9. Matt Lipka, SS
B/T: R/R 2011 Age: 19 Ht: 6'1" Wt: 188
2010: (GCL) 48 G, 210 PA, .302/.357/.401, 8 2B, 4 3B, HR, 24 RBI, 20 SB, 14 BB, 22 K
(Rk) 4 G, 18 PA, 2-16, RBI, SB, BB, 2 K
Matt Lipka was the first player taken by the Braves in the 2010 draft in the first supplemental round. He signed very quickly and got 228 plate appearances out of it, almost all in the Gulf Coast League. Lipka was drafted as a very toolsy infielder with great speed and an advanced baseball intelligence for a high schooler.
Lipka received 210 plate appearances in the GCL after signing, and he showed a little bit of everything. He hit for average and OBP, and he even put in a little power, though his swing doesn't project for much. He showed the ability to guard the zone and avoid strikeouts, but there wasn't much in the form of walks. Perhaps the most intriguing part was 20 stolen bases while getting caught just three times. He has legit speed and smart baserunning ability, which is something Frank Wren has been harping on that the Braves need more of.
Like a lot of high schoolers without great power, Lipka uses his hands in the zone a bit too much, resulting in a good amount of pokes instead of drives. His bat stays in the zone well, and he lets the ball travel deep into the zone at times, not unlike Todd Cunningham. His swing is pretty refined for a high schooler, and he will be able to take care of himself in the higher levels.
Lipka has a solid arm but average motions and hands at best in the infield. If he is able to work on motions and develop softer hands, he could become a very rangy shortstop, but he is probably destined to move from the position. Baseball America has already recognized this, listing him as the starting center fielder down the road for the Braves, and I have to agree. It's likely he will make a move to something like center eventually, but how soon is not known. With his speed, Lipka could handle center easily as long as he has good route running.
As is my rule, I try not to take part in ceilings or projections for players who haven't played a full season, but Lipka may not be that difficult to project. He will never produce real power, he should maintain solid averages, his OBP depends on whether he can record walks and his defense is average at shortstop but could be above average in the outfield. It equals a top of the order hitter with above average on-base ability and great speed. He will be 19 in 2011, so he may begin at Rk Danville, but expect significant time at A- Rome at some point.
Three Things to Look For in 2011: 1) Walks 2) Defense 3) Full Season Debut
Destination in 2011: Some at Rk; half/majority at A-