In the fourth round of the 2022 MLB draft, the Atlanta Braves selected 3B David McCabe out of UNC-Charlotte. A slugger who hit 30 homers over his final two collegiate seasons, McCabe had the opportunity to get some at bats as a professional in August and September, playing in 26 games for Low-A Augusta to close out 2022. While he has only gone deep once as a pro, McCabe showed his ability at the plate with a .347 OBP over his first 118 professional PAs.
2022 Draft Report Card
Despite being drafted as a third baseman, McCabe only played nine games there at Charlotte, spending more time at DH, and a bit at first base. He wrote his name all over the school record books and had a monster season as junior prior to being drafted. To go along with 16 home runs, he slugged .784 with a 1.297 OPS, a mark good enough for seventh-best in the nation. He was honored after his stellar campaign as a National Collegiate Baseball Writers Third Team All-American and First Team All-CUSA.
The biggest power bat in the draft for the Braves, McCabe signed for slightly under slot value. Announced as a third baseman, McCabe so far has been given a chance at the hot corner as a pro, at least initially, but even if he ends up as a first baseman or DH, the power is what will likely be his ticket to the Major Leagues.
What we saw in 2022
While McCabe was initially assigned to Rookie ball, the Braves quickly moved him up to Low-A Augusta where he got off to a blazing hot start. In his first 12 games at Augusta, McCabe hit .327 with an .819 OPS. However, as power hitters often tend to do, McCabe was prone to the strikeout with 14 of them to just four walks. To his credit, McCabe’s plate discipline got better over his final 14 games as he improved his K/BB rate to 13/11, but all other offensive stats went the other way with a .196 average and .583 OPS in those final 14 games.
The power didn’t showcase for McCabe in the small 2022 sample size with just one homer and six doubles, but McCabe did find a way to contribute offensively for the GreenJackets with 23 RBIs in his 26 games.
Defensively, the Braves stuck to their draft day announcement and played McCabe at third base in the majority of games with Augusta. He started at third 21 times to only five at DH, and committed four errors in 50 chances, an unsightly .920 fielding percentage. Just like at the plate, it’s a small sample size, and errors are unfortunately the only thing we have to go off of, which may be misleading, but it doesn’t look like an ideal defensive start.
Although he was drafted after his junior season, McCabe was already on the older end for a college player, and will turn 23 in March. The Braves will stay patient early on with McCabe as new draftee, but he will need to show progress, especially at the plate.
It’s fair to wonder how much all the playing time at third base affected McCabe at the plate. The errors revealed he may not have been totally comfortable, and McCabe wouldn’t be the first player to let defensive mistakes carry over mentally into the batter’s box. Going across the diamond to first or back to DH could be in the cards for McCabe in next season.
Combining the bat-to-ball skills he showed in the first few weeks in Augusta with the plate discipline of those final few weeks, while showcasing the power he boasted in college will be the goal in 2023.
McCabe might start ’23 at Augusta, but won’t want to finish the season there.