The situation: Tampa Bay is still alive in the playoff race despite ranking last in the American League in runs and getting very little production from the DH and first base positions. In hopes of getting more offensive production, they’ll call up Shaffer on Monday to face the White Sox.
Background: Shaffer was an offensive stalwart at the University of Clemson, and after a .336/.480 /.573 junior campaign for the Tigers, the right-handed hitting infielder was selected 25th overall by Tampa Bay in the 2012 MLB Draft. Unfortunately, that offensive prowess was not consistently on display in his first few seasons in the Rays system, as he failed to post an OPS above .760 from 2012-2014. He’s been considerably better in 2015, however, hitting .261/.357/.538 on the year with 23 homers and 45 extra-base hits.
Scouting report: Shaffer’s best tool is his power, as the 6-foot-3, 220-pound infielder generates above-average bat speed from a swing that has excellent extension. His ability to transfer his weight and strong forearms give him the ability to take the ball out to any part of the ballpark. He’s a selective hitter who will jump on first-pitch fastballs, but will draw his fair share of walks, as he isn’t afraid to hit with two strikes. Unfortunately, this – along with some length to the swing – means he’s going to put up high strikeout totals, and expecting more than a 45 hit tool is expecting too much even with his ability to go the other way.
Shaffer has played primarily third base over his career, and though he is a well below-average runner, he has the hands and arm strengths to be an adequate defender at the hot corner. With Evan Longoria entrenched in the position for the foreseeable future, Shaffer is likely going to play first base down the line, and his soft hands along with solid footwork around the bag make him more asset than liability there. He will likely slot in at designated hitter with James Loney manning first in the near-term.
Immediate Big League Future: Shaffer has been one of several pleasant surprises in the Tampa Bay system this year, and while there’s reason to be skeptical based on his relative struggles in 2013-14, it isn’t uncommon for the lightbulb to click with hitters at this point in their career. The upside is a 25-30 home run hitter who plays average defense at third, with bench bat who can mash left-handed pitching while filling in at first and third as a realistic floor. – Christopher Crawford
Fantasy Impact: Shaffer is an interesting name in shallower keeper leagues, as chances are that he may very well be unowned in leagues that roster fewer than 100-125 prospects, despite his former first round amateur draft status. The power has never been in question for Shaffer but consistency in executing his swing mechanics had eluded him for much of his minor league career leading up to this year, and he was something of a forgotten man in dynasty circles.
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