The Pick: With the 25th pick in the 2012 Major League Baseball amateur draft the Tampa Bay Rays selected Clemson infielder Richie Shaffer. The 21 year-old ranked as the #16 best player in the draft by MLB.com, #13 best by Baseball Prospectus, and #21 by Baseball America. The recommended bonus for the 25th pick is $1.75 million.
The Analysis: Shaffer was a legitimate prospect out of high school; however, a broken bone in his hand dropped him to the 25th round of the first-year player draft. Rather than sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he enrolled at Clemson University where he was named a two-time First-Team All-ACC selection. In 174 games for the Tigers, he belted 30 home runs while maintaining a .448 on-base percentage.
Offensively, he blends power and plate discipline with the ability to hit for average as well. He may not end up playing a premium position on defense, but is athletic enough to play multiple positions – a skill coveted by Tampa Bay
Standing at a trim 6-foot-3, 205 pounds Shaffer has plus power to all fields. “We’ve always liked his bat and his power” said Rays’ scouting director R.J. Harrison. Although there is some swing-and-miss to his game, he projects to hit for both average and power while showing advanced patience.
“Tremendous power” Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman. “Really good decision making in the box, and is a pretty good athlete. You look at a guy with that kind of power and think that he’s a well below average athlete, but he’s not” he added. Even with the change in bats at the college level, the right-handed hitter had no issues showing off his above-average power and was able to turn on high-velocity pitching. “He’s a real good fastball hitter” said Harrison.
Shaffer has the arm to play third base, but his range is more likely suited to play across the diamond at first base. Because of his arm, there is a chance he lands in a corner outfield position. That said, the Rays have no plans to move him off the hot corner in the immediate future.
“We’ve seen him at all different positions. He played third base this year; most of the last two years, he’s been a first baseman, and we’ve seen him a little bit in the outfield [in the Cape Cod League]. For us right now, he’s a third baseman” said Harrison.
“We also value flexibility, to the extent that he can move aroundand play first and third and corner outfield is only going to make him that much more valuable” added Friedman. Shaffer said if he had to pick a position it would be third base, but is just excited to be in the organization and is open to playing anywhere. “That has all to do with what the [Tampa Bay Rays] feel I have the best chance of progressing through the organization with” he said.
Whether it be third base, first base, or right field, his bat profiles well at a corner position. “For now, we’re anxious to get him signed, get him out there playing, and at the end of the day his bat is going to be the reason he’s called up to the big leagues and not necessarily his defense, but having that flexibility will only help” said Friedman.
While no draft pick is guaranteed, Shaffer has been described as the biggest impact college bat in his class. “We just look at him as a good prospect” said Harrison. “The process will take care of that. That’s going to be up to Richie [Shaffer] and how he goes out and how the journey goes for him.” .