picks playing in Gwinnett.
In all, 40 players selected in the first round of the draft have gone on to play for either the G-Braves or Stripers since 2009. This group does not include “sandwich picks,” players like Kelly Johnson, Austin Riley, and Luke Jackson that were selected in the Supplemental, Compensation, or Competitive Balance Round between the official first and second rounds.
Players Drafted by Atlanta (9):
Jason Heyward – OF (14th overall in 2007) – played for Gwinnett in 2009, 2011, 2013
Mike Minor – P (7th overall in 2009) – played for Gwinnett in 2010-11, 2014
Sean Gilmartin – P (28th overall in 2011) – played for Gwinnett in 2012-13
Lucas Sims – P (21st overall in 2012) – played for Gwinnett in 2016-18
Jason Hursh – P (31st overall in 2013) – played for Gwinnett in 2015-18
Kolby Allard – P (14th overall in 2015) – played for Gwinnett in 2018-19
Mike Soroka – P (28th overall in 2015) – played for Gwinnett in 2018-19
Ian Anderson – P (3rd overall in 2016) – played for Gwinnett in 2019
Kyle Wright – P (5th overall in 2017) – played for Gwinnett in 2018-19
Players Drafted by Other Teams (31):
Troy Glaus – INF (3rd overall in 1997 by the LA Angels) – played for Gwinnett in 2010
Joe Borchard – OF (12th overall in 2000 by the Chicago White Sox) – played for Gwinnett in 2009
Sean Burnett – P (19th overall in 2000 by Pittsburgh) – played for Gwinnett in 2016
Gavin Floyd – P (4th overall in 2001 by Philadelphia) – played for Gwinnett in 2014
Chris Burke – INF (10th overall in 2001 by Houston) – played for Gwinnett in 2009
Casey Kotchman – INF (13th overall in 2001 by the LA Angels) – played for Gwinnett in 2009
B.J. Upton – OF (2nd overall in 2002 by Tampa Bay) – played for Gwinnett in 2013
James Loney – INF (19th overall in 2002 by the LA Dodgers) – played for Gwinnett in 2017
Bobby Brownlie – P (21st overall in 2002 by the Chicago Cubs) – played for Gwinnett in 2009
David Aardsma – P (22nd overall in 2003 by San Francisco) – played for Gwinnett in 2015
Greg Golson – OF (21st overall in 2004 by Philadelphia) – played for Gwinnett in 2013
Blake DeWitt – INF (28th overall in 2004 by the LA Dodgers) – played for Gwinnett in 2013
Brandon Snyder – INF (13th overall in 2005 by Baltimore) – played for Gwinnett in 2016
Tyler Greene – INF (30th overall in 2005 by St. Louis) – played for Gwinnett in 2014
Chris Withrow – P (20th overall in 2007 by the LA Dodgers) – played for Gwinnett in 2016
Gordon Beckham – INF (8th overall in 2008 by the Chicago White Sox) – played for Gwinnett in 2016
Casey Kelly – P (30th overall in 2008 by Boston) – played for Gwinnett in 2016
Tyler Matzek – P (11th overall in 2009 by Colorado) – played for Gwinnett in 2019
Alex White – P (15th overall in 2009 by Cleveland) – played for Gwinnett in 2015
Christian Colon – INF (4th overall in 2010 by Kansas City) – played for Gwinnett in 2018
Mike Foltynewicz – P (19th overall in 2010 by Houston) – played for Gwinnett in 2015-16, 2019
Jesses Biddle – P (27th overall in 2010 by Philadelphia) – played for Gwinnett in 2018-19
Jed Bradley – P (15th overall in 2011 by Milwaukee) – played for Gwinnett in 2016
Kevin Matthews – P (33rd overall in 2011 by Texas) – played for Gwinnett in 2017
Kevin Gausman – P (4th overall in 2012 by Baltimore) – played for Gwinnett in 2019
Max Fried – P (7th overall in 2012 by San Diego) – played for Gwinnett in 2017-18
Travis Demeritte – OF (30th overall in 2013 by Texas) – played for Gwinnett in 2019
Alex Jackson – C/OF (6th overall in 2014 by Seattle) – played for Gwinnett in 2018-19
Sean Newcomb – P (15th overall in 2014 by the LA Angels) – played for Gwinnett in 2017, 2019
Touki Toussaint – P (16th overall in 2014 by Arizona) – played for Gwinnett in 2018-19
Dansby Swanson – INF (1st overall in 2015 by Arizona) – played for Gwinnett in 2017
This “Top Five” will not focus on the highest selected players (Dansby Swanson is the only No. 1 overall pick to play for Gwinnett), nor the players that have gone on from Gwinnett to have the most success in the Majors (arguably Mike Soroka, who finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2019). Rather, it will focus on the five players that made the biggest impact specifically with Gwinnett. Hitters on the list have accrued at least 200 career at-bats, while pitchers have totaled at least 100.0 career innings.
