Following up their selection of Korey Lee in round one, the Astros picked Ole Miss shortstop Grae Kessinger, grandson of six-time MLB All-Star Don Kessinger, in round two with the 68th overall selection. A native of Oxford, Kessinger was seen as a promising prep shortstop in the 2016 class but had a rock-solid commitment to hometown Ole Miss. With the Rebels, he had a rough freshman campaign in which he hit .175/.287/.247 in 189 plate appearances but improved greatly as a sophomore, posting a .300/.389/.473 line with eight homers as the team’s starting shortstop.
Entering this season, Kessinger was seen as a likely day two prospect with a chance to get into day one, but struggled out of the gates. As noted by MLB.com, his career batting average was sitting at .248 entering conference play, but he turned on the jets against SEC competition, putting together a blistering .405 batting average that eventually earned him a late day one selection.
As a prospect, Kessinger has the typical hallmarks of a player with MLB bloodlines with very strong defensive fundamentals and baserunning instincts. He has a line-drive oriented cut and controls the zone very well, but doesn’t get into much of the raw power in his 6’2” frame. Overall, Kessinger’s tools are a tad light, but he has potential for a plus hit tool which was on full display in the second half of the season. His package feels most likely to project as a super-sub, as his defensive polish should allow him to play short, second base, left field or even first base comfortably if necessary. His contributions in terms of home run power figure to be modest barring a swing change, but it might be dangerous to mess with an approach that has been working so well for Kessinger as of late.
The Astros’ two selections on Tuesday share a common trait- both players seriously boosted their draft stock with their 2019 performances. Korey Lee hit very little in his first two years with Cal, and while Kessinger enjoyed a strong sophomore campaign, his performance looked to be headed in the wrong direction in the early part of his junior season. It’s a trend to monitor heading into tomorrow, when the Astros will make eight more selections. Having gone with Lee and Kessinger, they may have a bit of extra bonus pool money with which to maneuver in the remainder of the draft- in which they have the third-smallest pool.