On Day 3 of the 2019 MLB Draft the Braves used their first pick of the day, the 11th round selection, on a talented infielder from Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Florida- an area around Orlando. That infielder’s name is Vaughn Grissom, a 6’3”, 180 pound high school shortstop.
Grissom is a guy who I knew going in to the interview was an interesting story. He was high school teammates with this year’s #5 overall pick, Riley Greene, as well as a player that has seen time at second base, third base, and pitching in addition to his time at shortstop.
Grissom wasn’t just a teammate of Greene’s who benefitted from the presence of extra scouts, as he is quite the prospect in his own right, ranking #20 on the 2019 Talking Chop 3B prospect list for this draft, and standing out at the WWBA Championships last fall- a top wood bat tournament.
Today he gets his pro career underway, starting with the GCL Braves, a local start for a kid just outside of Orlando.
Talking Chop: First I just wanted to say congratulations on being drafted. I know this had to be a lifelong goal of yours. How does it feel to be drafted? How did you find out you were drafted?
Vaughn Grissom: It’s honestly unreal. Still a part of me can’t believe it because a couple of years ago the thing was for me to go to play college baseball somewhere. For that to turn into this is every kid’s dream.
In the morning we were talking, I talked with the Braves previously and I knew there was interest so there were negotiations. I kind of knew minutes before, about 30 minutes before. Even leading up to it they were texting me five minutes before saying they’re going to pick me there. Even when they(MLB’s broadcast of the draft call) were saying the Braves pick (me) I couldn’t believe it. I was shaking and really nervous because you never really believe it’s going to happen.
TC: How do you feel about the Braves drafting you? Have they been on you a long time?
VG: The area scout always used to be around Hagerty High and is a really cool guy. I honestly didn’t know they were really on me like that. It was exciting. You know at Hagerty we had Riley (Greene, 5th overall pick of the 2019 MLB Draft) so a lot of people were out there, a lot of attention. I didn’t know the Braves were going to be the team, but I love the Braves. My dad grew up watching them. That’s all they had was watching the Braves, Chipper Jones and all those guys, so he was really excited for it to me the Braves and obviously me too. That’s a great organization and they’re doing really well right now.
TC: You mentioned playing with Riley Greene, and you’re obviously an excellent player yourself, and he’s one of the top the top guys in this class. What was it like to play with him? To know that you have him in the lineup with you to make your lineup even more scary, and to help bring in even more scouts to watch you guys?
VG: It was probably the best thing that ever could have happened for me. It was a lot of attention and me and him have been playing together since we were 12-13 and it’s always been a competition. Just like every baseball player we’re super competitive and we’re trying to one up each other and push each other on the field, off the field, in BP, whatever. We have a great relationship, and obviously him bringing in scouts helped me out so much and I respect him so much for that. It’s probably one of my biggest blessings.
TC: I’d like to ask about your defensive position. I know you’ve played all around the infield though mostly shortstop, but have played third base, second base, and even pitched. Is there a spot you prefer to play? Is there a spot the Braves mentioned you playing?
VG: I like to play in the field(laughs). It doesn’t matter, I play my role and not super specific. In the game I like different roles. You always want to stay at shortstop, and no one ever says they want to leave shortstop. The Braves haven’t said anything about it yet, but I’m going to work my hardest to stay wherever they pick for me.
TC: Offensively how would you describe your approach? Are you just looking to make contact? Are you seeking out line drives and home runs? Or do you try to wait it out for your pitch?
VG: As the competition gets better it’s more of a guessing game until you’ve got two strikes. I love to hit the ball hard and love to find barrels(barrel of the bat). That’s one of my best aspects. I don’t go up there with a certain mentality. Every at bat is different and there is a different job if there’s guys on second and third, it always depends (on the situation). I go up there and see the field and just have to know what position you’re in. I love saying up the middle, that’s what I do really good.
TC: Who do you think the toughest pitcher you’ve faced is, whether in high school or the national events?
VG: Alejandro Torres. He’s another FIU guy. His ball really lays hard, a lot of run, curveball is a banger, changeup is good. It’s all around good and you never know what you’re going to get from him because he throws all three for strikes. It’s always a tough at bat against him.
TC: You mentioned FIU(Florida International). What made you pick them over everyone else? Was it the location being close to home? Was it Coach Melendez and his strong recruiting?
VG: Jerry Goodwin was the main reason, and Coach Melendez was an even better plus. My mom and Coach Melendez went to school together, and actually rode the same bus in high school. With Jerry Goodwin being at Hagerty before, he’s always been a mentor. I really look up to him. It was no question.
TC: You mentioned the Braves were your favorite team and you mentioned Chipper Jones, but were there any other players you grew up trying to model your game after?
VG: Not really, I try to be my own guy. I never really try to be someone else, I try to be the best me. Hopefully kids look up to me one day. I try to model my game by how Vaughn Grissom wants to play.
TC: If you had to pick one part of your game that you think needs the most work between now and your next stop, what would you say that is?
VG: Since I was little I’ve always wanted to have game changing speed. I want to be as fast as I can be, like a Dee Gordon or Billy Hamilton to be a threat on the bases every time. I just want to be a threat to steal 30 bags, I want to be a threat every time I step on the base.
TC: What was this draft process like for you as a whole? All the scout visits, the showcases, the calls, and visits to teams. Now that it’s over, just how hectic was is and what do you plan to do next?
VG: The whole process was good. I liked where things were going. This was the dream as a kid, and who doesn’t want to be a big leaguer when you play baseball? It was really cool seeing everything happen. Coming up to the draft a couple days before it started slowing down, then draft day came and it started speeding up again. It was a rollercoaster. During the season you don’t really think about it, you try to just go and win the next game. You know Hagerty does a lot of winning so you don’t really care about anything else. I mean stuff takes care of itself and when it was all done it was like the biggest burden off your shoulders. It felt awesome. It’s great. It’s still awesome. You wake up and like damn, I have a shot right now. I can’t wait to get started honestly.