Braden Shewmake Adds Strength
Shortstop Braden Shewmake emphasized adding weight over the winter. It didn’t translate to immediate production during spring training, but the 2019 first-rounder from Texas A&M believes in time, it will yield results.
“This offseason it was a big deal for me,” Shewmake said. “I finished at the alternate site around 185 pounds or so. I got up to 205 before I came down here (to Florida). So putting on weight was a big deal for me.
"But at the same time, (I wanted to) stay fast and stay quick. We were able to do all of those things, so that was a huge plus this offseason for me.”
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Shewmake is entering his first full minor league season. After getting drafted in 2019, he split time between Low-A Rome and Double-A Mississippi, hitting .300/.371/.425 with 18 doubles. Shewmake, 23, spent last season at the alternate training site.
An athletic middle infielder with plus speed, Shewmake must demonstrate that his added strength can lead to more power. In spring training, Shewmake went 2-for-18 with no extra-base hits, though he impressed in every other area.
“I’m going to try to hit line drives gap to gap, hit doubles,” Shewmake said. “Home runs are accidents to me, so I'm trying to hit doubles and triples, and make the routine play. That’s what the goal is every day.”
Shewmake was expected to rise quickly through the system, though the canceled 2020 minor league season threw a wrench in that plan. He could put himself back on the fast track this summer, and under the right circumstances, he could even debut later this season or by the middle of next.
But for now, Shewmake will begin his year back at the alternate site, preparing for his longest professional season yet.
"Just watching the workouts and all that, I think he has good instincts," Braves big league manager Brian Snitker said. "He’s going to be a versatile player. It’s good to see he’s filling out and getting stronger.”
— Outfielder Michael Harris was the star of Braves camp. The 20-year-old impressed offensively, going 5-for-18 (.278) with a double and homer. He also showed off his athleticism and defensive ability. The Braves think the world of Harris and believe he has the talent to perhaps one day be their top prospect.
“You talk about skills, approach,” Snitker said. “I don’t think I’d lose money if I say he’s going to be a young big leaguer.”
— The Braves opted to start the season with Alex Jackson as their backup catcher instead of William Contreras, their No. 6 prospect. They did so with Contreras’ development in mind. Contreras appeared in four games last season and will likely find his way to the majors again later in 2021.
“We don’t see him as a backup catcher,” Snitker said. “We see him as an everyday guy, and we want him to continue to keep developing. He’s had 190 at-bats in Double-A (and hasn’t played in Triple-A). He hasn’t had a full season there yet. But he’s a young, talented guy we look at as an everyday catcher, not a backup.
"With his skill set and where he’s come the last couple years, I love the guy. I love the player. He’s grown up and he has skills. It’ll be fun to watch when he’s here and playing.”