Is Schafer a Future Star?

The Braves are loaded with outfield prospects. Jason Heyward is one of the best prospects in the game. Gorkys Hernandez could be an everyday center fielder. And Jordan Schafer may be a future star. Of these three, Schafer is the closest to the majors, and bears watching in fantasy leagues in 2009.

Jordan Schafer’s 2008 season didn’t exactly start well. In fact, it was put on hold after 11 at bats: Schafer was suspended for 50 games for use of HGH. Schafer returned in June and played well in June and July for the Braves’s double-A affiliate in Mississippi, but he really turned it on in August. In 100 at bats in August, Schafer hit .320/.409/.630 with 6 homers and 7 doubles. Granted, it’s a small sample size, but it also would make sense that Schafer may need a month or two to get himself back into the game, physically and mentally.

Overall, Schafer hit .269/.378/.471 with 10 homers and 12 steals, which is extremely impressive for a 21-year old in double-A. He showed solid plate discipline, striking out 88 times but walking 49. And if we look closer, we can see that Schafer’s season was even more impressive.

Mississippi is generally a pitcher’s park, and it depressed homers by 18% in 2007. Schafer’s home/road splits reflect the difficult hitting environment in Mississippi: at home, Schafer hit .239/.378/.373, but on the road he hit .293/.376/.549. Schafer also hit nine of his ten homers on the road. Therefore, it’s fair to surmise that Schafer’s numbers would have been even better if he played half of his games in a more neutral environment.

On the flip side, Schafer really struggled against left handed pitching, hitting only .196/.306/.299 against southpaws, while crushing righties to the tune of .309/.416/.565. Schafer is still quite young and has plenty of time to improve against lefties – whether he is able to improve against them could be the difference between whether he becomes an above-average player or a star.

Jordan Schafer’s career thus far looks quite similar to another center fielder: Grady Sizemore. Sizemore’s performance at double-A was eerily similar to Schafer’s (minus the suspension), as Sizemore hit .304/.373/.480 with 13 homers and 10 steals (and a 73/49 K/BB ratio) –remember, Schafer hit .269/.378/.471 with 10 homers and 12 steals (and a 88/49 K/BB ratio). Sizemore’s line was more impressive – Sizemore was only 20 at the time, while Schafer was 21, and Sizemore’s strikeout rate was much better than Schafer’s. However, Sizemore – like Schafer – struggled mightily against lefties, and Sizemore – like Schafer – had a well-rounded game and scouts could easily project power in the future.

Obviously, Jordan Schafer is unlikely to become Grady Sizemore. Sizemore developed nearly perfectly, Sizemore’s season at double-A was slightly better than Schafer’s, and Sizemore was a year younger at the time (which makes a huge difference). However, the similarities between the two are not to be taken lightly, and even if Schafer doesn’t become as good as Sizemore, Schafer can still be a star.

Atlanta has never been hesitant to promote young players to the majors, and there are no major roadblocks to prevent Schafer from ascending to the big leagues. He offers a unique blend of speed and power, and has enough plate discipline that he should be an asset even without a high batting average. Schafer’s strikeout rate wasn’t terrible, but it was high enough to suggest that he could have a rather low batting average, at least in his first year or two in the majors, but he offers enough additional skills that he could be useful to you anyway.

Schafer is still young and may struggle in his first taste of the big leagues. Don’t expect him to storm into the majors like Jay Bruce did last year. However, if Schafer gets 300 at bats, he could hit 10 homers and steal 10 bases, while scoring and driving in a fair amount of runs and hitting .250 or so. There is some value in a player like that, especially a mid-season waiver-wire pickup. Schafer’s long-term star is very, very bright, but his 2009 may be somewhat of a disappointment.




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7 Responses to “Is Schafer a Future Star?”

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  1. Jim says:

    Just one note–when you compare the two lines, Sizemore’s and Schafer’s slg’s were similar, but Sizemore’s was inflated by a much higher average, so Schafer actually hit for a good bit more power. Also, Schafer must have walked more, because they had the same OBP despite a 35 point difference in averages.

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    • Peter Bendix says:

      Good point – Schafer did indeed walk more often, and I bet his isolated power was higher. Of course, that age difference – Sizemore was 20 when he was in double-A, Schafer was 21 – is very important, but Schafer was still very young for his level.

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      • Cobrasnake says:

        Also to add to what Jim said, if you compare the park that Schafer played in to the one that Sizemore played in that could make a difference in the SLG as well.

        I really don’t know much about the park that Sizemore played in when he was in double-A. But if it wasn’t a pitchers park like the one Schafer played in, than if you look at the difference in average + Park that could give Schafer a noticeable difference in power.

        As you said though that 1 year difference in age is important at that level.

        I don’t expect him to become Sizemore and really no one should count on a prospect turning out that good, they should just consider it a plus if they do.

        Heck even though Schafer is unlikely to become Sizemore, I would also say that Sizemore was unlikely to become Sizemore (if that makes sense…lol). In other words the AA version of Sizemore was very unlikely to become the MLB version of Sizemore that we all know now.

        Also (and sorry for making this a long reply) but I just wanted to add after looking at the stats, even though that 1 year difference in age can make a big difference. You also have to consider that Sizemore had a worser year the following year in AAA and that would have been at the same age as Schafer was in AA this past season.

        So before comparing the age thing to much maybe it would be fairer to see what Schafer does at that level this year. Because if he improves from AA to AAA instead of declines like Sizemore did, I would say that would make up a little for the age difference.

        Still as I said earlier this of course doesn’t mean he will reach the same level as Sizemore in the Majors, but a good showing in AAA will improve his stock even more.

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  2. Brian Joura says:

    There’s some positives around Schafer but a .269 average when he had a .352 BABIP is not one of them. And that can be explained by a dreadful 29.6 percent K%.

    That’s not quite Branyanesque, but that’s not the line of a future star, either. The list of major leaguers with that K rate is comprised of sluggers (Ryan Howard, Adam Dunn) and stiffs (Jack Hannahan, Jeremy Hermida).

    Schafer made strides in his HR rate last year but it still doesn’t scream out Howard or Dunn.

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  3. Jim says:

    A smallish, defensive whiz CF is being compared to 6-4 230 lb 1st base and 6-5 245 lb corner OF. Nice.

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  4. I do not believe it was proven that J. Schafer ever used HGH. I thought I read he knew of HGH use but would not cooperate with the officials. Just a minor concern but you state he used HGH. That has never been proven…has it?

    Either way 50 games for use or knowledge is 50 games.

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    • Peter says:

      I think you are correct – the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article didn’t say whether he actually used the substance, and I’ve read in other places that he might not have. Honestly, I don’t think it matters too much either way.

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