T-5: Kyle Wright (P) – 2018-19
Wright is the most-recent first-round pick to play for Gwinnett, having been selected fifth overall by Atlanta out of Vanderbilt in 2017. With only three professional seasons under his belt, the right-hander has already amassed 28 Triple-A games, going 13-5 with a 3.83 ERA, 12 quality starts, and 144 strikeouts in 141.0 innings with the Stripers.
The Huntsville, Alabama native introduced himself to the International League with authority in 2018, going 2-1 with a 2.51 ERA, .152 BAA, 0.80 WHIP, and 28 strikeouts over 28.2 innings in seven games (four starts). Wright’s first start with the Stripers on August 3 vs. Norfolk was a 5.2-inning hitless performance, and two outings later he struck out eight over 7.0 one-hit frames in a win vs. Louisville on August 13.
That was just a taste of what was to come from Wright. In 2019, he went 11-4 with a 4.17 ERA and 10 quality starts in 21 games with Gwinnett, leading the IL in wins and ranking among the league’s top 10 in lowest BAA (T-1st, . 252), WHIP (2nd, 1.26), ERA (5th), and strikeouts (9th, 116). His 12-start run with the Stripers from June 14-August 31 was one of the most dominant stretches in club history as he went 8-0 with a 2.57 ERA, .230 BAA, 1.14 WHIP, and league-high 86 strikeouts. These impressive numbers didn’t add up to major recognition, however, as Wright did not secure an IL weekly award or All-Star selection and was bested by Bryse Wilson (10-7, IL-best 3.42 ERA in 21 starts) for Gwinnett’s Pitcher of the Year honors.
After first having his contract selected by Atlanta on September 1, 2018, Wright has made 11 appearances for the Braves over the last two seasons, going 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 25.2 innings. He holds the distinction of being the first member of the 2017 draft class to reach the Majors.
T-5. Alex Jackson (C) – 2018-19
Jackson, a power-hitting catcher from Rancho Bernardo (Calif.) High School, was selected by Seattle with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft. The Mariners opted to move him to the outfield, where he played exclusively in his first three MiLB seasons. Traded to Atlanta in exchange for pitchers Max Povse and Rob Whalen on November 28, 2016, Jackson moved back behind the plate once he debuted with the Braves organization in 2017.
Since making his Triple-A debut with Gwinnett in 2018, Jackson has slugged 31 homers in just 414 at-bats with the Stripers, batting .222/.309/.505 with 20 doubles, two triples, 67 runs, and 82 RBIs. Though his 120 games played rank tied for 37th in Gwinnett history, his home run total ranks seventh.
Jackson’s inclusion on this list is thanks to a tremendous 2019 campaign in which he thrived both offensively and defensively. At the plate, he clubbed a career-high 28 homers – tied for fifth-most in the International League that season and tied for the second-most by a Gwinnett player in a single year – in only 85 games. He also set career highs in slugging percentage (.533) and OPS (.846) and tied his career high for RBIs (65). Jackson set a Gwinnett record with five multi-homer games, including a two-homer, four-RBI effort in the Stripers’ playoff-clinching 14-8 win vs. Norfolk on August 28. He was equally impressive behind the dish, posting a .983 fielding percentage and .500 caught stealing percentage (25-for-50) in 78 games while working with a pitching staff that led the International League in ERA (4.29).
