Richie Shaffer possesses the tools to get him to the major leagues. The plus raw power is his key attribute. He'll probably strike out more than we'd like, but that's often the price you pay to have his kind of power.
Shaffer is also a capable defender at third with a strong arm. He has the work ethic and determination to make the majors, which means he'll be getting more reps at first base this season, and possibly the corner outfield spots.
Regardless of his defensive position, Shaffer had resounding success in the minors last year, hitting 26 home runs in 108 games between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham; 19 of those home runs came in Triple-A.
After making his pro debut, Shaffer struggled to make contact, finishing with a .189 batting average and a 36.4 K%. He still showed the power, hitting four home runs, but there was clearly room for improvement at the plate.
If we had to find one bright spot, it'll be hard to forget Shaffer's first home run.
After it, his teammates ignored him, but it didn't faze Shaffer at all. He only made the joke funnier by high-fiving his imaginary teammates in the dugout.
Despite his initial struggles in the majors, Shaffer remains a highly touted prospect, coming in at eighth on MLB Pipeline's third base rankings.
While the tools and rankings indicate a long-term stay in the majors is imminent, Shaffer remains blocked by players on the pro roster. Evan Longoria will be in the 2016 lineup and doesn't appear anywhere close to needing a switch to DH. Although he struggled last season, James Loney remains under contract and new acquisition Logan Morrison also enters into the equation.
The option always exists for Shaffer to remain in Durham for another year and make a full transition to the pros in 2017. Loney's contract will expire after 2016 and it is hard to see the Rays handing him another contract when so much first base depth exists in the system. In this option, Shaffer will get more at-bats in Durham to hone his contact skills.
However, if the team thinks Shaffer is a better option than Morrison or Loney, then a promotion early in the season or a 25-man roster spot out of spring training are both possible. If Loney is struggling again this season, it will be hard to justify keeping him in the lineup while Shaffer is hammering more home runs in the minors.
Scouting grades: Hit: 40 | Power: 55 | Run: 35 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
If Shaffer intends to carve out a consistent spot on the 25-man roster, he will have to do it with his bat. With Longoria locked in at third, Shaffer's glove won't do him much good at first or as a DH.
While Shaffer wasn't an immediate success last year, a strong performance in spring training and/or in his limited time in the majors could cause the team to make some decisions about what to do with their band of corner infielders at the major-league level.