As we continue our in-depth look at some of the top prospects of each position, today we take a look at one of the top — and deepest — positions teams will look to draft players from on July 9.
This is actually a position where the Braves have been linked to several prospects, both at the college and prep levels. While Alex Anthopolous and company have typically shied away from taking bats in the first few rounds with Shea Langeliers — who’s now with the Oakland A’s — and Braden Shewmake — 25-years-old at AAA — being the lone bats taken in the initial round since AA took over as GM in November, 2017.
Still, while the Braves have a tendency to lean towards taking arms, there’s a lot of reasons for them to go with a bat, particularly one playing up-the-middle, this year. Number one being the lack of top-tier positional talent throughout the system. Shewmake is the top position prospect the Braves have according to MLB Pipeline and as we’ve mentioned, he’s caught between AAA and the big leagues at the moment. The next-best prospect is Ambioris Tavarez, checking in at number eight. Another reason is the sheer amount of top-tier talent at the position available in this year’s draft. According to MLB Pipeline’s list of top draft-eligible prospects, nine shortstops or players with the capability to play shortstop are projected to go in the first 30 selections. There are plenty of guys available for Atlanta to take in the early going so let’s dive in.
Top Three Guys
The top three players at shortstop in this one will all probably be gone by the time its Atlanta’s turn to make a selection, but we’re going to break them down anyways in the off chance they slide from their projected positions.
Jacob Wilson, Grand Canyon University — Probably the best pure hitter in the draft, Wilson instantly made a mark with GCU, being named a freshman All-American in 2021. For his career at the D-1 level, he posted a .977 OPS. In terms of tools, Wilson possesses a tremendous feel for the zone, as mentioned with his pure hitting ability above. He doesn’t have much power to get excited about and he’s an ok runner. However, the intangibles and the defensive prowess to stick at the position, boosting his stock. Personally, I’m not that high on Wilson as in today’s game I feel as though his toolset makes him more of an average, everyday shortstop at the big league level. But it likely won’t matter as he’s projected to go in the top-ten.
Arjun Nimmala, Strawberry Crest HS (FL) — As far as upside and potential goes, Nimmala is the cream of the crop when it comes to shortstops this year. Nimmala won’t turn 18 until October, and possesses good raw power and a solid hit tool. At 6’1, 170-pounds, there’s a ton of room to grow and fill out for Nimmala, leading to hope that he’ll tap into a bit more power as he develops. Defensively, Nimmala has a very good chance to stick at shortstop thanks to his above-average arm and solid range at the position. Whichever team takes him will have to wait a bit for him to take that next step in his development at the plate but the wait could reap an excellent reward.
Jacob Gonzalez, Ole Miss — One could have easily slotted Parkview High School shortstop Colin Houck here as a top-three guy, but I’m giving the nod to Gonzalez here as I believe his floor is a bit higher than Houck’s. Gonzalez burst onto the college baseball scene, earning national freshman of the year honors at Ole Miss. I hate making comparisons because oftentimes they fall very short of expectations and that very well may be the case here. However, I see a lot of Dansby Swanson in Gonzalez’ style of play. Good baseball IQ, above average power for the position, a good glove and that “winning” mentality after leading Ole Miss to its first national championship in baseball are just a few of the reasons why I see a bit of Swanson here. Much like the two shortstops mentioned before him, he’ll probably be gone before the Braves are on the clock. But hey, one can dream, right?
The Best Of The Rest
Here we start getting into more plausible names for the Braves to have a chance to take once they come up at pick 24. There are quite a bit of names here, so we’re going to cut these down to a more concise breakdown.
Colin Houck, Parkview High School (GA) — As I mentioned above, Houck is one of those guys who could easily be taken higher or lower than his projected spot. Houck is a superb athlete, garnering D-1 offers in both baseball and football as a quarterback. Needless to say, Houck has a very strong arm and good mobility, giving him the tools needed to stick at short. At the plate, Houck has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order bat. However, he needs to cut down on chasing pitches out of the zone and work on hitting the ball to the opposite field more in order to reach his full potential.
Matt Shaw, Maryland & Tommy Troy, Stanford — I decided to lump both Shaw and Troy together here because I think there are a ton of similarities in their game. Both guys hit the baseball hard, even if there are a few concerns about how the power will translate to the next level. Defensively, both guys project more as second basemen given their lack of elite arm strength and offensive profile. With that being said, both guys have solid tools across the board and are among the “safer” picks among the shortstop group.
George Lombard Jr., Gulliver Prep (FL) — If I had to pinpoint one position player I think the Braves are most-likely to take, Lombard Jr. is that guy. Not only has he been tied to Atlanta in multiple mock drafts, there’s obviously the familiarity with his father being selected by the Braves in 1994. There’s a lot to like in Lombard Jr., but there are also question marks. As far as power goes, Lombard Jr. ranks as one of the best in the class. However, given his aggressiveness at the plate in swinging for the fences, there’s also plenty of swing and miss there as well. As far as defense goes, most scouts think he has the arm to stay up the middle, but as he fills out his 6’3 frame, he’ll make the shift over to third base.
Colt Emerson, Glenn HS (OH), Kevin McGonigle, Monsignor Bonner HS (PA), & Walker Martin Eaton HS (CO) — To wrap up, I decided to lump three prep shortstops together to save a bit of time and length here in the breakdown.
Emerson is young for the class, checking in at 17. He has a good swing from the left side and has decent power to go along with it. Most scouts expect him to shift over to second base once he gets into pro ball.
Another left-handed hitter, McGonigle has the best power of the three prep shortstops listed here. He’s a good athlete with a high baseball IQ and has the potential to continue as a shortstop as his career progresses.
Finally, we have Martin. Older as a high school product — as he turned 19 in February — Martin didn’t make waves on the baseball scene for a while as he was more focused on football. Since taking more time to focus on the diamond, he’s found himself catapulted into first round conversations given his strength at the plate from the left-hand side. Given his athleticism, there’s reason to believe he’s a future shortstop.