Braden Shewmake Exceeds Expectations
The Braves used the 2019 draft to replenish a farm system that, while still regarded among the best in baseball, has been depleted in recent years by graduations and Major League Baseball-issued penalties due to infractions committed by former executives.
While the franchise has long focused on drafting high school players, the 2019 class—the first under scouting director Dana Brown—was led by collegiate talent. The batch included Texas A&M shortstop Braden Shewmake, who impressed in his pro debut.
The 22-year-old was regarded as a modest prospect whose floor was that of a quality utilityman with some upside. That projection helped him go 21st in the draft. He was the highest drafted shortstop by the Braves since Chipper Jones was drafted No. 1 overall in 1990.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Shewmake is viewed as a versatile lefthanded hitter who could develop into a top-of-the-order hitter. He possesses above-average athleticism and could grow into future power.
He exceeded expectations at low Class A Rome, hitting .318/.389/.473 with 18 doubles and three home runs in 51 games. His play was rewarded with a promotion to Double-A Mississippi, where he hit .217 in 14 games.
Shewmake's first 65 minor league games were viewed as a success and he showed the exact traits the Braves referenced on draft night.
"Braden is an athletic shortstop, and even though he’s a college guy, I think he has high upside with that loose, wiry frame he has,” Brown said. "We think he’s going to put on some strength. We think he’s going to get to some power. He’s really good at the position and an average to plus defender.
"And what a lot of people don’t know is this guy can actually run. Definitely an above-average runner.”
With the Braves projected to soon welcome top outfield prospects Cristian Pache and Drew Waters to the majors, there’s a notable drop off in position players in the system. The ability to develop talents like Shewmake is increasingly crucial in maintaining a rich farm system and having cost-controlled options to provide depth in the big leagues.
— There’s an argument to be made for the Braves trading some of their pitching prospects this winter. Not only is there a roster crunch in Atlanta and the upper minors, but the organization has already seen several of its vaunted arms deteriorate in value.
The 2019 season offered a prime example. Luiz Gohara was released; Kolby Allard and Joey Wentz were traded in deals for relievers at the deadline; and even Kyle Wright, Touki Toussaint and Bryse Wilson failed to take notable steps forward.
— Lefty reliever Thomas Burrows went unclaimed in the Rule 5 draft. Burrows is an intriguing southpaw who posted gaudy strikeout numbers (11.6 strikeouts per nine innings in four minor league seasons) but hasn’t illustrated consistent command. The 25-year-old could reach the majors in 2020, but his long-term outlook will be decided by how effectively he can refine his control. He throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball and plus slider.