Arkansas recently announced the commitment of Brady Slavens, who had an NJCAA-leading 14 homers and 47 RBIs and ranked sixth in the league in hits before the season was cut short after just 23 games. The sophomore phenom was slugging .507/.543/.1240 for the Johnson County Community College Cavaliers, who were 20-3 and ranked ninth in the National Junior College Athletic Association before the season was suspended.
In his first year with Johnson County CC in Overland Park, Kansas, the 6’2 180-pound Slavens was on pace for a historic season.. The Olathe, Kansas native was the No. 1 ranked overall player and shortstop in the state of Kansas coming out of Olathe Northwest High School, according to Prep Baseball Report.
Slavens committed to Wichita State for his freshman year, and finished with a .218 batting average, 23 RBI’s and just one home run in his Division-I rookie campaign. The left-handed Slavens played a mix of infield, outfield and designated hitter for the Shockers, who were 28-31 overall and finished next-to-last in the American Athletic Conference.
After one year of D-I ball, Slavens decided to attend his father’s alma mater, Johnson County CC, for his sophomore year. Slavens quickly proved to be too much for the league, earning Kansas Jayhawk Conference Player of the Week for three consecutive weeks. During those three weeks, Slavens batted .558, crushed 11 dingers, drove in forty runs, scored 22 runs, and added five doubles and two triples for good measure.
Brady Slavens was slugging all season long. Twenty five of his 38 knocks (66%) went for extra bases, and he had more home runs (14) than he had singles (13).
The only minor flaw in his statline is that he has eight more strikeouts (13) than walks (5), which could illustrate a lack of discipline or patience. I think the more likely case is that he’s had the green light for a few weeks and was swinging early in counts. He only had two multi-strikeout games this season, so I don’t think there’s a major issue there.
My only real concern lies in his fielding ability. Playing mainly third base with the Cavaliers, Slavens committed six errors in 22 games for a fielding percentage of .854. Arkansas’ designated hitter slot is currently occupied by Matt Goodheart, one of the Hogs’ most consistent and dependable hitters. If he decides to stay, Slavens will probably find himself in the field — but where?
The future of Arkansas third-year studs Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin is also in question despite the NCAA’s approval of an extra year of eligibility for spring athletes. If they declare for the draft, the Razorbacks will need a power bat like Slavens to take their place.
Because Brady Slavens has played both outfield and infield previously, the utility man could technically fill either spot if they were to leave. But I expect if Martin leaves, Jacob Nesbit or Robert Moore should slide over to shortstop, and Slavens could fill the hole at second or third base since he has experience with both.
I believe Nesbit is better suited to fill in at shortstop. Through the 16 games of the 2020 season, Nesbit started every contest and did not register a single error. In addition to a perfect — although shortened — 2020 season fielding-wise, Nesbit had a fielding percentage of .964 in 2019 through 61 games.
He committed only four errors, which is 19 fewer than Martin, who led the SEC in errors in 2019 with 23. Nesbit has showcased a strong arm and a reliable glove at the hot corner in his first two seasons, and his lanky, six-foot frame is ideal for the shortstop position.
I think Moore is a great option as well, as he only committed one error through the 16 games he started in his freshman season. The 17-year-old second baseman has showcased his reliability as a fielder in 2020 with quick hands and nimble feet, and may have made the defensive play of the campaign for Arkansas with his glove flip against Gonzaga. Although he is a great fielder in his own right, I think his skillset and smaller build is more tuned for second base.
Whether key players depart or remain, I think Slavens will find a way on to the lineup card. In an offseason full of questions, there is no debate about the potential of this slugger.
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Writer Parker Tillson’s devotion to sports comes from a devout following of his hometown Houston Astros. As a beat writer for the University of Arkansas’ The Arkansas Traveler, he’s covered Razorback baseball, basketball and football, as well as the NWA Naturals. and LPGA tournaments.
Follow him on Twitter @ParkerTillson