Back during the prior offseason, there was enough external uncertainty about the shortstop position for the Atlanta Braves that some thought Braden Shewmake might be a guy that could step into the position. That didn’t even come close to happening, as Shewmake got a two-game cup of coffee in the majors, massively struggled at Triple-A, and ended up getting traded away in the Aaron Bummer deal after the conclusion of the season.
The Braves drafted Shewmake as the 21st overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. He made it to Double-A in his draft year, repeated the level in 2021, and then spent all of 2022 at Triple-A Gwinnett.
What were the expectations?
Given that Shewmake had posted an 89 wRC+ in Gwinnett in 2022, and an even worse line in Double-A the year before despite getting promoted anyway, they were generally not too high. Thoughts on his defense were also split, with some buzz that he was more apt for a utility role than a starting shortstop assignment from draft time following him around, though many evaluators thought he’d be good at shortstop as well.
Overall, Shewmake didn’t project as more than a backup, defensively-oriented infielder, perhaps a poor man’s Nicky Lopez. While, as mentioned above, there were some ideas that he could start at shortstop for the Braves, the team never really bothered to look in that direction.
Shewmake did not make the team out of Spring Training, getting optioned part of the way through March. Nor was he the first guy up when Orlando Arcia suffered a microfracture in his wrist after being hit by a Hunter Greene pitch — that honor went to Vaughn Grissom.
Instead, the Braves only recalled Shewmake on May 5, when Ehire Adrianza was placed on the Injured List, and the Braves needed another backup infielder on the active roster. That was also the day Shewmake got his first (and only, to date) career start. He went 0-for-4: a strikeout, a tapper groundout to the catcher, a groundout to first, and a flyout to left. The next day, he sat in favor of Grissom, and came in as a defensive replacement in the ninth; the game ended without him fielding a ball.
He then stuck on the roster for another 11 days before getting optioned down to Gwinnett, where he remained for the rest of the season. And, as you now know, he ended up being traded to the White Sox in the Aaron Bummer deal on November 16, 2023.
What went right?
Shewmake did get to the majors, just in a very limited capacity.
He also hit for the cycle on June 29 at Gwinnett.
There’s not too much else to say here, though, as he really didn’t factor in at all to the team’s plans, and was ultimately jettisoned as yet another throw-in almost as soon as the offseason began.
What went wrong?
Leaving the 0-for-4 in his only start aside, the biggest issue for Shewmake is that he did even worse at Gwinnett than he had previously. He hit just .234/.298/.407 for the Stripers across 526 PAs, good for just a 71 wRC+. While in years past, there were injuries that caused him to miss about a half a season’s worth of games, this year he mostly stuck around in Gwinnett and really didn’t do much. Did that inspire the Braves to move on? Who knows. But it likely didn’t help.
Shewmake also somehow recorded -1 OAA in his ten big league innings played at shortstop, which is pretty brutal if not indicative of anything at all. As a result, he finished the 2023 campaign with -0.2 fWAR in his four PAs and one extra inning of playing time. Here’s him grounding out to the catcher on the first pitch in a key moment in a game the Braves went on to lose by five runs:
Shewmake is now a member of the White Sox, and he figures to factor into their major league middle infield situation somewhat. He was traded along with Nicky Lopez, who seems a better bet to start in the interim, but there’s a clear path to playing time for him at both short (before the debut of top prospect Colson Montgomery) and second (where the White Sox have only underwhelming options like Romy Gonzalez and Lenyn Sosa).
With that said, Shewmake only projects as around an 0.5 WAR/full season guy at this point, because his 2023 was so glum. Still, he’ll have a chance to prove that central estimate wrong with a team that has little to lose by giving him some playing time.