The five round 2020 draft was particularly stacked with college picks, as teams faced difficulties navigating the signability landscape under the year’s highly unusual circumstances, but somehow the Astros were still able to snag a serious value from the college ranks with their final selection. That pick was UCSD shortstop Shay Whitcomb, a Cape Cod League standout and steady three-year performer for the Tritons- and not only was he a value in terms of draft position, he actually ended up signing significantly underslot, helping the Astros seal the deal with Comp B pick Alex Santos, who required a seven-figure deal to turn pro.
Whitcomb isn’t a top of the scale athlete with tools that jump off the screen, but he is very well tailored for the modern MLB, particularly in terms of trends at the second base position. Similar to the club’s 2019 2nd round pick, Grae Kessinger, Whitcomb has a pretty big frame and doesn’t have blazing speed, but nonetheless was able to man short in the NCAA game thanks to instinctual play. Whitcomb likely lacks the range to man shortstop every day as a pro, but his actions and footwork should allow him to man second- while his range still might grade out as average at best at that position, a team that shifts liberally should have no problem with him at the keystone.
If Whitcomb is indeed able to stick up the middle at second, his power becomes a major asset. While it grades out in the 55 range which is merely above average, it stands out more in comparison to his peers at that position. He socked 21 home runs in roughly 600 PAs over his three year college career, and added 8 more in 125 PAs in his CCBL stint with a wood bat, evidencing his ability to use his pop in games already. Whitcomb’s approach is also standout- he shows advanced pitch selection and drew a ton of walks throughout his college career, hitting over .300 and reaching base at a clip over .400 in each of his three seasons.
How did such an accomplished college bat make it to the very end of the draft? There may not be a good answer, but my best guess is that some teams had less than stellar grades on his hit tool. It’s an understandable position, as Whitcomb’s swing is rather long and a tad busier than necessary- but he has above average bat speed to compensate, and his quality of contact is strong. Those factors, paired with his plus approach, should allow the bat to play in my view, particularly at a semi-premium position. Whitcomb is the kind of player who needs to hit his ceiling to be an everyday or near-everyday guy, but he shows the classic markers of a high probability player in his defensive fundamentals and plate discipline.
In addition to the physical similarities between Whitcomb and Grae Kessinger, they figure to be put on similar tracks through the minor leagues. When MiLB games take place again is anybody’s guess at this point, but whenever that happens I’d expect to see Whitcomb receive an immediate assignment to the team’s lowest full-season stop, with an opportunity for a midseason promotion or two that same year. He carries the upside of a second-division regular, and could be a relatively fast mover. Expect to see him in the next prospect list update.