ATLANTA -- The Braves started to worry when Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers hit three homers and tallied an NCAA Tournament-record 11 RBIs in Baylor’s win over Omaha Saturday. They didn’t share similar concerns regarding Braden Shewmake, the second of the two college position players Atlanta took in the first round
ATLANTA -- The Braves started to worry when Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers hit three homers and tallied an NCAA Tournament-record 11 RBIs in Baylor’s win over Omaha Saturday. They didn’t share similar concerns regarding Braden Shewmake, the second of the two college position players Atlanta took in the first round of this year’s MLB Draft.
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Braves vice president of scouting Dana Brown was glad to have the opportunity to take an elite defensive catcher like Langeliers with the ninth overall selection and then use the Draft’s 21st pick on Shewmake, a shortstop out of Texas A&M who could play a number of positions.
The Braves used their second-round pick (60th overall) to take Oregon State shortstop Beau Philip. The selection of three collegiate players was influenced by the fact that the high school crop was one of the weakest in recent memory. The selection of two versatile shortstops was further indication of the value clubs now place on defensive versatility.
Langeliers is considered by many to be better defensively than Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, who was taken by the Orioles with the first overall pick. His offensive eruption in Saturday’s win strengthened the Braves’ belief he has the chance to hit for power at the Major League level.
“We think this guy could be on the fast track potentially to get to the big leagues,” Braves vice president of scouting Dana Brown said. “He’s got big time defensive skills and a bat with power. It’s a nice package.”
The strong-armed Langeliers produced a 1.7 second pop time during workouts and a 1.8 second pop time during games (1.9 seconds is considered elite). He threw out 22 of 32 potential basestealers on his way to being named the 2018 Rawlings/ABCA Gold Glove recipient as the best defensive catcher in college baseball. He could garner the award again this year, after denying 14 of 25 would-be basestealers.
“I know the Braves are a phenomenal organization,” Langeliers said. “They are a great team. They are a young team that is very talented and I’m very excited to be part of this organization.”
Langeliers slashed .308/.374/.530 over 44 games during his recently-completed junior season. The 21-year-old catcher’s production was affected by a fractured left hamate bone he suffered during the regular season’s second game. The fact he missed just three games and then bettered what was a defensive sophomore season at the plate enhanced the Braves’ interest.
“Starting off my junior year with a broken hand wasn’t ideal, but I think this year turned out to be good,” Langeliers said.
Langeliers is now in position to join what has become a much-improved Braves catching crop over the past few years. William Contreras, who is currently at the Class A Advanced level, has been considered Atlanta’s catcher of the future. The only other intriguing catching prospect in the system is Triple-A Gwinnett’s Alex Jackson, who is still striking out frequently while attempting to prove himself defensively.
Having played together on Team USA this past summer, Langeliers and Shewmake already have a mutual respect for each other.
“I hung out with him almost every single day, if not every day,” Shewmake said. “I love Shea and I can’t wait to get started with him.”
Shewmake was projected to go later in the first round, but the Braves were intrigued enough by his talents and still-developing 6-foot-4 frame to take him earlier than expected. The shortstop was not aware of Atlanta’s interest until about 10 minutes before he was selected. This is the kind of pick that could lead to an under-slot signing and provide a club more flexibility as it attempts to stay within the constraints of its signing bonus pool.
But Brown said he sees a lot of upside in Shewmake, who batted .313 (78-for-249) with six home and nine stolen bases while playing in each of Texas A&M’s 63 games this season. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound shortstop has a unique left-handed swing that could produce more power as he physically matures.
“Braden is an athletic shortstop and even though he is a college shortstop, I think he has high upside based on the 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 more power and he’s really good at the position.”
Whether Shewmake develops into a second baseman or potential utility player at the big league level will be influenced by his bat, which was productive enough to earn him a first team Southeastern Conference selection after both of his first two seasons at Texas A&M. He led all Division I freshmen with 90 hits and 67 RBIs in 2017.
“I think playing in the SEC, it’s a battle every weekend,” Shewmake said. “You see the kinds of guys that make it to the big leagues from the SEC and move progressively fast throughout Minor League systems that are SEC guys that have had success. It gives you a lot of confidence.”
Philip hit .314 and tallied five home runs while serving as Oregon State’s primary shortstop and leadoff hitter this year. The 6-foot, 188-pound infielder spent the previous two seasons at San Joaquin Delta College. Like Shewmake, he impressed scouts with the athleticism and versatility he showed while competing in an elite collegiate conference.
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Go to MLB.com/Draft for complete coverage, including every pick on Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.