The Braves indeed followed their draft plan by starting Day 3 Tuesday with a high-upside prep play, although the rest of the final day saw more college selections than I expected.
The big name for Day 3, spanning rounds 11-20, was Adam Shoemaker. He’s a 6-foot-6, 205-pound left-hander from the Canadian prep ranks.
Shoemaker is the definition of a projection pick as a tall, lengthy lefty with room to further fill out and add even more velocity. After living in the 80s over the past year, he saw a dramatic increase in velo and sharpness in the spring, now bumping up to mid-90s and getting more power from the breaking ball. After comparing video from a previous year to this spring, there is a noticeable increase in arm speed and overall explosiveness to his actions on the mound, as well as mass gained in his lower half as he starts to physically mature.
As you often see with lanky pitchers, there are moving parts, and it’s a lot to sync on each pitch. It will be a goal to clean things up a little and get him to repeat more consistently, thus producing better feel from the hand and more consistent stuff. It will be a level-by-level process.
But the strengths are obvious. Shoemaker has three pitches, a projectable frame with length, and developing sharpness and velo. Teams sometimes hang a portion of their draft hat on their 11th round selection because it’s often a projection pick that goes over slot, like the Braves picking Vaughn Grissom in 2019. Shoemaker is Atlanta’s 2021 version of that pick. He’s immediately one of the most intriguing picks from the team’s class.
The Braves’ 12th-round pick, Illinois right-hander Andrew Hoffmann, is a sneaky upside play from the college ranks. Hoffmann won’t wow you with pure raw stuff, but he has a feel for three, generates tough angle and gets the most from a 92-94 fastball. He gets out front well and produces some hop to the fastball that makes it jump on hitters. That same angle can make the breaking ball and changeup play up as well through deception and arm-speed replication. Neither are huge bat-missers, but he shows feel for both and they play off each other well along with the fastball. It’s a sum-of-parts approach that could find success as a pro.
Adam Zebrowski, the 13th-rounder, is a big-bodied college catcher from the Northeast. He’s a grip-it-and-rip-it guy with big loft and muscled power to all fields. The swing is a bit deep and may produce swing-and-miss as a pro, but the power stroke is fun to watch. I don’t know what kind of catching skills he has, but the arm doesn’t stand out on video and the frame works against him. We’ll see about that aspect.
Braves 14th-rounder, Caleb Durbin, is a college shortstop with a small, compact frame. He has a sneaky quick bat that generates line drives to all fields. It’s a contact profile with a very good feel for the strike zone. Another steady, up-the-middle college guy for the system.
Stanford center fielder Christian Robinson offers a little intrigue in the 15th round. He suddenly unlocked power this season and now offers a mix of some pop and speed while playing up the middle with a solid, athletic frame. The swing is a bit unorthodox, but he has good hands and can turn on the ball with quickness. He did see the strikeout totals rise with the added power.
Kris Anglin is a JuCo pick from Texas for the 16th round. He’s an undersized lefty with three pitches, none of which will stand out, but it’s a good sum of parts. The breaking ball flashes downward tilt and good depth, while the changeup actually flashes very well but lacks feel. Fastball velo isn’t a strength unless it popped up before the draft and I’m unaware.
The Braves went back to their backyard for the 17th round in Kennesaw State catcher Tyler Tolve. He was a performer in two years for the Owls with power and on-base ability while offering some athleticism behind the plate. I don’t have much beyond that.
Austin Smith, 18th-rounder out of Arizona, is a right-hander picked for his arm strength. The positives are clear: quick arm and big fastball. He gets downhill very well and releases late with good extension from a high slot, making the fastball jump on hitters even more. He mixes in a short slider that needs further development. This is a project pick, but there’s pretty good upside here for the 18th round if the Braves can unlock more feel and a better breaking ball.
The Braves picked Samford left-hander Samuel Strickland in the 19th round. I have nothing on him. He’s a senior performer.
The Braves said they expected to sign 19 of their 20 picks. I’m going to assume 20th-rounder Ty Evans is the exception, but I don’t know that for sure. Evans is one of the highest-ranked prep players in the state of Florida for 2021 and probably requires a significant bonus to pull him away from his Florida commitment. It would be a tremendous haul if the Braves were able to pull that off. Evans needs to free up his lower half and overall actions at the plate, but the framework is there to be a very good hitter with a super quick stroke and all-fields approach with authority. He is physically maturing very quickly and has an outstanding frame with strength and athleticism. If Evans doesn’t sign, I expect him to be a big-time player at Florida.