Brady Shoemaker, 1B/OF
Bi-weekly Stats: 11-32 (.344), 2 HR, 3B, 4 2B, 12 RBI, 7 BB, 10 K
The road to the show is almost never an easy one and quite occasionally, it is a very hard one to hoe. Just ask Brady Shoemaker.
A country-strong 6’0″ 190 pounder from Indiana, put his athleticism on full display during his days as a high schooler by playing and playing well in two different Northview High School uniforms — baseball and football. In baseball, he was a letterman in all four of his high school years. In football, he won letters in three of his seasons. In his senior year, Shoemaker was named to Indiana’s all-state teams in both sports. Despite his success as a defensive back, Shoemaker always considered his lifelong dream to be a professional baseball player. After high school, he moved on to Olney Junior College where he still owns school records in nearly every major hitting category including best BA (.456), most doubles (53), most runs scored (138) most RBIs (156). From there, he made the jump to the ranks of the NCAA at Indiana State University for the final two years of his college career. In 2009, Shoemaker started all 50 of the Sycamores’ games. He continued his trend of leading his team in all major statistics by collecting the most homers (9), most doubles (13), most RBIs (68), highest slugging percentage (.556) highest OBP (.437) and best K/BB (32/30). In his senior year, the Sycamores posted a 33-21 record, their best season in six years’ time, making them runners up for the division title. Shoemaker once again led his team in offense by way of even more beastly numbers. Not only did Shoemaker once again lead his team in every major batting marker, his totals in runs (65), walks (43), total bases (142), OBP (.512), slugging (.700), and OPS (1.212) were best in the entire Missouri Valley conference and earned him a spot on the All-Conference team. To make it even more clear how ridiculously well he performed that season, Shoemaker ranked 67th in all of Division I baseball in slugging, 60th in runs per game (1.2), 58th in walks, 19th in OBP, and 11th in RBIs per game (1.36). Shoemaker was successful off of the field as well that year. He rounded out his resume by being named to the All-Academic team, making him quite the attractive piece in the 2010 MLB Draft.
In the 50-round MLB draft in 2010, the White Sox took Shoemaker in the 19th. Even for a lot of major leaguers who go on to have successful careers, transitioning from college to the majors is not an easy task. So when Shoemaker hit safely in each of his first 28 games as a pro, he really began to turn heads. What is more is that in those 28 games, Shoemaker proved that he can hit both lefties and righties effectively. A right handed hitter, he even hit righties slightly better over that span (313 vs LHP; .459 vs RHP) which was all the more encouraging. Appearing in 57 of the Bristol White Sox’s 68 games in his rookie year, Shoemaker’s tendency to lead his team in offense reared its head for a third straight year. His .351/.426/.585 slash line along with his 120 total bases, 30 XBHs and 34 RBIs were all tops on that year’s squad. His 1.011 OPS ranked fifth in the entire Appalachian League and outdid the likes of Jose Altuve and Brian Dozier.
Shoemaker’s first full major league season came in 2010 when he appeared in 96 games for the White Sox’s single A affiliate Kannapolis Intimidators. The hits kept coming for Shoemaker, who was once again the best hitter on the team with a .293/.381/.473 line. Shoemaker placed 11th in the entire Sally League in OPS, outperforming league mates Altuve, Juan Lagares and Jimmy Paredes and falling just short of outdoing Nolan Arenado. The only knock against Shoemaker’s game that year was the fact that he posted a career worse 2.51 K/BB but that can be attributed to the fact that he was hitting for a sub-par team that without him slashed just .256/.274/.386. Despite the high K total, Shoemaker looked primed to begin 2011 in A+ and stay on pace to make the majors by age 27. However, the White Sox had other plans. While Altuve and Paredes received promotions to A+ or higher, Shoemaker inexplicably was shunned by Chicago and kept in single A Kannapolis for the bulk of the 2011 season. Despite the frustration of not being rewarded for great play, Shoemaker continued to mash at the plate and put together another great season. As you may have guessed by now, he once again led the Intimidators in all three slash categories (319/.399/.493). The K/BB ratio normalized that season, improving nearly a full strikeout to 1.81. Shoemaker finally made the jump to high A at the end of the season where he posted respectable numbers in a small cup of coffee.
In 2012, Shoemaker responded to the fact that he was ignored by the White Sox an offseason previous by making it impossible for them to take their eyes off him. With the K/BB rate at his norm (1.80), he flew through A+ by hitting .331/.422/.549 with 36 XBHs and 59 RBIs. He was a Carolina League All-Star and was invited to the Home Run Derby which he won. For the second half of the season, Shoemaker was called up to AA Birmingham where he posted respectable numbers in 56 games, including a .408 OBP by way of a 1.31 K/BB the best he had posted at any level since his college days, proving his elevated K rate from 2011 which evidently caused the White Sox to subject him to another year of single A ball (there is no other explanation) was a one time thing.
After everything Shoemaker accomplished and after everything he endured in the first three years of his career, he still looked primed and ready to be a major leaguer by the time 2014 and his 27th year rolled around. Then the end of the season happened when Shoemaker was injured and had to go under the knife for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. The injury caused him to miss the entirety of the 2013 season. As a 26-year-old who spent a full season away from the game, his baseball career could very well have been over. But the Marlins showed confidence and respect in Shoemaker’s ability and selected him in the AAA portion of the 2014 Rule 5 Draft, acquiring him the same way they acquired their now starting first baseman, Justin Bour. Shoemaker has rewarded that confidence by playing some of the best ball of his career at the highest level he has ever seen. He has reached base safely in 26 of his 27 starts by way of a .297/.381/.446 slash line, each of which rank in the top 15 in the PCL. Without looking at his career statistics and judging simply by the fact that he is once again pacing his squad in slugging, OPS and homers, and is second in RBIs and total bases, one would have no idea that Shoemaker missed an entire season.
At the plate, Shoemaker minimizes the strikezone by getting extremely low and crowding the plate by leaning over it. He uses a front foot trigger to time his swing and gets the bat through the zone with good speed. He is one of the pickiest and most selective hitters in the entire PCL with a great knowledge of the strike zone and the ability to battle back from any count. As is evident by his .202 ISO, Shoemaker hits for extra bases more often than not. He has his soft hands and his ability to hit to the opposite field (which scouts once praised as uncanny) to thank for that. Due to all of his tools, Shoemaker is a guy with good power than could slot anywhere from 3-5 in the lineup but also possesses the patience and hit ability needed to bat second. As he did to start his career, Shoemaker has hit both lefties and righties equally well this year (.342 vs LHP, .299 vs RHP), making him a potential every day player.
“He just has a knack to hit,” manager Andy Haines says. “From what I see, he can be a guy with [good] OBP and slugging with more doubles than homers.”
Defensively, Shoemaker was an outfielder for his entire career prior to his injury. He has posted serviceable numbers in his 384 games and 3254 innings in left field, committing just six errors and posting a range factor right around league average (1.58). Now though, his rehabilitated shoulder and size serve him best for first.
“He has a tough profile,” Haines says. “But first base is most obviously his best position.”
Overall, Shoemaker, now 28, has had some tough breaks in his minor leauge career but through it all, has continued to hit and play well at any level even after spending a season out of the game. With the Marlins who at the moment have limited outfield help (just four on the 40-man) and a high-priced first baseman who has performed poorly and all but been replaced by a rookie and whose contract they may be looking to offload pretty soon, he may have finally found the ticket he needs to get to the majors. Should Shoemaker’s success with the Zs continue throughout the season, his lifelong dream of pulling on an MLB jersey could come to fruition by the end of the year.