Jordan Schafer: 5 Ways the Center Fielder Can Help the Atlanta Braves

Will BrownContributor IJune 1, 2011

Jordan Schafer: 5 Ways the Center Fielder Can Help the Atlanta Braves

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    PITTSBURGH - MAY 24: Jordan Schafer #1 of the Atlanta Braves catches a ball in center field during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 24, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Jordan Schafer burst onto the scene in 2009 as he hit a home run in his first major league at bat. Many fans were hoping that it was the start of what would be a long and productive career in Atlanta, but early struggles at the plate mixed with a wrist injury led to him just hitting .204 in 50 games.

    Schafer came in to 2011 finally healthy from the wrist injury and put up decent numbers down in the minor leagues, but nothing that would blow anyone away. Then he seemed to catch a break when Nate McLouth was forced to be put on the disabled list.

    Schafer has shined through the first seven games he has played. He's currently hitting .250, but was hitting .292 prior to his 0-for-4 game last night. He has scored five runs and carries an on-base percentage of .400.

    Besides being healthy, what else is different from this year's version of the once highly thought of prospect? We'll take a look at that and what else he brings to the table for the Braves. 

Speed

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    ATLANTA, GA - MAY 29:  Martin Prado #14 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after hitting a two-run homer in the sixth inning that also scored Jordan Schafer #1 against the Cincinnati Reds at Turner Field on May 29, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C.
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    One things that the Braves have lacked for the past couple of years has been a guy that gives them speed on the base paths. Schafer not only brings the speed to the base paths, but also out in the field.

    Schafer, despite his good speed, is not going to steal a ton of bases. He has however, attempted three so far in Atlanta but was caught two of the three times. 

    Schafer's speed can become evident in situations where he is at first and someone hits the ball into the gap. He has the speed to score anytime the ball reaches the wall.

    It also has helped out the Braves defensively as you will see in the next slide.

Solid Defender

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    ATLANTA, GA - MAY 29:  Jordan Schafer #1 of the Atlanta Braves catches a deep fly ball hit by Scott Rolen #27 of the Cincinnati Reds in the fourth inning at Turner Field on May 29, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Through the first two months of the season, Nate McLouth's UZR was -8.2. Schafer's currently stands at 1.8, making a difference of 10.

    That's a pretty big jump at a pretty important defensive position. Schafer has good range due to his speed and a pretty good arm for a center fielder, though it is not elite level.

    With Schafer manning the center field position, the Braves will be in good shape. 

A True Leadoff Hitter

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    PHOENIX - MAY 28:  Jordan Schafer #24 of the Atlanta Braves at bat during the major league baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on May 28, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Braves 5-2  (Photo by Christian Pet
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    As much as I love Martin Prado and understand his value to the team, he is not a true leadoff hitter. He doesn't possess great speed and his on-base percentage is tied directly to his average.

    With Schafer, you have a guy with good speed and a guy that knows how to take pitches. His career minor league OBP is .325, which isn't all that impressive, but you must then consider that his average in the minors was .258 (which was hurt greatly by the wrist injury). His walk rate in 2009 was 13.8 percent and is currently at 20 percent in 2011.

    Schafer is going to get his walks, he's going to take pitches, and if he's healthy he's going to hit for a solid average and get on base.

A Center Fielder for the Future

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    PITTSBURGH - MAY 24:  Jordan Schafer #1 of the Atlanta Braves is congratulated by teammate Chipper Jones #10 after scoring against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on May 24, 2011 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/G
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    All Braves fans have heard this one before with Schafer, but it could turn out to be true. Schafer is currently just 24 years old and was once an extremely highly thought of prospect. Maybe the wrist injury just set him back a few years?

    The chances are there, so far his batting average on balls in play in the majors is .312 and we talked about his walk rate. He also looks the part in center field defensively with his good speed and solid arm.

    Many fans have grown weary of McLouth, and no matter what he does he won't be able to earn their trust back, so does that mean Schafer can jump back in to where the organization thought he would originally end up?

    I think so, though McLouth is going to get every chance to keep up the solid play he showed at times before his injury.

A New Man

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    KISSIMMEE, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Jordan Schafer #2 of the Atlanta Braves poses during photo day at Champions Stadium on February 26, 2010 in Kissimmee, Florida.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    In his earlier days as a professional baseball player, Schafer was known negatively as being a cocky player. Between his 2009 struggles, the wrist injury, and Matt Diaz's presence in his life, he has since become more humbled and is not taking this situation for granted.

    Schafer has the tools to be a pretty good baseball player that can really help his team do some big things.Is a franchise player? No, but he is a guy that an impact the game in a ton of different ways.

    It is unclear whether or not Schafer will even stay with the Braves when McLouth comes off of the disabled list, but if he continues to play like he has so far then I see no reason to put McLouth back in the starting role on a full time basis.