The Phillies made an intriguing roster addition Wednesday when they claimed Richie Shaffer off waivers. Can he find his way onto the roster this year?
When I read that the Phillies picked up Richie Shaffer from the Mariners off of waivers, I was quite intrigued. I spent a year writing for the Rays blog DRaysBay, and Shaffer was a budding prospect when I joined. Now that he is in Philadelphia, I wonder if he can find a spot on the major-league roster when the team heads to Cincinnati to start the major-league season.
For those unfamiliar with Shaffer, he was drafted by the Rays in the first round of the 2012 draft out of Clemson. He rose steadily through the minor-leagues, making his pro debut in September of 2015. After the season, Baseball America ranked him the No. 11 prospect in the Rays system. This is what they had to say about him ($):
"“When the Rays drafted Shaffer 25th overall in 2012, they hoped to get a corner bat with valuable righthanded power. The utility of Shaffer’s power has come into question, largely due to the length of his swing and subsequent swing-and-miss issues. However, he got to his power plenty in 2015, hitting 30 home runs between stops at Double-A Montgomery, Triple-A Durham (where he spent the bulk of the season) and the major leagues. Scouts still are concerned about his contact skills, and his defensive future. With Evan Longoria manning the hot corner in Tampa Bay, Shaffer has spent time both at third and first base, and got a little time on the outfield corners as well. Shaffer doesn’t have the quickest first step and does not project to be better than average at any position, though he does have plus arm strength. In 2016, Shaffer could earn a job in Tampa as bench player who can play the corners and get at-bats against lefthanders, or he could return to Durham.”More from Phillies NewsPhillies-Mets owners’ rivalry grows after shocking Carlos Correa dealCould Rich Hill become ‘Jamie Moyer 2.0’ in Phillies rotation?Does Bailey Falter have a future in Phillies’ rotation?Bryce Harper’s absence should lead to Phillies lineup tinkeringPirates’ bizarre Vince Velasquez hype video will make Phillies fans laugh"
In 2016, Shaffer did not fare too well. He spent nearly the entire season at Triple-A, posting a .227/.329/.367 line and hit 11 home runs in 119 games with the Durham Bulls. Shaffer also played 20 games with the Rays, hitting one home run with a .752 OPS in 54 plate appearances at the major-league level.
Considering Shaffer was blocked by one of the best third baseman in the game in Evan Longoria, Shaffer was stuck in Quad-A purgatory.
Just after the season ended, he was traded to the Mariners. They designated Shaffer for assignment after making multiple moves during the winter meetings, bringing us to the present after the Phillies claimed Shaffer.
So what does Philadelphia have in Shaffer? He likely isn’t going to take many more strides in his development, so he will likely have to make his way onto the roster by being a contributor off the bench.
To Shaffer’s benefit, the bench was the lone hole the Phillies still needed to fill after the winter meetings. The club re-signed Andres Blanco on Wednesday, giving them the utility man they still needed. Even then, a place exists for Shaffer on the roster.
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Shaffer was a third baseman coming out of college with a plus arm, but some questioned his defensive ability and expected him to make a move to first base. Despite that, he continued to get playing time at third this year. In addition to that, Shaffer spent time at first base as well as right field – although it should be noted he had an .897 fielding percentage in 228 innings in right field in Triple-A this year.
Offensively, Shaffer projects very similarly to Darin Ruf with one glaring exception – he can draw walks. At Triple-A this year, Shaffer posted a 13.1% walk rate.
That is why Shaffer’s on-base percentage (.329) was more than 100 points higher than his batting average (.227). Since the Phillies had the second-lowest walk rate out of all teams (7.1%), it makes sense that they picked him up considering his patience.
As it currently stands, the Phillies bench is notably bereft of power. If Aaron Altherr winds up on the bench he could provide some pop, but it is more likely that he will start in right field and Roman Quinn will start the year in Triple-A. Andrew Knapp also has solid raw power, but he has no major-league experience. This leaves Shaffer as the team’s best option for power off the bench.
Shaffer has certainly failed to live up to his potential as a strong-throwing, strong-hitting third baseman since becoming a pro, but that isn’t to say he can’t be a major-league contributor. Considering the Phillies have a wide-open bench, Shaffer could easily find his way onto the roster as a backup corner infielder/outfielder with above-average to plus power potential.