When the Braves selected Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers No. 9 overall in the MLB draft, they envisioned a tough-minded, elite-defending backstop who could be the long-term answer for the franchise.
Langeliers, who on Saturday homered three times and set an NCAA tournament record with 11 RBIs in the Bears’ win over Omaha, is commonly considered the best defensive catcher in the class. His recent offensive explosion gives further credence to the organization’s belief that he possesses real offensive upside.
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Now the organization adds a seasoned catching prospect to grow with its cupboard of arms.
“The Braves are a phenomenal organization,” Langeliers said. “They’re a great team. They’re a young team. They’re very talented and I’m very excited to be part of this organization.”
In his college career, Langeliers hit .289 while starting all 157 games. He was a unanimous first-time All-Big 12 selection in 2018 and 2019. He was a second-team All-American in 2018 and earned freshman All-American honors the year prior.
“I’ve seen Shea since high school, had the chance to scout him a lot more at Baylor University,” Braves vice president of scouting Dana Brown said. “So I’ve had the change to track his progress. Starting last summer, I got a chance to see him a bit more. It was exciting to see how well he progressed this spring. He’s the type of catcher you can have long-term, so it’s a long-term investment. We think we can get him here quick to the big leagues. We think he’s that type of player. It’s elite defense. We think this is a great pick for the franchise.”
Brown continuously praised Langeliers toughness and character. At the beginning of the season, Langeliers broke the hamate bone of his catcher’s hand on the first swing of his second game. He played both games that Saturday, getting an MRI the next morning that revealed he’d miss anywhere between 4-6 weeks.
Langeliers returned in under three, ultimately missing just 10 games. It confirmed the toughness the Braves already adored.
“I was just trying to do everything in my power to be back playing for this team as quickly as I could,” Langeliers said. “This year, as a group – the upperclassmen, juniors and seniors on the team – we felt this was our year to do something special. When I was out, I felt like I needed to come back and help the team as soon as I could. I did everything in my power. … I just knew I didn’t have that kind of time to sit out for this team.”
Brown added: “The hamate injury is an interesting thing because he came back so fast. So usually guys don’t come back that fast. This guy came back in less than three weeks and he was already taking swings. It tells you about his mental toughness and his toughness. Ex-linebacker in high school when he played football. So this is a tough guy who has the mental strength and makeup for the position. That tells you a lot about a kid that he worked that hard to get back that fast from a hammy injury.”
The season turned into quite a success: Langeliers hit .308/.374/.530 in 44 games. His junior season was an enormous leap forward offensively, with the 21-year-old registering 20 extra-base hits, 33 runs and 42 RBIs.
Langeliers believes his offense has significantly improved, noting he was a majority pull-hitter his freshman year but worked extensively to spread the ball. He struggling as a sophomore, hitting .252 and striking out in 20 percent of his at-bats; that turned out to be what he needed.
“That made me mentally stronger,” Langeliers said. “Slumps happen. It’s baseball. The toughest thing about slumps is trying to get out of a slump. It’s made me a better baseball player.”
Defense is his calling card. Langeliers threw out 14 of 25 (56 percent) of base runners, including 13 of 21 (62 percent) since returning from his injury. He’ll start at least in A-ball, beginning his “fast track,” as Brown put it, to the majors.
Langeliers, who idolized Yadier Molina, joins a system that lacks top-tier catching prospects outside of William Contreras. Most had him pegged as first-round worthy off defense alone, meaning his offense will determine just how quickly he rises through the ranks.
“The bat’s come around too,” Brown said. “We think this is a catcher who’s going to get to some power. The barrier of entry for catchers with bats is not that high. But this guy can hit and he has power. We expect big things from him. … Plus plus arm, plus plus defense, high I.Q., big-time makeup, high energy type player. Just a good package for the franchise. We think with this pick we can potentially solve the catching position.”
Brown, who’s orchestrating his first draft for the franchise, shied away from the Braves’ long-standing trend of taking prep arms. Their current system, despite churning out pitcher after pitcher, still ranks among baseball’s deepest in pitching talent.
That didn’t factor into the decision, Brown said. The Braves viewed Langeliers, whom they were linked to in the pre-draft rumor mill, as the best player at their spot.
“I know in the past here, they’ve taken a lot of arms, which is understandable,” Brown said. “But if it was an arm who was the best player available, we would’ve taken an arm. At the end of the day, we thought it was this catcher. We thought he had long-term staying power in the organization. High character, high impact-type bat and glove. We’re excited to have him.”
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