Why Jordan Schafer Should be in Center for the Braves Before the All-Star Break
Does anyone else remember the hype machine surrounding Jordan Schafer from about, say, 2007 up until 50 games into the 2009 season?
The sky was the limit for this kid.
He was (and still is) a superb glove in center and has the potential from a speed/contact standpoint to turn into something resembling an above-average Major League talent.
Pretty amazing what a 50-game suspension and a broken wrist can do to a career isn't it?
After winning the center field job in Atlanta in Spring Training '09, Schafer promptly introduced himself to the Major League community with two home runs in the Braves' opening series in Philadelphia.
Then, the strikeouts came (63 to be exact) over the next 50 games as Schafer saw his line plummet to an abysmal .204/.313/.287.
Hoping to remedy the problem, the Braves sent Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, and Jeff Locke to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a reigning NL All Star and gold glove recipient in Nate McLouth.
And all was good in Braves Nation...so we thought.
A .237 average and only (considering what the Braves thought they were getting) 14 homers in 129 games since joining the Braves has reduced McLouth to the No. 8 hole in Atlanta and left Atlanta looking around the outfield for an effective answer for their bat in center.
Amazing how things have sort of come full circle, huh?
Now, I think the time is fast-approaching to throw Jordan Schafer back to the wolves and to ship McLouth out of town.
You may be asking why I would suggest throwing a 23-year-old that has struggled to a .232/.319/.317 line in the minors this season into a situation that was not particularly kind to him last year with a guy with very strong potential already manning that spot.
For me, it comes down to glovework, money, and the future.
If you're going to have a black hole in the lineup, he might as well be able to "go get 'em."
While UZR painted McLouth as a "neutral" fielder at 0.8 and Schafer as below average at -4.0 in 2009, I think we can all recall Andruw Jones-esqe fielding prowess from Schafer last season while McLouth looked a little more like a mortal.
Or, to put this a little better, Schafer could fly around the field and get to a lot more in the field than the slightly-less-athletic McLouth.
Add to that the fact that Schafer would be making the league minimum for what may well prove to be lackluster play as opposed to McLouth's $5 million and the pendulum swings even further to the former No. 1 prospect in the Braves' organization.
Oh, and let's not forget that Schafer is still very "toolsy" and is likely to be the Opening Day starter in 2011 anyway.
Why not let him play through his issues a little more at the major league level (that's how you have to learn)?
As I've been trying to say, it really couldn't be much worse than what the Braves are currently getting.
Now, I'm not suggesting that this needs to go down today.
No, Melky Cabrera and Eric Hinske should be starting in the outfield right now along with J-Hey (both are swinging red-to white-hot bats right now) instead of the Hinske/Cabrera-McLouth-Heyward situation we've been seeing.
But once everyone starts leveling out a bit in terms of "playing to talent," I think Schafer has to be the guy you look to.
Plus, if he starts to figure it out, he's got the talent and speed that would look awfully good at No. 8 or leading off if he really works out the kinks (SomeoneFast, Prado, Heyward is scarier than Prado, Heyward, Chipper-—by a mile...and let's remember that he drew 27 walks in 50 games which in one less than Jason Heyward's 28 through 43 games, as a point of reference).
Nate-Dogg just isn't doing the job for the Braves right now (and hasn't looked comfortable at the plate in a long time).
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