November 05, 2012

Jordan Schafer is Worth the Gamble

Jordan Schafer is now 26 and has hit .221/.305/.301 in 893 big league plate appearances and 238 big league games.  He also rates as merely a serviceable major league centerfielder.  Yet the Atlanta Braves have now acquired Jordan Schafer twice, once as a 3rd-round pick in the 2005 amateur draft and this past week as a waiver claim from the Houston Astros, the team that acquired Schafer as a piece in the Michael Bourn deal. 

What do the Braves want with a so-so defensive centerfielder, with a career OPS+ of 66 (an OPS 34 percent below league-average after adjusting for ballparks), and with a history of a performance-enhancing drug suspension (in 2008) and a marijuana-possession arrest (after the 2011 season)?  Yes, this move was a waiver claim so the it costs the Braves virtually nothing.  But why bother?
Actually Jordan Schafer is exactly the type of player that is worth a gamble.  He’s displayed the skills to become at least a useful major leaguer, if not a player who could start in the majors.  In his age 20 season, he slugged .513 as he split time in Low-A Rome and High-A Myrtle Beach in 2007.  He slugged .471 during his age 21 season at Double-A Mississippi in 2008.  The Braves thought highly enough of him to make him the Opening Day centerfielder in 2009.  In spite of a low on-base percentage throughout his major-league career, he’s stolen 51 bases and has only been caught 14 times.  And while he’s never been a big-time walker he hasn’t been horrible at taking a walk. 
It’s hard not to compare Schafer to Michael Bourn.  Through his age 25 season Bourn had also played parts of three seasons in the big leagues and performed pretty awfully, posting a 62 OPS+, a .237/.299/.313 slash line.  Bourn walked 51 times in 658 plate appearances while Schafer walked 91 times in 893 plate appearances.  Schafer’s walk rate was actually a little more impressive. 

Of course similarity, even a slightly favorable comparison in some areas, does not mean Schafer will become the next Michael Bourn.  But there is a reason why scouts rely on comps.  Historical trends mean something.  At the very least it’s an indication that it’s worth taking a chance on Schafer considering the cost is virtually nothing but a roster spot.  If Schafer becomes a solid backup, it’s worth it.  And while he’s too old to predict that he’ll be a first-division centerfielder, he’s young enough to make improvements and possibly become at least a serviceable major league centerfielder at some point before he reaches free agency.  This is exactly the type of calculated risk a team with the Braves’ budget shouldn’t be ashamed to take.



3 Responses to “Jordan Schafer is Worth the Gamble”

  1. 1
    Mike Says:

    I was really high on Schafer when he was a rookie and still remember being psyched when he homered in his debut against Phils, but everything after that was a big disappointment.

    What bothers me about Schafer isn’t his numbers, but his problems with attitude, discipline, and drugs. He just seems like a character that I don’t want to see on the roster.

    Then again, everyone deserves a second chance. And a third, and a fourth…

  2. 2
    Shaun Says:

    Mike, I’m not sure about Schafer’s attitude being a detriment. As far as discipline and drugs, that is a concern but he’s not the first major leaguer to have such issues. But the beauty of this move is that they can just cut him without concern that they will have wasted money.

  3. 3
    クロエサングラス Says:


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