ATLANTA -- As the Braves won five National League pennants during the 1990s and 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005, they showcased the value of securing and developing quality homegrown talent.
Here is a list of the top five players drafted and developed by Atlanta:
1) Chipper Jones, 1990 (first overall)
While honoring Hank Aaron during a recent memorial service, Jones recalled learning that, as the Braves prepared for the 1990 Draft, Aaron told a group of the team’s scouts, “You better take the Jones boy.”
Whether it was their belief in Jones or Todd Van Poppel’s unwillingness to sign, Atlanta certainly made the right choice when it made Jones the top overall pick. Van Poppel, a hard-throwing high school pitcher from Texas, drew most of the hype leading up to the Draft. But Bobby Cox, Atlanta’s general manager at the time, and legendary scout Paul Snyder opted to take a chance on a switch-hitting shortstop from Florida.
“I know there are some people who will say I was the Braves’ second choice,” Jones told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution the night he was drafted. “But that’s better than being their ninth or 10th. If Todd Van Poppel doesn’t want to play for the Atlanta Braves, I’ll be more than happy to take his place.”
“This kid is definitely going to be in the big leagues as a shortstop,” Cox said after making the selection. “We wanted to tighten that spot up, and we feel we’ve gotten the perfect player to do so.”
Not only did Jones become Atlanta’s third baseman of the future, he became one of the most iconic figures in franchise history. He stands with Ken Griffey Jr. as the only players to be elected to the Hall of Fame after being taken with the first overall selection.
2) Tom Glavine, 1984 (second round, 47th overall)
The Braves whiffed when they used their first-round Draft pick in 1984 on Drew Denson, a big first baseman who totaled just 44 plate appearances during a very brief Major League career. They hit the jackpot when they used their second-round pick on Glavine, who was elected to the Hall of Fame 30 years later.
Glavine notched 244 of his 305 career wins for Atlanta, and he will always be remembered for the masterpiece he produced in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series. He limited the Indians to one hit over eight scoreless innings during that win that gave the Braves their first world championship.
Five days after being taken by the Braves, Glavine was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round of the NHL Draft. He has often playfully pointed out that he was taken ahead of two hockey Hall of Famers -- Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull.
“As a hockey player, I was 6 feet tall, 175 pounds,” Glavine recently told NHL.com. “There was nothing special about that," he said. "But as a baseball player, I was a left-handed pitcher and that was -- and still is -- a commodity. I felt like that was the deciding factor that I needed to take advantage of."
3) Dale Murphy, 1974 (first round, fifth overall)
After being taken by the Braves with the fifth overall Draft pick in 1974, Murphy had to decide whether to begin his baseball career or play football at Arizona State.
“I’ll just listen to what the Braves offer and then make a decision,” Murphy told The Atlanta Constitution. “I’ve already signed my letter of intent with Arizona State University, and no matter what happens, I’d like to get my education. Right now, I don’t know what I’ll do for sure.”
Murphy began his professional career with the Braves a few weeks later and won the first of his two consecutive National League MVP Awards in 1982. He was a catcher during the early part of his big league career, but he became one of the game’s best outfielders and one of the most beloved players in franchise history. He hit 371 of his 398 career home runs for Atlanta.
4) Freddie Freeman (2007, second round, 78th overall)
With their first three Draft picks in 2007, the Braves took Jason Heyward (14th overall), Jon Gilmore (33rd overall) and Josh Fields (69th overall). Heyward began his successful career in Atlanta. But Gilmore was a bust used to at least acquire Javier Vazquez in '09, and Fields opted not to sign with the Braves.
Still, this Draft is highly praised because Atlanta landed Heyward and Freeman, the latter of whom already stands as one of the top 10 players in Braves history.
Freeman won his first NL MVP Award last season and has served as Atlanta’s everyday first baseman since 2011. His 38.8 bWAR ranks sixth among Braves position players of the modern era.
5) David Justice (1985, fourth round, 94th overall)
Choosing who would fill this fifth and final spot came down to either Justice or Brian McCann, who enjoyed a highly successful career with his hometown team after the Braves took him in the second round of the 2002 Draft. But the nod went to the guy who hit the decisive home run in the 1995 World Series.
After winning the 1990 NL Rookie of the Year Award, Justice helped the Braves win the NL pennant three times from 1991-95. He finished third in '93 MVP Award balloting while spearheading the second-half charge that gave Atlanta the third of its 14 consecutive division titles.