The MLB Draft signing deadline took place last Friday, coming and going very quietly as most players had long been signed and very few waited until the deadline. However the Braves landed a bit of a surprise at the deadline.
The Braves took a chance in the 28th round on a junior college second baseman named Nick Shumpert. Shumpert is well known to draft followers as the son of former big leaguer Terry Shumpert.
Shumpert was universally considered to be a Top 200 prospect in the 2015 MLB Draft out of a Colorado high school, but slipped to the Tigers in the seventh round due to him being expected to head to the University of Kentucky to play ball, the same SEC program where his father once played. He turned down an estimated slot bonus of slightly over $550k according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, which wasn’t a surprise considering the reason for his drop in the draft was his rumored signability.
Of course Shumpert never made it to Kentucky. He decided to play at the JUCO level for Texas powerhouse program San Jacinto with a bunch of other prospects, including 2015 Braves draftee Liam Scafariello and 2016 draftees like Devin Smeltzer and Ryan January. The reason for this was because in addition to San Jacinto being a top program on the JUCO level, it would allow Shumpert to enter the draft again sooner than if he went straight to Kentucky and would allow him to still potentially end up at Kentucky later if he didn’t turn pro.
Shumpert struggled at San Jacinto, especially early on as he tried to adjust to much more advanced pitching than what he faced at his Colorado high school. However he eventually got comfortable against the more advanced competition and started to produce as the season went on. He even had some key extra base hits at the Junior College World Series.
Braves fans had been initially holding out some small hope that Shumpert would sign with the team. However after the failed attempt to sign Josh Anthony due to limited bonus money being left in the pool there was little hope he would be signed since Shumpert wouldn’t be able to sign for much more than $100k without costing the Braves a potential Top 3 pick next year. That $100k would have been significantly less than what he was offered last year and less than what he could have made by returning to school and having a strong season.
Yet when it got down to the deadline there was a surprise for Braves fans.
The Braves signed Shumpert at the deadline for a bonus that is much less than what anyone would have reasonably expected him to sign for. As the Jim Callis tweet above shows, the Braves literally scraped together every last dollar in their nearly empty pool and made Shumpert an offer that he accepted. That decision by Shumpert to sign is still a bit of a surprise to me, but certainly a very welcome surprise.
It’s important to remember that although Shumpert was a 28th round pick, he is not a 28th round talent. He only lasted that long because in addition to his up and down season he had plenty of leverage with the ability to be drafted potentially three more times by returning to San Jacinto. Shumpert is arguably one of the highest upside players the Braves drafted this year, and may be the single highest upside guy taken from the fifth round on by the Braves.
My scouting report on Shumpert is mostly from what I had seen of him prior to last year’s draft. There is an updated in person scouting report from Eric Longenhagen at ESPN Insider($), but it’s from the early part of the season when Shumpert was struggling so you can only put so much stock into that less than impressive overall viewing. One thing that Longenhagen noted in his article was that Shumpert has done a better job of taking pitches, and his YouTube video below is an example of Shumpert working a count and taking some pitches. Shumpert struck out in the at bat, but it does give a feel for what Longenhagen is talking about.
I ranked Shumpert as the #84 player in the 2015 Draft, not out of line with his #127 ranking on Baseball America, or #200 by MLB. If you’re wondering where he ranked this year, he wasn’t seriously ranked by many due to the expectation that he was unlikely to sign.
Shumpert is an athletic former shortstop. He’s got the quick twitch athleticism you like from a middle infielder, but has seen his lower half get larger as he’s filled out and that limits his ability to play short. He’s more of a second baseman, or potentially third baseman or outfielder, but his glove is still a work in progress- not completely unexpected for a kid who hasn’t found a permanent home defensively yet. He’s also a good runner with an above average arm.
However it’s his bat that makes him a prospect. Shumpert’s got good power for a guy projected to play in the middle infield. It’s not out of the question that he can hit 20+ homers a year, but he’s prone to selling out for power and has swing and miss which could prevent the hit tool from reaching an average grade. His speed also helps on the bases, as he can steal a base or grab an extra base on a ball he puts into the gap. Below is a video of him from high school by SoCal Steve on YouTube, a great source of scouting videos.
Shumpert is a guy that is a little more raw than the typical son of a former big leaguer, and the fact he played his high school ball in an area against lesser competition didn’t help him adjust quickly to college. He’s going to be a player that moves slow, but could still develop into a nice player in a few years. He’s certainly got the upside to be a quality starter in the big leagues, but may be best in a role as a versatile utility player capable of offering right handed power off the bench with some speed as well.