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Introducing Richie Shaffer

The 2012 First Round Pick makes his MLB debut tonight!

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Back on June 4th, 2012 the Rays selected Richie Shaffer with their first pick in the draft at number 25 overall. He was widely regarded as the top college bat in the draft, but there was skepticism surrounding his defense and whether he'd actually end up at third base. Originally slated to be selected within the 10-20 pick range, it was a respectable selection when the Rays managed to snag him at 25th overall.

In the post draft write-up, Steve Slowinski agreed with those reports, having this to say:

The book on Shaffer seems to be that his bat is legit -- he has tremendous power -- but he carries a bit of risk because teams aren't sure where he'll end up defensively. He plays third at the moment, but it sounds like he could end up at first base or right field. He seems to have the bat for either position, so an eventual move to either position wouldn't necessarily be an issue.

Shaffer would sign with the team just a little over a month later and make his professional debut with Hudson Valley. His debut went fairly well in just 33 games, his walk and strikeout rates weren't bad, and he also showed the power that made him so attractive the Rays, belting four homers in 117 at bats.

However, in 2013 he took a step back as he spent the entire season in Port Charlotte and produced a low walk and high strikeout percentage. Meanwhile his power also diminished with only 11 dingers the entire season. In 2014, it was more of the same from Shaffer, this time with Montgomery. Heading into the all-star break last season, Shaffer had slashed .203/.293/.380 with 8 homers and a 89 wRC+ over the course of 73 games. The performance was paltry enough for Shaffer to fall to 34th on our DRaysBay off-season prospect list.

Something must have clicked for Shaffer eventually though, as he made a change in his approach and mechanics. He improved upon his walk and strikeout numbers, while also managing to improve his power at the plate. In the 46 games following the break, Shaffer slashed .255/.358/.540 with 11 homers for a 148 wRC+.

Those represented a tremendous improvement, but was it a flash in the pan? Shaffer had to show that he could duplicate those numbers. When he was reassigned to the minor league camp this year, the Rays decided to have him repeat at Montgomery, but there was no early slump this time around. He began reproducing those numbers easily with a slash line of .262/.362/.470 and seven homers in just 39 games.

On May 22nd, he was promoted to Durham and when he made his debut there on the 24th, it was a day to remember. Shaffer went 4-5 with two homers, a double, and a single in his first game at Triple-A. Then a couple of weeks later, he upped the ante by homering three times in one outing. By this point, some Rays fans were calling for Shaffer to be promoted as his power was drawing lots of excitement. Unfortunately, Shaffer's time with Durham can be represented by two halves, one very good half and one not as good.

During his first 27 games with Durham, Shaffer slashed .312/.404/.699 with 10 homers, good for a 214 wRC+. He was ridiculously hitting a home run a little over ever nine at-bats. However, in the 28 games since that time, Shaffer has slashed just .217/.315/.485 but his power has remained as has still hit six homers. For his efforts this season, Shaffer was also named to the Futures' Game, but went 0-4 but he had a couple of long, loud outs that may have been homers if not for wind disruption.

Also during that time Shaffer was re-learning first base as he had only played there in college and a couple of games during the Arizona Fall League. Something that will be interesting to see is how Shaffer produces as he learns to play the outfield at the major league level. As he's replacing Steven Souza in right field, he'll see the bulk of playing time out there while occasionally giving Evan Longoria and James Loney days off the field.

Shaffer's career has vastly improved since he made the change in his mechanics, there is a noticeable difference in out put. Although his strikeout total has risen, everything else has improved greatly across the board.

Career Numbers G HR AVG OBP SLG wRC+ K% BB%
Up to July 11th, 2014 272
Since July 11th, 2014 140 34 .261 .360 .539 153 25.7% 12.7%

Also coming with his promotion, Shaffer was placed on the Rays 40-man roster. Meanwhile Souza may be heading to the 60-day DL, depending on how the Rays want to handle his situation.

As for the rest of the roster, Desmond Jennings and Drew Smyly are on their respective ways back with Jennings likely returning sometime next week and Smyly will probably be a September callup. With Shaffer being promoted, the Rays now stand with 37 players on the 40-man, but it will be up to him to keep his place on the 25-man.