It took until the fifth round for the Mariners to draft a position player, but they made quite an interesting choice with 3B Austin Shenton. A Bellingham native, Shenton was drafted out of high school by Cleveland in the 34th round in 2016. He opted not to sign, and also opted not to take the University of Washington up on their scholarship offer, instead opting to attend Bellevue College and potentially raising his draft stock for 2017 (players who attend a JUCO are eligible for the draft any year). At Bellevue, Shenton drove in a conference-leading 56 runs while batting .395 and leading the league with 95 hits. However, his name wasn’t called in the 2017 draft, and Shenton signed with Florida International University, a Conference USA school.
While at FIU, Shenton dedicated himself to following the advice scouts had given him pre-draft. He worked to make sure he had a defensive home at third while trimming down some body fat, something he accomplished with the help of a paleo diet. He taught himself how to cook healthy meals, which blossomed into a love of cooking. Shenton is a vegetarian, and dreams one day of opening a plant-based restaurant. In his first year at FIU, he slashed 344/.417/.524 and earned an invite to the Cape Cod League, where in 44 games he slashed 349/.450/.490 with four HR and firmly put himself on scouts’ radars.
2018 started off as a struggle for Shenton as he struggled to adjust back to a metal bat, at one point using a wood bat in the cage to try to get his feel for hit back. But the biggest struggle for Shenton was a conversation that occurred after he returned to Bellingham from summer ball, when his parents sat him down to tell him his mother, Andrea, had cancer. The Shentons are a tight-knit family—Austin, who is Native American, was fostered by the Shentons for the first five years of his life before being adopted. He has an older brother, Ian, who has special needs after suffering a stroke in the womb, and who is one of Austin’s biggest fans. Austin offered to take a year off to stay at home and help out, but his parents urged him to keep chasing his dream. When Austin started the year off ice-cold, his mother googled “overcoming batting slumps” and sent him tips. In return, the FIU baseball team wore pink bracelets that said “Andrea Strong” and “Mama Shent.”
Eventually, Shenton rebounded in a big way, and hit well enough down the stretch to put up numbers that mirror his 2018 campaign. Scouts still question if he has the athleticism to stick at the hot corner, but he makes good contact, has solid plate discipline, and his left-handed swing with loft should translate into enough power to either live with some lesser defense at third or support a position change to first.
Shenton is also the embodiment of a player who has a life outside of baseball. He enjoys cooking, hiking, writing poetry, and dreams of being a traveling photographer; he’s passionate about the environment and is always up for a little clubhouse karaoke. Now, he’ll go to start his pro career about an hour away from where he grew up.