ASTROS FLASHBACK: Nifty Shades of Grae Kessinger
A 2019 draftee out of Ole Miss, Houston gives the Cub's grand-cub his shot at The Show.
Portions of this article originally appeared in The Runner Sports, June 4, 2019, the day following Kessinger’s Draft Day.
After selecting Cal catcher Korey Lee 32nd overall in the first round, the Astros made Kessinger, a managerial finance major, the 68th overall pick, and the first Rebel taken off the board. With a slot value of just under a million dollars, Grae will have an opportunity to manage some major finances, shortly.
The right-handed Grae, turning 26 in late August, actually has a father who played for the Cubs, as well. Drafted by Chicago, Kevin Kessinger (who also played at Ole Miss) played in the Cubs organization before an injury drew the curtain on his career.
“I was the oddball,” centerfielder Kevin likes to say. “[Grae’s uncle] Keith was a shortstop. Dad was a shortstop. Someone had to come along and decide to be different.” Uncle Keith ended up playing big league ball in 11 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 1993 and has just finished his ninth season as the radio analyst for Ole Miss Rebel baseball games.
Grae was drafted in the 26th round in 2016 after high school by the San Diego Padres. He was a four-time all-state shortstop while at Oxford, hitting a combined .352, with 34 doubles, 127 runs scored, 83 RBIs, and 61 stolen bases.
Kessinger’s early draft selection came as no surprise for the junior, who had already been named Third Team All-American, First Team All-SEC, and a finalist for the Brooks Wallace Award, given annually to the top shortstop in college baseball.
In his 262 at-bats in 2019, Kessinger hit .332 and hit 23 extra-base hits while stealing 16 bases and scoring 63 runs. He projects as a steady defender at short, and while not a prodigious power guy, looks to be a consistent line drive hitter.
Scouts Weigh In
From his 2015 Perfect Game showcase came this assessment: “Moves well on defense with smooth, gliding actions, has loose athleticism working through the ball, buttery hands, very quick release, strong accurate throws, has all the tools to be a top level defensive shortstop.
“Right handed hitter, deep hand set with some barrel wrap to start, spread stance with a limited shift, long swing with some present bat speed and lift out front, primary upper body swing with simple timers and mechanics.”
His Road to The Show
In 52 games with Houston’s AAA Sugar Land Space Cowboys in 2023, Kessinger hit 10 doubles, six home runs, 32 RBIs, slashing .284/.400/.443 in 221 plate appearances. He made 22 starts at shortstop, 15 at second base, 11 at third base and one at first base.
As a flexible infielder, Grae joins another young Astro on the 40-man, David Hensley, who’s also hoping for more MLB playing time:
Speaking to The Athletic following Grae’s promotion, Houston manager, Dusty Baker, told Chandler Rome: “He was doing pretty well, too [at Sugar Land], and he gives us some depth. I liked his versatility and the fact that he’s improved his stroke, made some adjustments. He comes from a good pedigree.”
Grae, certainly, can’t help but concur: “From a young age, baseball’s a part of my life. We talked about it in the car rides, everywhere we went. Just being around those family members helped me be the player I am today,” Grae said.
“We’re a baseball family.”
To paraphrase Leonardo da Vinci and Draft Day ‘19 for the Astros, “A Grae day provides the best light.”
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