With the 25th overall pick in 2012’s MLB First-Year Player Draft Monday night, the Rays selected power-hitting corner infielder Richie Shaffer out of Clemson University. The 21-year-old hit .325/.448/.562 with 30 homers and 137 RBI after three seasons with the Tigers, and .351/.481/.600 with nine homers last season in his Junior year.
Shaffer—a right-handed batter—is an excellent hitter overall, and was considered one of the top college position players in the draft. The 6-foot-3 205-pounder’s outstanding power is what made him a first rounder, and his skills at the plate are impressive overall. He does have some holes in his swing, but he knows how to work a count (draws a lot of walks) and can hit well to all parts of the field. He’s drawn comparison to All-Star third basemen Ryan Zimmerman and David Freese, although it’s debatable whether his potential is equal to the likes of those two.
Defensively, Shaffer is a bit of a question mark moving forward. Third base is his primary position, as that’s where he’s had the most experience in his college career. However, he can play both first base and right field, which could be possible homes for him in the future. Scouting director R.J. Harrison and the Rays are considering Shaffer as a third baseman at the moment, and they’ll likely need to see him in the minors for a while before they make any position changes. Although his range is not that good, he has a great arm that fits well for both the hot corner and right field, and a 6’3” stature that should work fine for first base. He may not excel at any one position, but the Rays will still make the best out of his versatility.
At the end of the day, I think this is a great pick on the Rays’ part. It’s the second consecutive year that they’ve drafted a polished college bat (Mikie Mahtook last June) in two drafts that didn’t have much to offer from the college position-player pool. With his big-time power, I believe Shaffer has just as much offensive upside as anybody in this draft. He has a high ceiling for potential, and the Rays have plenty reason to hope he will develop into an impact hitter in their organization. I think Shaffer’s college success will translate into the pros, and his big bat should carry him rather quickly up the minor league ranks.