The Tampa Bay Rays have added their third shortstop of the draft, Jalen Battles from the University of Arkansas.
Battles is touted as one of the best defenders in all of college baseball, but lacks strong offensive tools, projecting a below average hit tool and power rating. However, he is extremely athletic, so there is potential for him to increase his abilities at the plate.
Although MLB Pipeline didn’t have Battles among their top 250 draft prospects, they seem to be higher on him than Baseball America (who ranked him 361st), as they raved about his defensive abilities:
One of the best defensive shortstops in college baseball, Battles has solid range and well above-average arm strength. While he’s a below-average hitter with power to match, he did post the best numbers of his college career this spring, batting .289/.364/.480 with 10 homers in 66 games while helping Arkansas reach the College World Series. He’s an average runner.
Meanwhile, Baseball America had this to say about the Rays draftee:
He has an above-average arm and above-average range. His glove should make him an excellent senior sign, although his bat will limit how high he will go. He can turn on a fastball with his fringe-average power, but he’s generally been an easy mark for pitchers who induce him to chase sliders, and especially changeups, away. He pulls off those pitches too often, although his average hand-eye coordination keeps him from being a massive liability as a bottom-of-the-order bat.
After the Rays announced their selection of Battles, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo reaffirmed the claim of Battles being a top notch defender:
“Jalen Battles is one of the best defensive shortstops in the college ranks. He’s got solid range and a very strong arm. He can definitely play short. He’s the reason why Robert Moore was at second base. He’s got some power…it’s not big-time power. The bat is going to determine if he’s an every-day player or is he a utility guy.”
Battles was previously drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 34th round of the 2019 draft out of high school, but chose to go to college instead of signing.