The Atlanta Braves are off to a surprisingly positive start, going 4-2 through the first week of action. While fans wait to see if those results will last, the MiLB season officially kicked off on Thursday. Fans of Atlanta will be closely tuned in this year as the rebuild marches on with a number of prospects projected to rise through the system.
One prospect that will be interesting to keep an eye on is Drew Lugbauer. He was drafted by the Braves in the 11th round of the 2017 draft after three collegiate seasons at Michigan. Following a successful professional debut last season, Lugbauer now faces the challenge of finding consistency with a shot to prove he can progress through Atlanta’s system.
Atlanta Braves Prospect Profile – C Drew Lugbauer
Lugbauer was originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 21st round of the 2014 amateur draft. He did not sign and instead headed off to the University of Michigan to play college ball. Lugbauer had a solid career with the Wolverines with an especially impressive junior season. He posted a .919 OPS with 12 home runs, 13 doubles, and 43 runs scored in 59 games. Deciding to forego his senior year, Lugbauer finished his Wolverines career with a slash-line of .274/.376/.454 to go with 19 home runs, 34 doubles, and 93 runs scored in 158 games.
Draft and Debut
The Braves saw enough in Lugbauer to select him in the 11th round of the 2017 draft. He signed soon after and was assigned to the rookie-level Danville Braves. He wasted no time in making an impression, displaying impressive power with 10 home runs in 29 games with Danville. His batting average was just .243 over that stretch, but he carried a .366 OBP and impressive .573 slugging percentage for a .939 OPS.
His performance was enough to warrant a quick promotion to Single-A where he played 31 games. While his numbers did slow down, he still produced a .277/.338/.462 slash with three home runs, 11 doubles, and 13 runs scored.
All things considered, Lugbauer’s professional debut went quite well. He appeared in 60 total games with 13 home runs, 15 doubles, 36 runs scored, and 46 RBI. Additionally, the Braves were able to move him around on defense, playing him at first, third, and catcher last season.
Lugbauer is an especially interesting case in terms of Atlanta’s prospects, but he certainly provided a taste of his talent in 2017. His performance last season was enough for the folks at Talking Chop to rate him as the organization’s No. 30 overall prospect heading into 2018. Lugbauer’s power is his best tool, and his progression likely depends on how consistently he displays it in game. If he continues to hit, he could move up quite quickly.
The biggest question may be determining which position Lugbauer is best suited for. He made his 2018 debut with Rome at catcher, going 1-for-3 with an RBI and a walk, but the position is one that Atlanta’s system is loaded at. Brett Cumberland and Lucas Herbert will begin 2018 at Advanced-A Florida, Alex Jackson is at Double-A Mississippi, and William Contreras is at Danville, just one level behind Lugbauer. However, as the Talking Chop crew pointed out, a straight switch to third base or first base would put a lot more pressure on Lugbauer’s offensive development.
At this point, the biggest thing is watching to see if Lugbauer can produce consistently. If his bat and power continue to progress, it will not matter too much where the Braves play him. For now, fans close to Rome should make a trip to check out Lugbauer and the rest of the talented prospects there.
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