Over the past week or so we’ve covered most of the positions in this year’s MLB Draft. In this one we are going to discuss some players from the crop of third base talent, a position the Atlanta Braves might take in the first round.
Why the Braves will draft a third basemen early
As discussed in my catching preview article, this year’s hitting class is deep which is going to cause a couple of hitters to fall. A third baseman like Aiden Miller, who we will cover down below, might be one of those players, a talent who the Braves might struggle to pass on.
I do understand they have Austin Riley who is locked up for another nine years after this season, but if the best player on the board is a third baseman which is more than plausible the Braves will likely take them.
Why the Braves won’t draft a third basemen early
Honestly, I don’t think there is a concrete reason as to why the Braves wouldn’t take a third basemen outside of simply how the board shakes out. If there aren’t any available who warrant a selection in their draft slot, they’re not going to reach for a third baseman.
Early round targets
Miller, a player who has been mocked to the Braves previously, has his ceiling as a prospect tied to his bat. He has plus power which he pairs with an ability to produce strong exit velocity numbers. He showed off his power when he won the high school home run derby last summer at Dodgers Stadium. Now the main reason Miller could become an option for the Braves this draft is due to the fact that he broke his hamate bone this season which has hampered his senior year production. Hamate bone injuries traditionally only affect a player’s production that season meaning this is not an injury that should concern Atlanta long term. If the Braves are able to get Miller at 24, it has the potential to be one of the steals of the draft.
Wilken has plus power seeing as he has hit 31 home runs this season, but he also carries some strikeout concerns. The 6 ’4 slugger only has a strikeout rate of 26 percent this season, but when you dig a little deeper there is a bit of a red flag when it comes to him facing top level competition. In eight games against Clemson, Alabama and LSU this season he has racked up 14 strikeouts in 33 at bats. It is of course an extremely small sample size, but it is a strikeout rate of 42 percent and an area that we should be paying some attention to. On the flip side though, despite being a 6 ‘4 hitter which traditionally lends itself to longer swings and a lot of moving parts, Wilken is extremely quiet in his stance and swing which should help him transition to the pro game.
Groover is bat first and bat only as a prospect. If his bat falls to adapt to the pro game, there is next to a zero percent chance he is able to make anything of himself as a player because he has poor speed and frankly is not a very good fielder. There are question marks as to where he is going to play defensively at the pro level having been used at first, second and third base as well as in left and right field in his time in college. But that movement is more so due to a lack of having a defined position rather than being versatile. On a positive note, Groover is a prospect with fantastic bat to ball skills and plate discipline as he had just an 11.3 percent strikeout rate in 2023 for NC State compared to a 15.7 percent walk rate. He is not adept in the power department either as he hit 13 this season and has the potential to sit around the 15-homer mark when he fully develops as a player.
Naylor is a difficult evaluation. He has swing and miss in his game and struggles with non-fastballs which is a major area of concern for the 18-year-old. However, he does possess plus power though at a young age and is able to produce high end exit velocity numbers which of course makes him entice to teams as a prospect. There is a chance that Naylor winds up playing shortstop at the pro level, but as he continues to fill out his frame it is likely that he moves to third on a full-time basis. There are not any known signability concerns as of right now for the third Naylor brother, but he is committed to Texas Tech.