Man on Fire: Atlanta Braves OF Jordan Schafer
It’s tough to admit when you were wrong about something. But it’s much less tough when you were wrong about a player being really bad, and now he’s playing really well for your favorite team.
Six weeks ago I wrote that Reed Johnson should play over Jordan Schafer and that Schafer is effectively useless. Since then, Schafer has hit like a skinny Miguel Cabrera. In the last 30 days, Schafer has a .340/.400/.580 line in 56 plate appearances. Yes, that is a tiny sample size, and yes, Schafer's numbers are inflated thanks to a ludicrous .455 BABIP, but hey, those are still pretty great numbers.
On the year, Schafer’s hitting .306/.416/.459 with seven steals and two homers in 103 plate appearances. Remember, this was a guy with a .221/.305/.301 line coming into this year. But now he looks like the top prospect he was considered five years ago. So what changed?
Jordan Schafer 2.0
Aside from that unsustainably high average on balls in play, Schafer is walking more. Like, a ton. On the year, he has a 15.5 percent walk rate, which would be second only to Joey Votto if Schafer had enough plate appearances to qualify. Schafer has always walked fairly often, but this year’s rate is astronomical and indicates potential sustained success. He’ll need to maintain that walk rate when his BABIP inevitably drops.
Schafer's slugging percentage is a misleading product of small sample size. He has seven extra base hits on the year – two homers, two triples and three doubles. Don’t look for the power surge to continue. Schafer’s HR/FB rate spiked this year to 10.5 percent from his career average of 5.3 percent. He’s always ground out much more often than he’s flown out. He won’t be able to continue hitting fly balls out of the park at such an anomalous rate.
The projection systems aren't particularly high on Schafer for the rest of the year. Here at numberFire, we have him projected to hit .241/.317/.353 from here on out. ZiPS is even less optimistic, projecting him for .227/.306/.317. But these projection systems are built on previous performance. If Schafer really has made a change in his approach and continues to walk at a high rate, he could easily surpass these expectations.
Sure, the power won’t continue, but there is definite value in a player who gets on base a lot, can steal bases and (theoretically) provides good outfield defense. He's still a part-time player who brings minimal value in fantasy leagues but could absolutely help the real club. Look for him to finish the year somewhere between his astounding current line and the bearish projections.
Alex Hampl covers baseball and the Atlanta Braves weekly for numberFire. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @hampl9.