As part of our ongoing preview of the upcoming 2023 MLB draft, over the next week we’ll be looking at draft prospects who have been linked to the Braves along with prospects that would profile well in the system.
The son of former Brave George Lombard, George Lombard Jr. has a very good chance to get drafted higher than his father and end up in the first round of this year’s draft. The younger Lombard has all that you would expect from someone with his pedigree, as a well-rounded infielder with a chance to stick at shortstop. Standing at 6’3” and 190 lbs he does currently play the shortstop position and will debut there as a professional, but there are some questions as to whether he sticks at the position if he adds much more weight. His speed has ticked up as he has matured and he has good enough speed for the position now, but he’s not a burner and it wouldn’t take much of a step back for him to not have the range for shortstop. In the event he moves to third base he has the physical toolset to hit well enough for the position, with the frame to hit for power and evidence of power in game today.
At the plate Lombard’s mechanics are smooth and athletic, with no glaring holes in either his swing or his approach that can’t be worked through at the professional level. His swing is simple and controlled and he gets high marks for his makeup, with the one pitfall being that he has shown swing-and-miss in his game. Lombard has the bat speed to handle professional velocity and generate power, helped by how well he drives his swing through his lower body and core. He consistently stays on time and on line through the swing plane, generating the strength and bat plane necessary to hit for power. One adjustment he will need to make at the next level is his approach on pitches away from his body. He is better at handling inside pitching as he tends to pull his hands out too far and swing around pitches on the outer half in an attempt to pull them. He’s not overly aggressive at the plate, but it’s clear in all of his swings that he is attempting to do serious damage, sometimes at the expense of barrel control which contributes to the aforementioned swing-and-miss issues.
Why he fits with the Braves
The Braves have built up young pitching talent well and have done a good job of finding late round talent to bolster the depth, but their offensive talent pool is extremely thin. Luis Guanipa is the only bat that has really shown impact potential at the professional level, and that’s one player at the lowest level of affiliated ball doing that. The Braves have done well to lock up their core of position players, but there is a serious need to refresh that talent at the lower levels of the system. Lombard Jr. fits the Braves desire to get athletic players who have power potential and a high motor, and the Braves have not been shy about spending money on fringy defenders and trying to develop them at the professional level. There is a lot to like about Lombard and he would immediately be the system’s top shortstop prospect.
Why he doesn’t fit with the Braves
The Braves don’t appear to have a long-term solution at the shortstop position, and Lombard’s experience level means he likely isn’t going to be the next to take over for Orlando Arcia. Also, similarly to Vaughn Grissom there is a chance that the defense never develops to the level they hope and they’re stuck with a tweener defender that doesn’t really profile well anywhere. Lombard has better instincts and actions than Grissom at the same level so there is a better chance for defensive development, but it’s not a given. The Braves have also rarely spent their full slot on a player with their first pick, but it’s likely Lombard will demand a bonus in that range. With a commitment to Vanderbilt under him and plenty of teams interested in up-the-middle talent he has the leverage to demand a lot of money and may limit the Braves in their ability to spread money around like in previous years. Lombard certainly won’t wipe the pool out and the Braves would have flexibility beyond him, but the draft tends to be about quantity of talent over getting one premium player and Lombard would somewhat limit what the Braves can do into day two and three.