Matt Shaw – Picture by Tennessee Smokies
In just a few weeks, Baseball America will be releasing their draft class grades for every club. There are 12 categories that the publication breaks down. Last year, I did OK in picking 7 of the 12 winners. This year I thought about just putting Matt Shaw down for every hitting award and I came pretty close to doing so.
BEST PURE HITTER: Matt Shaw
Once you’ve seen Matt Shaw for a couple of weeks, it’s pretty easy to dream on his future ability and levels he will play at in 2024. The ball just jumps off his bat. He also has potential for power as well as the ability to drive the ball to all parts of the ballpark. I would be surprised if he still in the minors at the end of 2024 season.
BEST POWER HITTER: Brian Kalmer
Kalmer was easily the biggest surprise of the draft class. Taking in the 19th round out of Gonzaga, he had a funky way to get drafted, but the kid showed up and just played “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” on every baseball in the Carolina League, a noted pitcher’s league.
FASTEST RUNNER: Zyhir Hope
It’s not like the North Side Bound staff sat out on the backfields of Arizona with a stopwatch, but Zyhir Hope is easily the fastest runner in this class. I’m excited to see him at Myrtle Beach in 2024.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Brett Bateman
Behind Shaw and Kalmer at the plate, I am equally impressed with the ability of Brett Bateman to go get a baseball in centerfield. He’s a throwback offensively to the 1970s style of leadoff hitter, but he provides top-notch defense as well.
BEST FASTBALL: Jaxon WIggins
Not sure how Jaxon Wiggins’ 2024 season is going to be, but he has some nasty-nasty stuff and he did it with authority before undergoing Tommy John surgery.
BEST SECONDARY PITCH: Will Sanders – Changeup
Will Sanders’ ability to spin a baseball has never been a question throughout his college career. Now that he’s a Cub, I’m pretty excited to see that changeup debut next year and just baffle Midwest League hitters.
BEST PRO DEBUT: Shaw vs Kalmer
Giving this award to two players is most likely not going to happen. But Shaw had an amazing debut and so did Kalmer. I guess if you had to say 1A versus 1B, then Shaw is going to beat Kalmer out by nose.
BEST ATHLETE: Alfonsin Rosario
I’m pretty sure Rosario’s going to be at Myrtle Beach next summer and that will be impressive as a 19-year-old. Not only does he have some speed, he has brute strength that the Cubs are going to try to get him to tap into the next few years.
MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: Daniel Brown
This guy is a lottery ticket waiting to happen. Blessed with a rocket arm and the inability to control it, Brown’s career path should be interesting to watch. I would not be surprised to see him in Arizona most of the year until he does learn to throw the ball across the plate with regularity. He was a former outfielder that Clemson moved to the bullpen, and that alone will win you this award, especially when throw 96+.
CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: Shaw
I don’t think I need to elaborate at all on this selection.
BEST LATE-ROUND PICK (OR NDFA): Kalmer
The 19th rounder cranked out 10 home runs and drove in 42 in just a little over 120 ABs. That works out to about a 45 home run pace with almost 200 RBI. That’s how much he demolished baseballs in the Carolinas.
THE ONE WHO GOT AWAY
No one. The Cubs signed every draft pick plus 2 nondrafted free agents.
We shall see how well I did in just a few weeks.
If you have some different choices put them in the comments below.