clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Better know a draft prospect: Matt Shaw

The Big Ten Player of the Year had a huge second half

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Maryland v George Washington Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With the MLB amateur draft just a few weeks away, we continue looking at some potential targets for the Kansas City Royals. The Royals will have the eighth overall pick in this year’s draft. Today we’ll look at an infielder with a strong offensive track record both in Division I and in summer ball: Matt Shaw.

Shaw hails from Brimfield, Massachusetts, a small town about 20 minutes outside Springfield. He played his prep ball at Worcester Academy, where he developed into one of the higher-regarded recruits in the New England area. He committed to the University of Maryland and got an early start by participating in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) the summer after he finished high school. The FCBL is a wood bat summer league that featured such talent as Sal Frelick and Dominic Keegan that summer. Despite being one of the youngest players in the league, Shaw demonstrated remarkable power, crushing eight homers in just 11 games.

The 2021 season was an odd one for Maryland as the Big Ten played a conference-only schedule that started late relative to the rest of the sport. Shaw was in the starting lineup from the jump playing something of a utility role, drawing starts at third base, second base, and left field. He quickly established himself as one of the best hitters on the team and settled in as the nominal second baseman down the stretch. The Terps qualified for the NCAA Tournament as a #3 seed in the Greenville Regional. They went 2-2 and were eliminated by the hosts, with Shaw going 3-5 with two homers in the deciding game. Shaw finished his freshman season hitting .332/.409/.544 with 16 doubles and seven homers. He punched out 16.8% of the time while walking at an 8.4% clip. He was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team and earned Freshman All-American honors from Perfect Game and Collegiate Baseball.

That summer, Shaw made another cameo in the FCBL but mostly played in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. He was the best full-time player in the league by OPS, putting up an outstanding .369/.469/.689 line with nine homers in 35 games. He also demonstrated his base-stealing prowess, swiping 14 bags in 16 attempts. Despite this remarkable effort, he was beat out by Griff O’Ferrall for Player of the Year honors.

Shaw took over as Maryland’s starting shortstop for the 2022 season and came out of the gates scorching, going 7-13 with two homers in the Terps’ season opening series at Baylor. He held down the shortstop position for the entire season and decimated Big Ten pitching, guiding Maryland to a hosting position in the Tournament. Shaw had a disappointing tournament run as the Terps lost to UConn in the Regional Final. Regardless, Shaw earned First-Team All-Big Ten honors with a line of .290/.381/.604, smashing 22 homers and 11 doubles. He upped his walk rate to 11.7%, trimmed his strikeout rate to 15.8%, and stole 12 bases in 16 tries.

Not content to take time off, Shaw then took his talents to the premier collegiate summer league - the Cape Cod League. In what is generally considered a tough league to hit, Shaw had his way with opposing pitchers. He finished third in the league in hits (49), second in extra-base hits (17), third in stolen bases (21), and led all players with at least 100 plate appearances with a 1.006 OPS. He did all this while getting reps at second, third, and short. A year after getting denied in the PGCBL, Shaw earned CCBL Player of the Year honors.

Returning to the Terps as the starting shortstop, Shaw collected five hits in the third game of the 2023 season. He had a bit of a cold stretch to start the season but heated up in time for Big Ten play. In a series against the second best Big Ten team in Indiana, Shaw went ballistic by going 8-for-14 with a homer in each game. This was part of a remarkable stretch starting on April 22 in which he collected a hit in all but one game. Maryland earned a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament but also the misfortune of playing in the Winston-Salem Regional, hosted by #1 overall seed Wake Forest. Shaw went 3-for-13 with a homer as the Terps went 1-2 in the Regional. He improved his numbers across the board in 2023, hitting .341/.445/.697 with 24 homers and 20 doubles. He walked 13.6% of the time while only punching out 13.2% and also swiped 18 bags on 19 attempts. This performance earned him Big Ten Player of the Year honors.

Shaw was a potential first round pick entering the season but left no doubt with his performance at the plate this spring. His rankings from various publications:

MLB Pipeline: 18

Prospects Live: 23

FanGraphs: 18

Keith Law ($): 7

Kiley McDaniel ($): 18

Baseball America ($): 13

I don’t always agree with Keith Law on prospects but I’m with him here: I don’t understand how Shaw is in the mid-to-high teens on so many of these lists. Law posits:

Shaw is a shortstop now, but he is not a shortstop, and if he’d just played second base all spring I think he’d sail into the top 10 picks. So much of the conversation around him has centered on his defensive shortcomings...that there’s been too little focus on the fact that this guy hits.

More on his defense later but, assuming you read the first 800ish words of this column, you know the dude has done nothing but hit in college. He’s done it all offensively. Shaw makes tons of contact, can work a walk, and hits for power to all fields. He was one of fifteen Division I players to hit at least 24 homers this year and had the lowest strikeout rate of all of them. He’s not a tall guy, but he’s well-built with very quick hands. His short levers allow him to swing for the downs without a lot of whiffs. Shaw has the excellent combination of consistent hard contact while hitting plenty of flyballs.

The only nitpicks I can find in his game at the plate are “his bat path doesn’t cover the top third of the zone very well,” per Longenhagen, and “struggling with contact against secondaries as a freshman and sophomore, Shaw improved significantly in that area in 2023, though he does still expand the strike zone a bit too much,” per BA.

He can give you something on the bases as well. While not a burner by any means, Shaw is an above-average runner that greatly improved his baserunning skills throughout his time in college. After going just 37/48 on stolen bases in his first two years of college and summer ball, he went 39/43 in his last summer on the Cape and junior year. Shaw could be a 20-20 guy at his peak.

Now let’s discuss the defense. Though he has played shortstop for the past two years in Maryland, the consensus in the scouting community is that he will not stick there at the next level. His range is fine and he has reliable hands, but he doesn’t have the arm to play shortstop. This will likely push him to second base, where he has the tools to at least be an average defender there.

The fact that Shaw is likely not a shortstop pushes him down draft rankings some, but the bat is the carrying tool here. Shaw has done just about everything you could ask for offensively. The fact that he’s also done it on the Cape is incredibly encouraging as he’s already shown he can do it with a wood bat against high-level pitching. Shaw belongs somewhere in the second tier of college bats in this draft after Dylan Crews and Wyatt Langford, and I haven’t seen any good arguments against Shaw towards the end of the top ten.


What do you think of Matt Shaw at #8?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    Do it!
    (74 votes)
  • 26%
    I’m indifferent
    (33 votes)
  • 14%
    (18 votes)
125 votes total Vote Now