7 biggest one-hit wonders in Braves franchise history

The Braves have a long history of getting great performances out of their guys even if only for a short while.

Atlanta Braves v Tampa Bay Rays
Atlanta Braves v Tampa Bay Rays / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages
1 of 4

In an ideal world, the players that excel with the Atlanta Braves do so over a long period of time. One of the hallmarks of this current run the Braves are on is that more often than not, Atlanta has picked the right guys to invest their money and time into and those guys have formed the core we see today. From homegrown guys like Ronald Acuna Jr, Austin Riley, and Ozzie Albies to players acquisitions like Max Fried, Matt Olson, and Sean Murphy, the Braves are very good at hitting the right long-term notes.

However, the Braves as a franchise have also been the beneficiaries of plenty of short-term performances. In fact, Alex Anthopoulos alone has shown an affinity for signing guys that can help the team to one year deals with a pretty high success rate along with a few duds as well (Cole Hamels comes to mind). The best teams are the ones that have a sustainable and talented core that also get unlikely contributions from unlikely sources.

There are a few ways to look at one-hit wonders when it comes to the Braves. Some would say that the player should have only played for the Braves for one year to qualify. Others would say that a player could be around for a while, but they could have only had one good season with the Braves (or perhaps even one good season period). This list is going to have a healthy mix of all of them along with at least one player where we had to fudge things a little bit.

One note here is that these are all of these players are from the modern era. Is it cool when some guy named something like Water Can McCracken threw 30+ complete games in the 1890's? Sure, but we had to draw the line somewhere and baseball was SO different back then that it is almost a completely different game. Anyways, on to the list of the biggest one-hit wonders with the Braves in no particular order.

Mike Foltynewicz - 2018

Oh, Folty. When the Braves acquired Foltynewicz in the trade that sent Evan Gattis to Houston, the hope was that he would be a big part of the Braves' future in the starting rotation. For a little while, it looked like that would actually happen, too, as he dominated in the minor leagues with his blend of power stuff. His first couple of years in the big leagues were fairly unremarkable until we got to 2018.

The 2018 season was a magical time. It was the beginning of this run of division titles for Atlanta and Folty played a huge role that year. In 31 starts, Foltynewicz posted a 2.85 ERA with 202 strikeouts in 183 innings of work on his way to a top 8 Cy Young finish. Unfortunately, that was his best season by a mile as he regressed back to being a mid-4 ERA pitcher the next season and then only made one start in 2020 before getting designated for assignment. He would play one more bad season with the Rangers in 2021 before pitching his way out of the league.

Every team has some flashes in the pan, but the Braves ALSO have hit it out of the park with some of their players, and you can celebrate thanks to BetMGM. You'll win an instant $150 bonus just for depositing $10 or more and betting $5 or more on Atlanta to win the 2024 World Series. Sign up with BetMGM with this House That Hank Built link today!

Bill James - 1914

We have to go way back for this one. No, this isn't the same Bill James that helped pioneer baseball statistics, although that would be funny. The 1914 Boston Braves won 94 games and swept the Philadelphia Athletics in route to the World Series title. That Braves team had some all-time greats on it like Rabbit Maranville and Johnny Evers, but one of the biggest reasons they were so successful was the play of the righty starterJames.

James played a total of three full seasons in baseball along with a one game comeback attempt in 1919. His other two years were fine, but his 1914 season saw him put up a 1.90 ERA and 7.9 rWAR thanks to throwing 30 complete games and 332.1 innings that year. It was a different time and that workload probably helps explain why he didn't last that long, but James still gets the nod on this list thanks to his top 3 MVP performance in 1914.

JD Drew - 2004

Who is ready for pain, Braves fans? One of the more infamous trades in recent Braves history came before the 2004 season. Atlanta needed another bat and at the time, JD Drew was one of the best ones that could be had as he was a year away from hitting free agency. Drew had some lingering health questions, but the Braves pulled the trigger anyways and traded four players for Drew before the 2004 season.

Drew would end up only playing that one 2004 season with the Braves, but it was a doozy. In 645 plate appearances with Atlanta that year, he slashed .305/.436/.569 with 31 homers in what turned out to be the best year of his career by WAR at 8.3. Unfortunately, Drew would immediately leave and play seven more largely good seasons with the Dodgers and Red Sox while one of the guys the Braves traded away to acquire him, Adam Wainwright, would become a perennial Cy Young candidate and play 18 seasons with the Cardinals. Oof.

Mark Teixeira - 2007/2008

This is the one we had to fudge a little bit, but we promise it still makes some sense. During the 2007 season, Teixeira was among the best hitters in baseball and had just turned down the Rangers' attempts to give him a contract extension. So, the Braves sent a very hefty package of players to Texas for 1.5 years worth of team control of Teixeira.

Technically, Teixeira played in two different seasons with the Braves. However, it was only 157 games with the Braves as they traded him at the deadline in 2008, so we are counting it as one full season. After posting a 1.020 OPS with 17 homers in the 54 games after the trade in 2007, Teixeira would add a .902 OPS and 20 homers before Atlanta moved him in 2008 to the Angels. While this trade didn't burn the Braves too badly in the long-term, it was a reminder to teams to not give up too much for guys who are mortal locks to test free agency as soon as they are able.

Denis Menke - 1964

You are forgiven if you do not remember Denis Menke's six year run with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves in the 1960's as his time with the franchise was largely underwhelming. However, 1964 saw the infielder post the best season of his career as he accumulated 6.7 rWAR with a .283/.368/.479 line and 20 homers.

After playing three more seasons with the franchise, landed in Houston where he made a couple All-Star Games in 1969 and 1970, although neither of those seasons came close to the production he had in 1964. His career would come to an end after the 1974 season, but his work in 1964 still ranks as a top 50 performance (by WAR) among all Braves position players in the modern era. Not bad, Menke. Not bad at all.

Kenny Lofton - 1997

Another infamous acquisition, Kenny Lofton's time with the Braves was tumultuous after Atlanta sent Marquis Grissom and David Justice (who were both owed big money) to Cleveland to acquire him. He wasn't happy about being traded and clashed with manager Bobby Cox on several occasions during his lone season with the Braves. However, no one can say that he didn't play well during that 1997 season.

While his stolen base numbers did decline that year, Lofton still slashed .333/.409/.428 and put up a 5 WAR season in 1997. Unfortunately, that would be his only season with the Braves as he headed back to Cleveland immediately after becoming a free agent. Lofton's exclusion from the Hall of Fame remains inexplicable beyond the fact that he could be a difficult guy to deal with at times, but the Braves did get one good year out of him and got some salary relief along with him.

Josh Donaldson - 2019

Alex Anthopoulos has garnered a well-earned reputation as being a guy that thinks outside the box for ways to make the Braves better. Case in point is Josh Donaldson. Donaldson was coming off a stint with Cleveland where he dealt with calf issues, but AA was very familiar with him from his days in Toronto and inked Donaldson to a one year, $23 million deal for the 2019 season.

Donaldson hardly came out of nowhere. He won a MVP award with the Blue Jays and had been among the league's best hitters for years. However, his 2019 season with the Braves would prove to be his last truly good season as he posted a .900 OPS in 659 plate appearances with 37 homers before signing a a four year deal with the Twins after the season. As it turns out, AA was smart to not only sign him that year, but to not keep him around long-term as Donaldson quickly faded into obscurity after he left Atlanta.

More Braves News from House That Hank Built