School: Wake Forest; Class: Junior
Position: 1B; B/T: L/L
Height: 6-5; Weight: 235
Previously Drafted: Atlanta Braves, 37th round, 2014
Background: Fun Fact Part I: Sheets’ old man, Larry, was drafted in the second round by the Baltimore Orioles out of Lee High School all the way back in 1978. Fun Fact Part II: The elder Sheets paced the 1987 Orioles in long balls and overall production, beating a pair of eventual Hall of Famers (Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr.) as well as an aging former All-Star in Fred Lynn. Fun Fact Part III: according to Baseball-Reference.com, Larry earned a little less than $2.2 million during his eight-year Major League career – a number that’s likely going to be surpassed by Gavin’s first contract in professional ball.
Gavin, a smooth-swinging first baseman out of Wake Forest University, has turned himself into a viable first round candidate over the past three seasons. Originally drafted by the Braves in the 37th round coming out of high school, Sheets had a nice little freshman year for the Demon Deacons: in semi-regular action, he batted .250/.319/.336 with five doubles and a pair of homeruns. He would spend the following summer playing for the Baltimore Redbirds in the Cal Ripken League, hitting .267/.336/.317 – though he managed to squeak out just six extra-base hits in 35 games (all doubles, by the way).
His numbers took a noticeable uptick during his sophomore campaign for Wake Forest. In a career best 62 contests, the younger Sheets battered the opposition to the tune of .326/.395/.496 with 13 doubles, nine homeruns, and a 31-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And, once again, he found himself playing for the Redbirds during the summer where he looked a little more comfortable in the non-NCAA league (.280/.370/.376).
This season Sheets’ power has exploded as he’s slugged nine doubles, one triple, and a career best 19 homeruns en route to batting .321/.424/.646. The best part of his success? He’s sporting an impressive 31-to-40 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Projection: So there’s some interesting things going on with Sheets:
- Between 2011 and 2016, there’s only been one ACC hitter – former Miami third baseman David Thompson – that has slugged at least 19 homeruns in a season. Thompson, by the way, was a fourth round pick by the Mets in 2015 and didn’t have nearly the track record of success that Sheets has/had.
- Again, between 2011 and 2016, only one other ACC hitter has posted a walk rate north of 15%, a strikeout rate below 12.5%, and slug 15 homeruns in season: Seth Beer. Sheets would be the second to achieve the feat.
- Between the same data set, only six other ACC hitters have batted .300/.400/.600 in a season (minimum 250 PA): Seth Beer, Zack Collins, Chris Okey, Daniel Palka, James Ramsey and David Thompson. Collins was the 10th overall pick last year. Okey was taken one round later by the Reds. Palka was a third rounder in 2013. And Ramsey was a first round pick by the Cardinals in 2012.
Sheets is essentially limited to first base – or maybe a corner outfield position. The power is an above-average or slightly better skill. The patience and contact rates will be average in professional baseball. And he has the size that scouts crave.
There’s been a noticeable downturn among collegiate hitters in this year’s draft class. So it wouldn’t be surprising to see and/or hear Sheets’ name get called sometime between picks 20 and 40.
At his peak, he looks like a .280/.340/.460-type hitter, capable of slugging 15- to 20-homeruns.
Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player
Floor: 1.0- to 1.5-win player
Grade: First Round