Richie Shaffer is easily the team's most exciting power hitting prospect in years. Yes, they had Wil Myers in 2013, but he was an acquisition, where as Shaffer was actually drafted by the team and worked his way through the system. His first couple of years were rough, but around the all-star break last season, something clicked for Shaffer, and he has been on fire since.
However, after his highly anticipated call-up back in August, Shaffer was used sparingly, which frustrated just about all of us fans. When he did play, Shaffer usually impressed, whether it be with his power (two of his homers have been opposite-field shots), or with his defense. With Evan Longoria manning the hot corner for the foreseeable future, Shaffer had to stick at first, and with the exception of a few tough plays, he has done well. And yet he still only sees playing time against southpaw pitchers.
Heading into tonight's game, Shaffer had made 66 plate appearances with 46 of those coming against lefties. Now those 66 trips to the plate are certainly not a big enough sample size to weigh any true evidence from, but he has actually struggled more against lefties than righties, going seven for 20 against righties while going five for 46 against lefties.
During the ninth inning of last night's game, Shaffer's long and mighty swing connected beautifully on a pitch from Robbie Ross Jr. sending it 435 feet and high over the Green Monster. That was Shaffer's first blast off a left-handed pitcher in the majors and his 30th overall this season (combining his minor league totals).
Now there are several reasons for Shaffer's platooning, with James Loney being one of them. The Rays first baseman may be in his final days in a Rays uniform (if someone is willing to take him on this offseason), but he is the better defender at first and can hit righties better. If Loney is playing first, Shaffer will sometimes be used as the DH, but Kevin Cash has preferred to use Grady Sizemore or Daniel Nava for those situations.
|vs RHP in 2015||PA||AVG||OBP||SLG||HR||K%||BB%|
|Richie Shaffer (AAA)||210*||.258||.346||.570||15||27.1%||11.4%|
*May not be exact amount of Plate Appearances
This is incredibly frustrating due to the numerous chances those players have already received and have done very little with. Sizemore was decent for a week, and has since provided minuscule support. Also, against righties this year, he's hit just .235 in 258 plate appearances. Daniel Nava was surprisingly added in August, and then he took playing time away from Shaffer who was demoted shortly after. Nava has since been terrible for Tampa Bay.
Now looking at the chart up above, surely one could expect Shaffer to hit slightly less than Longoria, but show more power. The season is nearly over, and the Rays will not be making the playoffs. It's certain that Sizemore and Nava are not the future in Tampa Bay, so why not give those plate appearances to Shaffer, who just might be?