He’s kind of an up and down player. When he’s up, he’s way up, but when he’s down, he’s not even playing. Schafer had a very up spring, apparently winning the centerfield job, and if he stays up, he can be the rookie of the year.
Schafer was a third round pick of the Braves in 2005, taken from a Florida high school. He was overmatched in rookie ball that year, and the next year in A-ball, but he emerged in 2007. After beating up the Sally League for thirty games (repeating the level) he was promoted to Myrtle Beach, and didn’t let the Beach beat him, hitting for average and some power while playing a fine centerfield, and was appointed one of the top prospects in the game.
It came crashing down last season, when Schafer was suspended for 50 games for HGH. Now, human growth hormone doesn’t affect athletic performance, as is well documented, and Schafer denies ever using the stuff. In fact, it seems most likely that he was covering for a teammate. However, it subjects him to mandatory drug testing in the future. One slip, and he’s on suspension.
Schafer came back from the suspension fairly ably, hitting .269 .378 .471 in Mississippi, a tough park in a tough league. He was notably streaky, and had a huge platoon split, hitting just .196 with one homer against lefties while hitting .309 against righties. A lot of this is just luck — his BABIP was on the low side against lefthanders, while it was high (.388) against righthanders — but it’s a genuine concern on a team already vulnerable against lefthanded pitching. He did not have a big split in 2007.
Schafer gets high marks for his defense; I haven’t seen enough to judge, but a boost in centerfield defense, a major weak spot last year, could help the team immensely… Runs well, but a 64 percent career basestealer in the minors. Basically, he was wasting his time when he tried to steal… The comparisons to Grady Sizemore don’t really help him any. Maybe he’ll be that good, but the odds are against it. He does have all-star ability, and apparently the drive to take advantage of it. Remember when Ryan Langerhans was compared to Paul O’Neill?