The 2022 MLB Draft is right around the corner, so we are running a series where we run down each position and what the Braves may or may not do at each position when the draft kicks off on July 17. If you want to get a sense of what we have covered so far, here is a link to our second base draft preview that ran earlier this week.
The way this works is that we are going position by position for each draft preview, running down the early round options and why they may or may not work for the Braves, and then giving a few names to keep an eye on for days two and three at each position. No, this is not meant to be exhaustive as that would take forever and be tedious to both read AND write. Below, you will find our thoughts on the Braves’ options at third base in the 2022 MLB Draft.
Why the Braves could pick a 3B early
The Braves system really dries up quickly once you remove the names of Michael Harris and Spencer Strider from the prospect list. That means the need to draft the most talent they can get and they certainly do need bats. Should a third baseman be the best available talent or best available bat, it’s not hard to see why the Braves would be interested in using a pick on one. This draft doesn’t set up well to take one at 20 - barring a surprising fall, like the one that saw Kahlil Watson go from potential #1 to #16 last year - but there are some quality options you could see interest the Braves in the first four rounds of this class.
Why the Braves won’t pick a 3B early
The Braves draft position isn’t ideal for the first round names at third base in this draft class. Jacob Berry (if you even believe he is a third baseman) and Cam Collier aren’t going to drop into the 20s, so that leaves names like Cade Doughty, Peyton Graham, and Cayden Wallace along with Tucker Toman from high school as potential first rounders. That second group doesn’t scream best player available at 20, so it would need to come at a real under-slot deal to make sense. Those guys are projected to go high enough that they probably wouldn’t have interest in taking that big of a cut, but not projected to go high enough that taking them at 20 at close to slot makes sense either.
Day Two/Three Targets
Sal Stewart, Westminster HS (FL) - Stewart is a guy who was initially seen as a potential first rounder as he is the latest in a long line of Miami prep sluggers and comes from the same school that produced Alex Rodriguez. Stewart is most known for his power which could end up playing as plus from the right side of the plate. There is a bit of a split on if he can have an average hit tool, with some thinking he is a little too power over hit. He’s a well below average runner, but still a decent athlete for a bigger guy (6’3, 215) which makes him an adequate defender at third with an above average arm. Stewart would likely have to go off the board in the second round to be signable as a Vanderbilt commit - unless there were big savings from the first two rounds.
Nolan McLean, Oklahoma State - Nolan McLean is an interesting prospect. He was highly thought of out of high school, but teams preferred him as a pitcher at first. He turned down a chance to be an early pick because he was also going to Oklahoma State to play quarterback - though he has since given up football. He fits the profile of guys the Braves like, similar to AJ Smith-Shawver last year in that he is a former two-way two-sport star. The hit tool is a real question mark, but there is power in his bat and he should be at least an average defender. If he is taken as a pitcher, he presents a plus fastball up to 98 MPH with a pair of promising breaking balls that could become plus pitches. This year at OSU, he slugged 19 homers and struck out 39 over 25.1 IP out of the bullpen.
Jacob Reimer, Yucaipa HS (CA) - Jacob Reimer is one of my favorite bats outside of the first round in this draft. A 6’2, 205 pound high school shortstop that will move to third as a pro, Reimer is a well rounded hitter. He isn’t quite plus with the hit tool or the power, but he’s above-average with both and plays average defense with a projected slightly below-average speed grade. He’s a Washington commitment that would add another premium bat into the system should the Braves choose him.
Cutter Coffey, Liberty HS (CA) - Cutter Coffey is another two-way standout, though there is much less question about him ending up as a bat on the next level than with McLean. Coffey is a 6’2, 190 pound Texas commitment with promising power and some feel for hitting. The hit tool is still a work in progress, though, and he may need to make some mechanical adjustments to his swing to maximize his offensive potential. He presents as an athletic player with a big arm at third and the potential to have average or better power.
Jayson Jones, Braswell HS (TX)- Similar to Stewart, Jayson Jones was once a potential first round pick in this draft. He’s most known for his huge raw power, which is easily plus, and won him the Home Run Derby at the Baseball Factory All Star Game last summer. The power isn’t a question, but he does present a few other questions. The biggest is his hit tool as he struggled through most of last summer going up against top arms. It’s fair to project him as a below-average hitter as a 45-grade feels like best case scenario and with his approach geared towards power, he will always strike out a lot. The other question is where he ends up defensively. He played short through high school, and is already a below-average runner. Depending on what speed he loses as he continues to fill in his 6’2, 195 pound frame as well as if he grows too much, he may have to move off third base, too.