The Braves recalled Jackson twice in 2019, on April 7 and August 21, but he went hitless (0-for-13) in four games during his MLB debut.
4. Lucas Sims (P) – 2016-18
Sims arrived at Coolray Field with plenty of hype in 2016, having been selected by Atlanta with the 21st overall pick in the 2012 draft out of Brookwood High School in nearby Snellville. The first – and thus far only – Lawrenceville-born player in Gwinnett history, he largely thrived in his hometown as he produced a highly-decorated career with the G-Braves and Stripers. Over 46 games in parts of three seasons, Sims went 13-13 with a 4.27 ERA and ranked among the club’s career leaders in strikeouts (3rd, 273), starts (T-4th, 43), and quality starts (T-8th, 16).
After going 2-6 with a 7.56 ERA in 11 games during a rocky Triple-A debut in 2016, Sims rebounded in a big way in 2017. The right-hander went 7-4 with a 3.75 ERA and a team-high 10 quality starts in 20 games (19 starts), earning Gwinnett’s Pitcher of the Year award. He set Gwinnett single-season records for lowest qualifying BAA (.224, 4th in IL) and lowest qualifying WHIP (1.14, 5th in IL) that still stand today. Along the path to making his MLB debut with the Braves on August 1, he collected an IL Pitcher of the Week award on April 24, was named Gwinnett’s June Pitcher of the Month, and was selected to the Triple-A All-Star Game.
Sims returned to Gwinnett to begin 2018 and made 15 appearances as a Striper, going 4-3 with a 2.84 ERA, .248 BAA, 1.37 WHIP, and 83 strikeouts over 73.0 innings. He earned his second career IL Pitcher of the Week award on July 9 after posting 14.0 scoreless innings, 19 strikeouts, and a .093 BAA in a two-start span from July 2-8. On July 31, he was included alongside Matt Wisler and Preston Tucker in a trade deadline deal with Cincinnati that netted future Gwinnett single-season home run king Adam Duvall.
Between Atlanta (2017-18) and Cincinnati (2018-19), Sims has gone 5-7 with a 5.49 ERA, .251 BAA, 1.42 WHIP, and 117 strikeouts over 116.1 innings in 47 games (14 starts) at the big-league level.
3. Kolby Allard (P) – 2018-19
The Braves selected Allard with the 14th overall pick of the 2015 draft out of San Clemente (Calif.) High School. The left-hander spent parts of the 2018 and 2019 seasons with Gwinnett, going 13-9 with a 3.44 ERA and 187 strikeouts over 222.1 innings. Of his 39 starts with the Stripers, 19 were quality outings (48.7%), and he currently ranks fifth in Gwinnett history in total quality starts.
Allard made his Triple-A debut as a 20-year-old in 2018 and went 6-4 with a career-low 2.72 ERA in 19 starts to win Gwinnett’s Pitcher of the Year award. He led the Stripers with 11 quality starts and ranked among International League leaders in ERA (3rd) and WHIP (5th, 1.21). From April 28-June 21, he made 10 consecutive quality starts, going 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA in that span. A 5-4 record and 2.96 ERA in 16 first-half starts earned him selection to the Triple-A All-Star Game. Allard made three second-half starts with Gwinnett (1-0, 1.20 ERA) sandwiched around his MLB debut with the Braves (1-1, 12.38 ERA in three games, one start).
A second season with the Stripers in 2019 saw Allard go 7-5 with a 4.17 ERA and eight quality starts in 20 games. He was named Gwinnett’s Pitcher of the Month for June (2-0, 2.43 ERA, 36 strikeouts in six starts) and was leading all qualifying IL pitchers in ERA as of his final outing with the club on July 27. On July 30, Atlanta traded him to the Texas Rangers in exchange for reliever Chris Martin.
Allard had a strong showing with the Rangers to conclude 2019, going 4-2 with a 4.96 ERA in nine starts. In his MLB career with Atlanta and Texas, he is 5-3 with a 6.08 ERA in 12 games (10 starts).
