The Rays will promote Richie Shaffer, their slugging third base/first base, prospect to the majors on Monday.
Shaffer, the team's 2012 first-round draft pick (out of Clemson), started the season in double-A after performing good-but-not-great at that level a year before. He broke out in 2015, however, hitting for an average/on-base/slugging slash line of .262/.362/.470 and earning a promotion to triple-A Durham in May. He was unphased by the higher level, slashing .261/.353/.592(!).
Shaffer will become the first draftee from the 2012 class to make it to the majors.
A right-handed hitter, Shaffer will likely immediately slot into a Rays lineup that will be missing Steven Souza Jr. due to a broken hand. The Rays are about to face three left-handed pitchers. Shafer's primary position is third base, but that position is well-manned by Evan Longoria, so the question becomes where he'll play in the field.
The most obvious choice is at first-base, where he can give James Loney a break against the lefties, and Shaffer has apparently been working on his first-base defense since a stint there in the Arizona Fall League in 2013. Moreover, third base and first base require a similar physical toolset, making the transition relatively easy (in the third base to first base direction).
But according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, who first reported the news, there's some possibility that Shaffer will replace Souza directly in right field. Tweets Tompkin:
Regardless of where he plays, Shaffer will be okay with it, as long as it's in the majors.
Just talked to #Rays Shaffer, packing up in Durham, beyond excited to meet team in Chicago: "I can't even begin to describe the feeling."— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) August 2, 2015
And Rays fans should be excited too. Shaffer's power breakout caught some prospect analysts by surprise, and while he didn't attract much hype before the start of the season, he began to make a following for himself as he continued to slug extra-base hits. Now we fans get an opportunity to watch an offense-first prospect with both good pedigree and good production, which isn't something Rays fans have had a lot of recently.
The timetable for the promotion may have been pushed up by right-fielder Souza's injury, but it's not coming out of right field. All season long, Richie Shaffer has been coming. Now he is here.