Jordan Schafer won the starting center field job after turning in an impressive Spring Training. Well regarded for his defense, speed, and hitting, Schafer looked like a surefire five-tool success in Atlanta. But yesterday he was optioned back to Triple-A Gwinnett, and we should have seen it coming.
Schafer began the season on fire. He homered in the first game (his first game in the bigs). He homered again two games later, on April 8.
It didn't take long for Major League pitchers to figure him out, though, as he would not drive in another run until May 15, striking out 61 times during that span.
His 63 total strikeouts in the first two months put him in second place in the National League (though his 27 walks are second most on the team). Schafer struck out twice as much in May than in April, a testament to his inability to adapt to Major League pitching.
Yet he was as durable a player as any on the team, missing zero games due to injury. In fact, he played an outstanding center field. Shades of Andruw Jones abounded as Schafer would make a diving catch, throw out a runner at home, and strike out three times in the same game. While an incredible defensive asset, he became an extraordinary offensive liability.
In 50 games, Schafer hit .204 with two HR, eight RBI, 18 R, two SB, and a .600 OPS.
Surely we haven't seen the last of Schafer, still regarded as one of the organization's top prospects.
Should Schafer figure out how to put the bat on the ball at a consistent rate, he could be recalled sooner than later. With the Braves outfield struggling to produce runs, and the lack of any other Major League-ready prospects, Schafer was being relied on to be the outfield's young savior while Jason Heyward looms on the horizon.
So can we start questioning the Josh Anderson trade yet? (.265, 10 RBI, 10 SB, 13 K, in 39 games with Detroit.)
Gregor Blanco was recalled to replace Schafer in center, and he hit eighth last night against Chicago (going 0-5). However, Matt Diaz was given the start recently at all three outfield positions, possibly to prepare Diaz for a spot start in center every now and then (and with Garrett Anderson swinging a hot bat, the left field platoon may be over for now).
What's next for the Braves? Tom Glavine enjoyed a great rehab start in Single-A, possibly meaning Kris Medlen's first visit to Atlanta could end as soon as next week. Tommy Hanson should be so lucky.