One of the Atlanta Braves most surprising picks in the 2018 MLB Draft was taking CJ Alexander in the 20th round. The JUCO third baseman was considered a potential 4-5th round choice by many, and it wouldn’t have shocked anyone if he went as high as the third round. By the time the 15th round came and went without his name being called, I personally assumed that he would be headed to school.
Note that Alexander is now signed and is with the GCL Braves. He is in the middle of playing his first career game as I write this, batting third and playing DH.
Who Is He?
CJ Alexander is a 6’5”, 215 pound third baseman who hits left handed and throws right. He is a native of Indiana, but had moved to Florida for his junior year of high school where he attended Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, Florida. He turns 22 in mid-July.
Alexander started out college at Ball State back in his home state, but left to go the JUCO route at JUCO power State College of Florida. Had he continued his college career, he was committed to Central Florida.
He is the older brother to Blaze Alexander, the prep shortstop who went to the DBacks in the 11th round this year as an overslot guy. Blaze is the better known of the two brothers thanks to his massive arm and the 99 MPH infield throw he made at a showcase event. It is worth noting that the brothers playing style is very different.
Alexander hit .405/.488/.785 with 19 doubles, 7 triples, 15 homers and 10 steals this year in 205 at bats. He walked 34 times while striking out 37.
He didn’t do very well as a freshman in 2016 at Ball State, but only had 61 at bats on the year. His 2017 at Ball State was cut short due to injury after six games, allowing him to take a medical redshirt.
Alexander did return to action in the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League last summer, and was named the #2 prospect in the league by Baseball America. In 95 at bats there he hit .358/.400/.589 with 8 doubles and 4 homers. He also struck out 16 times with 5 walks.
While Alexander isn’t a bad hitter, he can get a little too aggressive at times and is also prone to swinging and missing even when he’s not overly aggressive. Like a lot of power guys the question will be if he can hit enough to really be a prospect. I tend to believe he can, though I don’t see him being a guy who hits for a very high average in the big leagues. He may be a candidate to improve his hit tool should he become a little less aggressive, but that would come at the expense of some power.
The best word here is massive. Double plus 70 grade power from the left side, and it plays in games. Probably the best power bat in this draft class. This is his carrying tool and was what drew scouts in. The question for him isn’t the power or in-game power as much as it is him making enough contact to have the power really play. Should he hit Alexander has the 25-30 home run power you want in a third baseman in there, and should also rack up his share of doubles.
Alexander is a fringe average runner at present more of a 45-50 guy, but he’s a guy that is expected to end up slowing down as he fills in his large frame. He’s a good baserunner, so there is some hope that he can make his speed play up a bit with his instincts on the base paths.
Alexander is very different from his brother here, as Blaze is a top defensive shortstop. CJ is bigger and will likely be much thicker when he fills in, making him more of a fringy third baseman. He’s currently better than that, but losing some of the athleticism is something that will make the grade tick down as he ages. If he moves it isn’t a lock that he would have to go to first base- he’s athletic for his size, and if he keeps some of that athleticism to go with his cannon of an arm, a corner outfield spot is a real possibility. He has the arm for right for sure, but would probably be more of a fit in left should he move due to losing athleticism.
Similar to his brother, CJ has a big arm. In fact the arm could potentially be his best tool- even better than the power. Should he have to move, he’s got more than enough arm for the outfield if he can keep enough speed to handle playing in the corner.
I like Alexander a lot. I rated him as my ninth best third base prospect in the entire draft this year and it was a toss up for him to be eighth or ninth. He’s got a pair of double plus tools, some ability to hit, and I really think he should be able to hold his own at third defensively. While he’s far from a perfect prospect, he’s definitely a guy with the ideal toolset for an everyday big league third baseman.
As the GCL assignment shows, he may need to move slow at first as he gets used to better competition. It’s no surprise with him coming from Ball State and a JUCO, but he’s a guy who could possibly end up moving faster next year.
Despite having some flaws, and being a bit older already(22 next month), I consider getting Alexander in the 20th round to be a massive steal for the Braves in this draft. I am not sure of his signing bonus at this time, but I would expect it to be an overslot deal.