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Draft Notes: After Carter Stewart Experience, Braves Double Up On College Players

Image credit: C.J. Abrams (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

A year after not signing first-round pick Carter Stewart, the Braves doubled up on up-the-middle college players they believe have real potential to last in the major leagues. The Braves selected Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers with the No. 9 overall pick and Texas A&M shortstop Braden Shewmake No. 21 overall on Monday night.

Langeliers suffered a broken hamate in his second game of the year for Baylor, but the catcher refused to let that deter him from helping push him teammates as far as possible.

“I was just trying to do everything in my power to get back to being able to play for [Baylor] as quick as I could,” Langeliers said.

Braves scouting director Dana Brown had high praise for Langeliers and reaffirmed how much the organization believes in him.

“He’s the type of catcher you can have long term,” Brown said. “We think we can get him to the big leagues quick, and we think he’s that type of player with elite defense.”

The Braves selected Shewmake with their second first-round pick, giving them one of the most versatile defenders in the draft. Shewmake played nearly every infield position with the USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team last summer.

“I can play second base, third base, I mean I can even play some outfield if I need to,” Shewmake said. “I think just being able to play a bunch of different positions will allow me to get in the lineup a lot easier.”

One of the intangible elements of drafting both of these players together is the relationship that they share off the field. They played together on Team USA last summer, and they have a long history of playing against each other in Texas.

“I love [Shea],” Shewmake said. “I got to play with him with Team USA and I hung out with him almost every single day, if not every day. I love Shea, and I can’t wait to get it started with him.”

— Jared McMasters

Homecoming for J.J. Bleday

The Marlins stayed with a Florida native with their first-round pick, selecting Vanderbilt outfielder J.J. Bleday fourth overall.

The outfielder attended high school in Lynn Haven, Fla., in the Panhandle region of the state and has been creating a connection with the Marlins franchise for years.

“I remember growing up watching highlights of the team,” Bleday said. “Now that I’m here and talked to a lot of people in the organization, I see what they have to offer and what they are building. It’s an honor to be here.”

Bleday led the nation with 26 home runs during the regular season. That power and a track record of consistent production made him a likely top-five pick for much of the season.

Knowing that anything can happen on draft day, Bleday was happy to get to stay in his home state.

“I knew there were a lot of possibilities on the day of the draft,” he said. “I try to focus and relax. What happened, happened. It means a lot to the community, especially after the hurricane, to be a local. It’s a cool experience and great to be a part of.”

— Justin Coleman

C.J. Abrams Heads Back To San Diego

C.J. Abrams got his first taste of San Diego when he played in the Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park last summer.

Now, if everything goes according to plan, he’ll get to spend a lot more time there.

The Padres made Abrams the No. 6 overall pick of the draft on Monday. The Georgia high school shortstop is committed to Alabama, but said he sees himself signing with the Padres and getting started on his quest to return to San Diego for good.

“It was awesome,” Abrams said. “Petco is a really nice park, San Diego is a really nice place. Nothing like Georgia’s hot summers.”

Abrams joins an organization filled with shortstops—topped by Fernando Tatis Jr. in the majors—but Abrams has the athleticism and willingness to play other positions. Last year, he played center field for USA Baseball’s 18U National Team in deference to Bobby Witt Jr. at shortstop, and he performed well enough at the position to convince evaluators he could play there if needed.

“(National team director) Matt Blood called me and he asked me if I was willing to play center field, and I said I’d do anything to be on Team USA,” Abrams said. “Whatever I had to do to help that team, I was going to do it.”

That attitude will serve him well in the Padres’ system, although he’s talented enough to push past others on the organization’s shortstop depth chart.

“I see myself as a shortstop,” he said. “I took a lot of pride in my defense this year, not playing basketball so I’d have time to work on that. I see myself playing the shortstop position.”

— Kyle Glaser

Hunter Bishop’s Dream Comes True

Dreams of playing for the Giants in Oracle Park have come true for Hunter Bishop. The Giants drafted the Palo Alto native with the No. 10 overall pick, bringing the Arizona State outfielder home.

“It’d be so special,” Bishop said. “I grew up there pretty much, going to games with my family. So one day being able to put on that Giants uniform and play in Oracle Park would be such a dream come true and such an awesome moment . . . As a kid, I went in the backyard and hit whiffle balls and pretended I was hitting them into McCovey Cove.”

Bishop doesn’t lack in confidence. He compared his play to Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich and believes in his ability to grow into a player of their caliber. He is confident in his tools and knows the adjustments he needs to make as he climbs the minor league leader.

“I think staying on my back side and really focus on keeping things simple instead of having so many moving parts in my swing really helped,” Bishop said. “I wouldn’t say it was a huge mechanic change. Just trying to simplify my approach.”

— M’Lynn Dease

Multiple Sports Mold Quinn Priester

Quinn Priester always played multiple sports growing up. It wasn’t until last year, though, that he realized baseball was his professional ticket.

“I always had the dream of playing MLB,” the righthander said. “I didn’t realize it would become a reality until about a year ago. That’s when I started to hone in on baseball as my craft. I’ve been a multi-sport athlete, and I realized that baseball is what I love and what I’m passionate about. I worked my butt off to get to this point and I’m excited.”

The work paid off. Priester was selected with the 18th overall pick by the Pirates on Monday, the culmination of a meteoric rise as the young pitcher transformed from an interesting draft prospect to a premium one.

Growing up, Priester played football and basketball as well as baseball. He felt there were tremendous benefits to being a multi-sport athlete, and he attributed his competitiveness on the mound to that lifestyle.

“I think the competitiveness and always playing a sport and being competitive is so important,” he said. “The pitchers in the bigs show emotion, or they stop showing emotion when they aren’t doing well. Football is more physical, it requires a different mindset . . . it teaches you how to grind. The importance of practice, teaching you that practice is where real progress is made.”

In addition to his competitive mind frame, Priester noted his experience with multiple sports has paid off on the mound.

“Being a multi-sport athlete has helped me to be more dynamic on the mound,” he said. “Especially being aware and being able to make adjustments.”

— Justin Coleman

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