When he was selected 15th overall in the 2013 draft, Braden Shipley became the highest-drafted athlete in the University of Nevada’s history, purloining that mantle from former NBA guard Kirk Snyder (RIP). Shipley spent his freshman season at Nevada playing all but two of his games at shortstop, hitting .344 in conference play and successfully completing 80% of his stolen-base attempts. He took to the mound as a sophomore, partly just because Nevada needed extra arms, and he was terrific, leading the WAC in ERA. That summer, as a rising junior, Shipley pitched in relief in the Alaskan Summer League, was touching 97, and struck out 22 hitters in just 13 innings. He was up to 99 as a junior, impressing scouts with his athleticism, arm acceleration and the changeup projection those two attributes allow.
As is the case with many conversion arms, Shipley’s athleticism has played a huge role in his minor-league development and has allowed him to make adjustments. Most notably, Shipley’s reined in his fastball. Gone is the occasional upper-90s heat in deference to a sinking fastball in the 89-92 range that touches 94. The pitch will flatten out at times, usually when Shipley — who’s only 6-foot-1 — tries to work up in the zone with it, but dialing things back has allowed Shipley to cut his walk rate in half this season. The pitch is most effective when Shipley is locating it to his glove side, allowing the pitch to run back onto the corner.
Shipley’s best secondary pitch has long been his changeup. It’s a straight change, not of the circle or vulcan variety, and comes in 84-87. It was once considered a future plus pitch but hasn’t played as well this season as it has in the past. I wonder if the conscious decision to pump the breaks on his fastball has impacted the utility of the changeup, though no scout has proactively stated so. Because of Shipley’s athleticism, it’s more likely that he’s able to make an adjustment that creates more movement and fade on his change than its current iteration, which has leaned more heavily on arm speed to miss bats.
The curveball is an average, 11-5 sweeper that Shipley can locate both in the zone and out. He doesn’t get on top of the pitch enough to create consistent and powerful downward break, but he can use it as first-pitch surprise to get ahead of hitters when he doesn’t have his fastball command.
Because Shipley has already shown a proclivity for making adjustments, there’s always the chance that he’ll continue to make more and at some point he’ll probably have to. For now, though, we have to project Shipley based on his current repertoire, which lacks a swing-and-miss offering but I think will be deep and effective enough for him to get by as league-average starter once he calibrates to big-league hitters.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.