Recent Braves Draftees thriving in Minors
2011 top pick Gilmartin makes easy transition, rises to Double-A
ATLANTA -- As the second day of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft wrapped up Tuesday, left-hander Sean Gilmartin, the Braves' top selection in last year's Draft, prepared to take the mound in Huntsville, Ala. Almost a year to the day after being the 28th player taken in the 2011 Draft, Gilmartin is already excelling in Double-A.
Pitching for the Mississippi Braves, Gilmartin made one of the best starts of his professional career Tuesday. He struck out six batters and allowed one run in a career-high eight innings. Gilmartin said he had good control of all his pitches, which allowed him to pitch deep into the game.
"Everything was very good," he said. "That was the best night I've had command-wise all year."
Gilmartin, who was an All-American at Florida State, has adjusted quickly to pitching in the Minors. He signed quickly last year and made five starts at low Class A Rome before going to the Arizona Fall League.
In the AFL, Gilmartin faced the most experienced hitters of his career. He said the experience taught him the necessity of making quick adjustments.
"Guys in the Fall League are mature hitters," Gilmartin said. "At-bat to at-bat, they're making adjustments on you. You have to make adjustments to stay one step ahead."
Mississippi manager Aaron Holbert said Gilmartin has done a good job of mixing his pitches to keep hitters guessing this year.
"He's really taken to the pro game," Holbert said. "He's moving in the right direction great from a development standpoint."
Gilmartin is not the only pitcher the Braves took last year who has made a smooth adjustment to the Minors. At high Class A Lynchburg, right-hander J.R. Graham has a 2.71 ERA and has struck out 44 batters in 69 2/3 innings. Graham was the Braves' fourth-round pick. Right-hander Navery Moore, Atlanta's 14th-round selection, has a 3.25 ERA at low Class A Rome. Moore has transitioned from being a closer at Vanderbilt to a starting pitcher for the Braves.
Among recently drafted hitters, outfielders Todd Cunningham and Matt Lipka have stood out. Both were taken in the 2010 Draft, with Lipka going in the first round and Cunningham in the second. Lipka is hitting .260 with 11 stolen bases in 42 games at Lynchburg. Cunningham is hitting .335 with a .412 slugging percentage at Mississippi.
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was also picked in the second round of the 2010 Draft, and he was promoted from Mississippi to Atlanta last week. He is the Braves' first pick from the last two Drafts to reach the Major Leagues.
Scouting director Tony DeMacio said Simmons' quick path to the big leagues is an example of how well Braves scouts have done in recent years.
"Our area scouts have done a tremendous job finding talent," he said. "Considering where we've picked, we've done a great job.
"I'm proud of our staff, our whole staff."
As the other top picks follow Simmons up the ladder toward the Major Leagues, it becomes harder to ignore the possibility of wearing an Atlanta Braves uniform one day. Gilmartin and Cunningham were in the same clubhouse as Simmons less than a week ago, and now are watching him play in the Major Leagues.
Gilmartin said it wasn't a surprise to see Simmons called up, but it was a reminder of what can happen once you reach the upper levels of the Minors.
"At Double-A, you're a phone call away to the big leagues," he said. "It's more of an eye opener, it's real."
Teddy Cahill is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.