Leading up to the draft, 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 2022 MLB 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 shortstop in the 2022 MLB Draft.
Why the Braves could pick a SS early
The main reason the Braves would take a shortstop early this year is because there is a fair chance that a shortstop is the best player available when the Braves get on the clock. You can forget about the big names - the Termarr Johnson, Brooks Lee, Jackson Holliday group - as there is no chance they will be there, but one of the guys in the second tier of first round shortstops could end up as the best player available at the top of the Braves board. That group includes Zach Neto, Cole Young, and Jett Williams, each bringing a potentially plus hit tool. Young and Williams as prep shortstops seem more likely to be available than Neto who seems to have a lot of helium at the moment.
Why the Braves won’t pick a SS early
First round shortstops don’t come cheap, especially prep options with commitments to schools that make teams pay an extra premium like Williams (Mississippi State signee) and Young (Duke signee). Neto is probably the least expensive, but is also the least likely of the three to even be available considering he has proven himself at the college level and has the best power of the trio. If it comes down to it and Williams or Young is the best player on the board, the Braves would then have to decide if they think that player was worth his asking price or whether they should take the savings to go overslot on guys on the next two days of the draft. Honestly, I can’t say that they would be as Young’s below-average power and Williams’ listed 5’8 size plus questions about him having the arm to stick at short are worth giving up the flexibility on the next two days.
Secondly, and this is something you will hear often from us, all of the indications are that the Braves are targeting college pitching in this draft. Aside from a couple of outlier mocks, the Braves have been connected to arms in the first round. There doesn’t seem to be a great way to float a shortstop as an overslot second round pick past all of the teams with comp picks that also have huge bonus pools, so it looks like the smart money is the Braves going pitching early.
Day Two/Three Targets
Ryan Ritter, Kentucky - Ryan Ritter wasn’t a significant prospect out of high school, but a breakout fall of his freshman year put him on the radar for teams. He’s a guy that has some questions about the overall impact on his bat, but he is a plus defender with a plus arm and borderline plus speed. Ritter only has to figure out how to hit a little in order to be a solid big leaguer with his skill set, but he has a long way to go there as evidence by his 68 strikeouts in 262 plate appearances this spring despite the fact he isn’t a real power threat.
Jalin Flores, Brandeis HS (TX) - Jalin Flores is a tough prospect to figure out exactly where he will go in the draft for multiple reasons. The first being that there are some questions on if he outgrows short and has to move to third. There is also the issue of him being an in-state kid signed to play at Texas next year which could be a tough commitment. Finally, the fact that he’s older for his class - turning 19 later this month - could turn some teams off. Still, he’s got a projectable 6’2, 185 pound frame and projects to hit for both average and power. That projects to enough bat for third if he has to move, or a quality offensive shortstop if he is able to stick. He should also be an asset at third defensively should he slow down any more and need to move off short.
Gavin Guidry, Barbe HS (LA) - A lot of what was just written about Flores above fits here for Guidry, just change in-state Texas signee to in-state LSU signee. Guidry is a projectable athlete with the ability to hit for both average and power, and turns 19 just days before the draft, making him older for the class. The biggest difference is that Guidry is a better athlete than Flores, and with his above-average speed, he should be able to stick at shortstop. Then you add in the fact he’s been a two-way guy his whole career and will only move to hitting full-time as a pro - something the Braves have valued for a while as it has some untapped upside to be found with extra developmental time. Guidry is also a kid with great makeup, a grinder type with solid tools across the board and he would be my own personal favorite target among the Day 2 candidates at short.
Trey Faltine, Texas - Trey Faltine could have gone really high in the draft out of high school, but chose to attend Texas instead. He likely won’t go as high due to questions about his bat, especially as he struck out 104 times in just 292 plate appearances this spring. Faltine has some pop in the bat, as his 15 homers this spring shows, but the hit tool makes it play down in games. The reason to draft him is he’s a plus defender with a plus arm and also has the versatility to play all over the field. A team would be drafting him hoping to make significant changes to his swing, hoping to unlock something out of this athletic kid who used to be a two-way player until college, as the defense and versatility would be real selling points.
Michael Curialle, UCLA - Michael Curialle rose late in the process out of high school, but decided to stick with his UCLA commitment. After arriving with serious expectations for his bat and posting a very strong and brief debut in the shortened 2020, he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations and lost out on the projected starting job at short for the Bruins. Curialle still has some potential with the bat, but a team that drafts him will have to help him unlock it. He’s also a good athlete and one of the benefits to him losing his shortstop job is the fact he played around the diamond in college, adding to his versatility. At this point, it’s easier to see a utility guy with a solid bat than it is to project him to be an impact shortstop, but there is some raw talent in there to work with.