Braves Prospect Braden Shewmake Wants To Spin the Pitcher’s Cap

Braden Shewmake’s name will rank highly when Eric Longenhagen’s 2021 Atlanta Braves Top Prospects list comes out in the not-too-distant future. A well-rounded profile is a big reason why. The 23-year-old Texas A&M product plays a premium position, and his left-handed stroke not only produced a plethora of line drives in the SEC, it did much the same in his first forays against professional pitching. Drafted 21st overall in 2019, Shewmake went on to slash .300/.371/.425, reaching Double-A by season’s end. As Longhagen wrote in last year’s writeup, Shewmake “was outstanding at the plate, with an excellent approach and sneaky power to go along with very positive public and private defensive metrics at shortstop.”

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David Laurila: Let’s start with your position. Are the plans for you to stay at shortstop?

Braden Shewmake: “As far as I know. I haven’t been taking groundballs at any position other than shortstop, and I like to think I could play there. Of course, anything to get to the big leagues, right?”

Laurila: What are you doing toward that end? At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, you’re built more like a third baseman than your typical shortstop.

Shewmake: “I’m trying to get quicker and faster, but I feel I can already move really well. I was kind of skeptical at first about out how much weight I wanted to put on — like you said, I’m 205 now — and what that would do to my speed and quickness. But this offseason we did kind of a baseline test, kind of a before and after, and I’ve actually gotten faster and quicker. I’m also stronger. I feel really good with where I’m at right now.”

Laurila: Did you get many comps from scouts prior to coming to pro ball?

Shewmake: “Not a ton. From a hitting standpoint, I did hear Christian Yelich a few times, back when he was a young kid in Miami. He could hit then, but obviously not like he has [with Milwaukee]. He was kind of who I looked at and thought, ‘Hey, if I can start gaining some weight, get faster, get stronger, that’s a guy that I can look like. Of course, I had no idea he would become an MVP. But he is a guy that my dad and I watched a lot of — swing videos, and that kind of thing — because of his long, wiry frame and the way that his body moved.”

Laurila: Outside of you being a left-handed hitter and him being a right-handed hitter, I can see a little DJ LeMahieu in your profile.

Shewmake: “That’s another comp I’ve heard. I try to be flat, with line drives, and that’s his game as well. My dad is kind of my go-to as a hitting coach — he’s the head baseball coach at a D-3 school, UT Dallas — and our approach is basically to hit one-hop line drives off the wall. Home runs are mistakes. That’s kind of how we look at my swing path.”

Laurila: With that approach, I assume your try to go foul pole to foul pole.

Shewmake: “Definitely foul pole to foul pole. Growing up, it was nailed into my brain that if you can hit the ball away, you can hit the ball in. So we’ve focused on hitting the ball away, all the time. We work middle, then we work away, then we work in, then we go back to away. Sometimes we vary it a little, but we finish away with most of the stuff we do. I feel that if I can hit the ball to all fields… that opens up so much.”

Laurila: Come game time, are you basically sitting middle-away and reacting in?

Shewmake: “Yeah. That was my approach a lot in college, because that’s all they do in college. Once they figure out you can hit a little bit, they throw you away, away, away. I’m trying to hit the ball right back… I’m trying to spin the pitcher’s cap. That’s what I try to do. I’m trying to spin the pitchers cap, back through the middle of the field. Obviously, the ball will dictate which gap I’m going towards — the speed, the spin, the ball in or out.”

Laurila: Do you pay much attention to hitting analytics?

Shewmake: “I try to balance it as much as I can. When I start thinking too much is when things can kind of go sideways on me. But you definitely do go up there thinking, ‘Hey, this is a high-spin rate guy, so I’m going to have to try to get on top of the ball a little bit more.’ Things like that. Every now and then you can cheat in for a pitch or two, and if you don’t get it, you don’t swing at it. You go back to whatever your approach was before that.”

Laurila: Do you see yourself needing to hit for more power to play in the big leagues?

Shewmake: “Not necessarily. My dad always says, ‘I’d rather you hit .320 with 12-15 home runs and 60 doubles than hit .250 with 25 home runs and 30 doubles.’ But I do think the power has started to develop a lot more. I can tell a difference, and my dad has told me that he can see a difference in the ball coming off my bat.”

Laurila: There’s also a question of what the future holds. With talk of deadening the ball, and rule changes to have more balls put in play, do we even know what the offensive environment is going to look like in a few years?

Shewmake: “That’s a really good question. Right now, the game is ‘hit it high, hit it far.’ But if they do deaden the balls a little bit, a lot of these pop-up home runs are going to be outs. At the same time, guys who are hitting balls into the gaps are still going to be hitting a ton of doubles. No matter where the game goes, an approach of one hop line drives off the wall is always going to play.”

Laurila: What were you hearing going into the draft? Not just what teams were looking for from an offensive standpoint, but also your future position?

Shewmake: “As best as I could tell, it was kind of split between, ‘Hey, you’re a shortstop right now, but you may move,’ and a couple of other teams — the Braves for one — were like, ‘Hey, we think you can play shortstop, we’re going to make you make us move you.’ It was kind of the same with [offense]. Some were, ‘We like what you’re doing, we like that approach,’ and others were more, ‘We like that approach, however if you can hit this many home runs, and do this-that-and-the-other, we think you can get up to the big leagues for us.’”

Laurila: Did getting drafted by the Braves come at all as a surprise?

Shewmake: “I had a meeting with them, and all that stuff, but I didn’t know how hard they were going to come after me. I didn’t know until two picks beforehand that I was getting picked by them. I hadn’t had any contact with them day-of.

“The team I thought was going to come the hardest was the Rays, and I guess they did, because one of their national cross-checkers texted me after I got taken by the Braves. He said they were going to be taking me with the next pick.”

Laurila: Any final thoughts?

Shewmake: “Maybe just that the mental side — how the game is approached, and how you prepare for a game — is really big. My dad and I think that’s really important. There are a couple of different things I’ve done the last few years as far as documenting how at-bats went, how pitchers would throw to me, how teams throw to me. Having those little… it’s a cheat-sheet, almost. Because you’re going to be playing the same teams multiple times, having that information gives you a little head start. It’s kind of, ‘Hey, what is this series going to look like?’ It’s ‘How does the Reds organization throw against you,’ versus ‘How does the Brewers organization throw against you?’

“That’s more of the analytical side of things, I guess. You’re going back and looking at spray charts. Maybe I had four hits and they were all to the pull side, so the last game they started to shift me. So if they’re going to throw me away, like they did in my first couple of at-bats, I’m going to sit on hard away and hit the ball the other way. That will push them back to the other side, which will open up the the whole field for me. As we touched on earlier, that’s kind of what my game is.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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Francoeurstein
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Francoeurstein

Wow! His dad thinks he’s going to be the greatest doubles hitter of all-time

psiferret
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psiferret

Chipper is going to absolutely love working with this kid’s swing and approach