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Is Schafer a Future Star?

Posted By Peter Bendix On December 28, 2008 @ 4:54 pm In Outfielders,Prospects | 7 Comments

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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