The Atlanta Braves have largely done a pretty good job with finding talent in the MLB Draft that can contribute to the big league club in relatively short order. One only needs to look at their rookie class from this year: Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider, and Vaughn Grissom were all recent draftees. However, they have certainly had some misses and some of those picks, like former first rounder, shortstop Braden Shewmake, are just kind of hanging around, with futures that are questionable at best.
Preseason Report Card
Coming into the season, we were more bearish than a lot of publications on Shewmake’s prospects, as we had him as ranked 17th in the Braves’ farm system. We were impressed with his development defensively at short, but the hit tool regressed in 2021 and his power was still really questionable. Given how 2022 went, we feel pretty good about pumping the brakes on Shewmake despite his draft position.
What we saw in 2022
We had some real trepidations coming into the 2022 season with Shewmake. We felt good that he would stick at shortstop and be an asset there, but we were surprised that his hit tool seemingly took a step back in 2021, and our long-standing concern that he wouldn’t hit for much power remained an issue.
Despite those concerns, Shewmake did start the 2022 season at Triple-A and in 76 games, he posted a .259/.319/.399 line with seven homers. The hit tool seemed to improve a bit, but was still underwhelming for a guy whose carrying tool was supposed to be hitting. The power was inconsistent at best as well, but 23 extra-base hits overall isn’t terrible.
The biggest issue that Shewmake had in 2022 is that he struggled to stay on the field. He missed stretches of games here and there, and at least one of those stretches was due to a back issue. Then, in August, Shewmake had a scary collision in the outfield that resulted in him being carted off the field with a season-ending PCL tear.
He finished his 2022 season with an 89 wRC+ in 307 PAs at Triple-A.
Shewmake is a tough one to predict. He obviously has some talent and defensive ability, but he was already an offensive question mark before he was bitten by the injury bug repeatedly. Case in point: when the Braves needed an infielder to call up when Ozzie Albies was hurt, the Braves opted to promote Vaughn Grissom (who had very limited playing time in Double-A) over giving Shewmake a shot. It is pretty clear, at minimum, that Grissom has surpassed him in the infield pecking order, which makes Shewmake’s future with the organization unclear.
Some of what happens with Shewmake is tied with what the Braves do at shortstop this offseason. If the Braves fill the vacancy by re-signing Dansby Swanson or bringing in another external option, Shewmake becomes more expendable. However, if the Braves decide that Orlando Arcia or Grissom are going to get time at short, keeping Shewmake around just in case seems even more likely. The Braves did add him to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft deadline, so he won’t be going anywhere in that regard, at least not yet, but the Braves could look to trade him if they really want to free up the 40-man spot.
Either way, it seems likely that Shewmake will start the 2023 season at Triple-A. If he performs well, he could force the issue and see some playing time in the big leagues. If not, then the Braves will probably have to start entertaining the possibility that they need to move on.