I agree with him that it might be a little early to promote Schafer to starting CF but I do want to see him get a shot during Spring Training just to see what he does.Originally Posted by Dave O'BrienCF Schafer tearing up Fall League … but too young?
By David O'Brien | Monday, November 5, 2007, 02:41 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
He just turned 21 and hasn’t played above the A-ball level, but Jordan Schafer is showing folks that he could be ready for the majors sooner than later — and perhaps sooner than most of us expected.
The kid is leading the Arizona Fall League with a whopping .397 average and .468 on-base percentage, and the only thing I can’t figure out is, how in the world did Schafer hit just .240 at Rome in 2006?
Not that it matters much. Not after the huge strides he made this season, hitting a jaw-dropping .372 with 22 extra-base hits (five homers) and 20 RBIs in 30 games at Rome, then .294 with 34 doubles, eight triples, 10 homers and a .354 OBP in 106 games at high-A Myrtle Beach.
He’s continued that progress out in Arizona, where he’s poised to give the Braves their second consecutive AFL batting champion. Last year Yunel Escobar led that prospect-laden league with a .407 average. You might have heard — the Cuban rookie did alright this year after he was brought to the bigs in June.
A huge understatement, of course — Escobar did so well that the Braves were willing to trade veteran shortstop Edgar Renteria, who was as important as anyone on their team during two seasons with Atlanta.
Could Schafer replicate Escobar’s rapid rise to the bigs? Well, yes, you can’t rule anything out in this day and age, when even mid- and large-payrolled teams are relying more than ever on their homegrown talent (see: Boston Red Sox and Jacoby Ellsbury, 24; Jon Lester, 23; Dustin Pedroia, 24).
Still, it seems far more likely (at least to me) that 24-year-old Braves prospect Brent Lillibridge would fit that bill, if the Braves decide to move him from the shortstop position he’s played in the minors to center field, where he played as a college freshman in 2003.
He’s three years older than Schafer, who just turned 21 in September. That’s really, really young for an every-day position player to be considered for major league duty, especially with no experience above A-ball. I just can’t see the Braves seriously considering Schafer as an option to replace Andruw Jones this spring, despite the stunning success Schafer’s had during 2007.
Now, could I see him coming up at some point during the 2008 season if the Braves have an injury or disappointing performance by whoever does replace Andruw? Yes, I could see that. Just as we saw Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francoeur thrust into starting jobs early in the 2005 season after the aging Brian Jordan/Raul Mondesi corner-outfield duo fossilized, er, stumbled out of the blocks.
But I also don’t see the Braves handing over the center-field reins to anyone as old and/or brittle as Jordan and Mondesi were, though a few folks here on the blog would like to see them go after Ken Griffey Jr., who would certainly be capable of landing on the DL before the Fourth of July.
Since I can’t see the Braves going after Junior to be their center fielder, I’m going to assume it’s not going to happen and Schafer isn’t going to get the call in June to replace the injured veteran when he pulls a hammy or whatever.
But Schafer is clearly the real deal, as every scout, opposing manager and Braves team official who’s seen him in the past 10 months will attest. He’s not as fast as the kid the Braves just got from Detroit, 20-year-old CF Gorkys Hernandez.
But I’m told that kid is at least a year behind Schafer in terms of development, so it appears there’s a good chance Schafer is going to have an opportunity to show what he can do in the majors before Hernandez is ready for The Show.
Whatever happens, it appears the Braves are all set in center field after the 2008 season. Now, if they can just find a good option to fit into their payroll for the upcoming season. Lillibridge is certainly affordable, and will be for at least three or four seasons.
Reports say he was a solid outfielder in college. You don’t lose that skill in a few years. I’m sure Lillibridge could be a solid glove man in center this season, if the Braves believe he’s ready to hit.
I’m gonna ask Frank Wren about it this week, see if the new GM might provide a better clue as to the legitimacy of this happening and whether Lillibridge is about to start playing winter ball after that tendinitis in his wrist kept him out of any October and early November action.
Lillibridge doesn’t have much more to prove in the minors, that’s for sure. This season in his first go at Triple-A, after a midseasons promotion, he hit .287 with 10 homers and 28 stolen bases in 33 attempts over 87 games for Richmond.
How ‘bout Kelly Johnson hitting leadoff, Escobar in the 2-hole (though you wouldn’t want him trying to think too much and be Edgar there, since that ain’t gonna happen right away), with Lillibridge down in the order? Or you could hit Escobar leadoff (he had great numbers in that role in his platoon duties last season) and have patient K.J. hitting second ahead of Chipper.
But if Lillibridge could hit and get on base right away, he’s obviously a strong leadoff candidate.
So many ways it could go, if - and that’s a big if - Lillibridge is in the lineup. That major league minimum salary and that speed/power combo sure makes him attractive, if the kid can go get it in the outfield well enough to play center in the majors.
I’m sure the Braves could find another few places to spend that $7-10 mill they’d have to pay a merely decenter veteran center fielder, if Lillibridge is ready to do the job. Don’t you think? Maybe, I don’t know, another starting pitcher in addition to Tom Glavine, or perhaps another reliever and a bench player?
Oh, yes, we made it this far before mentioning Glavine.
Folks, I’m close to certain it’s going to happen. More than ever, I believe it. Maybe not right away on Nov. 13, the day teams can talk contract terms with other teams’ free agents, but by the end of the month, before the winter meetings, I think you can count on Glavine being a Brave again.
OK, that’s it for now. I’ll be talking with Wren by phone from the GM meetings this week, since we decided not to cover them this year. Frankly, so little usually happens there, it’s not been essential to cover in recent years.
But watch — we don’t go and this will be the year the Braves sign A-Rod.
No, no, that’s not going to happen … unless the price comes down to $27 mill per year.
Just kidding. Seeing if you’re still there.
Fire up the Hot Stove. It’s almost time to begin baseball’s Silly Season, in earnest.