With the 35th overall pick in the 2010 Major League First Year Player Draft, the Atlanta Braves took shortstop Matt Lipka from McKinney High School in Frisco, Texas. On first blush I like the pick. Lipka represents the Braves desire to add middle infield depth to their system. The words I keep seeing repeated about him are that he's very toolsy and athletic, and the Braves have a history of liking players like that they can mold into the baseball player they want to see. I also hear the word signable repeated a LOT.
Matt Lipka is an ultra-athletic shortstop from McKinney High School in McKinney, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Lipka is one of the more toolsy middle infielders available in this draft, and while he’s rawer than a number of his fellow draft prospects, he’s expected to be an early pick based solely on those tools. A wide receiver in high school, he had a number of scholarship offers to continue that side of his career, but he chose instead to focus on baseball, this despite the fact that his McKinney High teammate, Zach Lee, is supposed to be LSU’s quarterback of the future. Lipka is considered the more signable of the two, and he has a chance to be a starting shortstop or center fielder at the next level. At the plate, he’s a solid-average hitter with average raw power, though he shoots more for the gaps at the moment. He has a chance to grow into his frame a little bit, and some scouts believe he’ll actually hit for more than average power, though that’s not the consensus. He’s a plus-plus runner by any stopwatch, though, and that should become a key part of his offensive and defensive game. In the field, he’s currently a shortstop with above-average range, but his hands aren’t suited well for the position, and he might have to move to center field shortly. He’s a fringe-average defender as it is, and he has an above-average arm. If he moves to center field, he could be an above-average defender, though that’s more speculation than actual scouting. He is likely to go somewhere from rounds two to four, and though he might not be signable for mere slot money, he’s a signable player.
A lot of the mock drafts I'm looking at had Lipka in the second round. But most of them also mention Lipka towards the end of the first round. This sort of exemplifies the top of this year's draft, as there are a lot of guys who could go anywhere in the first two and half rounds, and Lipka's one of those guys. There are going to be folks who say we over-drafted him, or picked him only because of signability, but they said that about Mike Minor last year, and he's doing pretty good right now -- better than many expected. Sometimes signability is a good thing.
Lipka also fills another need in the Braves system -- speed. As a top wide receiver he possesses plus-plus speed, and is considered one of the fastest players in the draft. Think of a younger and toolsier version of Mycal Jones, whom the Braves took in the fourth-round last year. I continue to like this pick.