Previous Prospect Outlooks:
The Braves have a decision looming at the shortstop position. Following the 2022 season, Dansby Swanson will be an unrestricted free agent. Of course, that is assuming Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t ink an extension with him before then. I’ve advocated for the Braves to extend Swanson. I don’t think there’s much better out there that will be in their price range, and I also believe Swanson’s best baseball is in front of him. However, a lot of it could depend on the development of Braden Shewmake.
Shemake was a first-round selection in 2019 out of Texas A&M, and he quickly burst onto the scene in his first stint of professional ball. But like a lot of promising prospects, the year off in 2020 seemed to halt his progress. He began the 2021 campaign in AA and got off to a painfully slow start. Here’s a snippet of an article from back in May describing Shewmake’s early season struggles:
Through Tuesday’s games, with a total of 59 PA this season (a sample-size of just seven more PA than he accrued at the level in ’19), Shewmake was at a putrid 6 wRC+. Yes, that’s right… a six. The 23-year-old is slashing just .093/.169/.204 for the year, and his latest scuffle has him in the midst of a 1 for 18 funk (.056 AVG) with only one XBH in his last five games. In fact, of his 15 games in 2021, Shewmake has recorded a hit in just four of them as the line of 0 for 4s are starting to pile up.
Things didn’t get better immediately either, but eventually, Shewmake did start to look more like the player from 2019. His .228 average and .672 OPS are far from eye-popping, but that’s quite a turnaround, and he did flash some power throughout the season, smacking 12 homers in just 83 games.
I’m remaining bullish on Shewmake, despite a shaky 2021. However, I never thought he would be the next shortstop in Atlanta. I always viewed him as a utility player who could develop into an everyday player if he grew into his 6’4″ frame. Regardless, he’s at least a year away from contributing in the majors, and I highly doubt the Braves are expecting him to be the starting shortstop in 2023, which is why I believe figuring out the future of the position should be at the top of the list of the Braves’ priorities moving forward.