2. Travis Demeritte (OF) - 2019
Selected by Texas with the 30th overall pick of the 2013 draft out of Winder-Barrow (Ga.) High School, Demeritte was acquired by his hometown Braves in a 2016 trade deadline deal that sent pitchers Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez to the Rangers. The outfielder spent two full years with Double-A Mississippi in 2017 and 2018 before making his long-awaited Triple-A debut with Gwinnett in 2019.
Demeritte became an instant legend in his lone year with the Stripers, batting .286 with 28 doubles, two triples, 20 home runs, 68 runs scored, 73 RBIs, and a .944 OPS in 96 games. He produced one of just nine 20-homer seasons in Gwinnett’s 11-year history, and among Gwinnett players with at least 200 at-bats, he ranks second in career slugging percentage (.558) and fourth in career on-base percentage (.387).
The 24-year-old was seemingly always on base with Gwinnett, reaching safely in 87 of his 96 games (90.6%) and posting a 36-game on-base streak from April 24-June 4 that was second-longest in the International League all season. An amazing first half in which he ranked eighth in the IL in batting (.301, 84-for-279, 26 doubles, 18 homers, 60 runs, 63 RBIs, 1.005 OPS in 80 games) resulted in his selection to the 2019 Triple-A All-Star Game. He played 16 more games with the Stripers in the second half before being traded to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for reliever Shane Greene on July 31. At the time of the trade, Demeritte ranked among the IL top five in runs (3rd, 68), RBIs (3rd, 74), doubles (T-3rd, 28), and extra-base hits (4th, 50).
Demeritte went straight to the big leagues after the trade, making his MLB debut with the Tigers on August 2. He went on to bat .225 with seven doubles, two triples, three homers, 24 runs, 10 RBIs, and a .630 OPS in 48 games.
1. Mike Minor (P) - 2010-11, 2014
The left-handed Minor, selected by the Braves with the seventh overall pick in 2009 out of Vanderbilt, went 10-6 with a 2.85 ERA and 144 strikeouts over 142.1 innings in three stints with Gwinnett. Of his 23 starts, an amazing 17 were quality (73.9%), and he currently ranks seventh in Gwinnett history in total quality starts. His 2.85 ERA is lowest among former first round picks with at least 100.0 innings.
Minor first reached the Triple-A level in 2010 after making just 19 starts between Class-A Rome and Double-A Mississippi. At age 22 he dominated the International League, going 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA, .171 BAA, and 0.93 WHIP in six starts with the G-Braves. After winning each of his first two Triple-A starts on July 1 at Toledo (7.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 SO) and July 6 vs. Norfolk (5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO), Minor became the first Gwinnett pitcher to appear in the MLB All-Star Futures Game when he helped the USA defeat the World 9-1 on July 11 at Angel Stadium. He made four more starts with Gwinnett in 2010 – including a 7.0-inning one-hit performance in his penultimate start vs. Rochester on July 30 – before being called up by Atlanta for his MLB debut on August 9.
Following mixed results with the Braves during his rookie season (3-2, 5.98 ERA in nine games), Minor returned to the G-Braves in 2011 and went 4-5 with a 3.13 ERA, .246 BAA, and 1.19 WHIP in 16 starts, twice winning IL Pitcher of the Week awards on April 25 and June 6. Two rehab appearances with the G-Braves in 2014 while recovering from left shoulder tendinitis only bolstered his career numbers, as he went 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA, .172 BAA, and 0.96 WHIP.
Since first appearing with Gwinnett in 2010, Minor has logged 236 MLB games with Atlanta (2010-14), Kansas City (2017), and Texas (2018-19), going 70-60 with a 3.90 ERA, .248 BAA, and 1.22 WHIP. In 2019, he was named an MLB All-Star for the first time, a bounce-back season in which he went 14-10 with a 3.59 ERA in 32 starts with the Rangers.
The five-round 2020 MLB Draft begins June 10 at 7 p.m. ET. Watch live coverage on MLB Network and ESPN, or follow the selections online at MLB.com.