The Atlanta Braves selected AJ Smith-Shawver in the seventh round of the 2021 MLB Draft Monday. Smith-Shawver is a 6’3, 205 pound high school pitcher that hits and throws right handed. Smith-Shawver, from Frisco, Texas, is actually not just a two way player with significant power potential as a bat, but also a legitimate Texas HS football star as a quarterback. He was committed to play at Texas Tech.
Baseball America- 319
Perfect Game- 387
The Athletic/Keith Law- N/A
Fastball - 55/60
Smith-Shawver has the potential for a big fastball, already reaching 96 MPH on the gun with good life on the pitch. Based on his body, athleticism, and how new to pitching he is, there is some hope he can eventually push the fastball closer to triple digits.
Curve - 50
The curve is a pitch that he has shown some feel for spinning, but is a pitch that requires a lot of projection as it just doesn’t have the power to be an asset yet. This average grade could end up being on the low end by the time Smith-Shawver gets closer to Atlanta.
Change - TBD
The change just isn’t a pitch that we have seen much of at all for Smith-Shawver and it will be one of the keys for him as he gets into the system. There is enough reason to think this fresh arm with athleticism and a feel for pitching can develop a quality changeup in time.
Command - 50
Smith-Shawver has shown some feel for throwing strikes early in his pitching career, so the hope that he develops average command isn’t something that takes a lot of projection.
Smith-Shawver is a classic projectable arm, a player who has to not only fill in his body but has gains to be made by giving up hitting and football. This is certainly a high upside pick for an arm that really hasn’t pitched all that much to this point in his career.
Smith-Shawver reminds me of another Texas HS QB drafted by the Braves with a high pick in Anthony Guardado. Guardado never got going as health issues kept him from reaching his ceiling, but like Smith-Shawver he was a good upside investment by the Braves.
This is a very strong pick, but a pick that will take a few years as the Braves get him to fill in his body and really help this fresh arm grow.