Schafer should allow Twins extended look at Danny Santana at shortstop
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MINNEAPOLIS - When the Twins traded Sam Fuld to the Athletics at the nonwaiver trade deadline, it left the team thin in the outfield. And especially in center field.
Aaron Hicks was hitting well at Double-A and he has been promoted to Triple-A Rochester, but he certainly had his struggles with Major League pitching this season and last. And aside from him, the system is short on Major League-ready center fielders.
So the Twins went and claimed off waivers a little-used outfielder, Jordan Schafer, whom the Braves had designated for assignment.
Whether Schafer has an extended future with the Twins remains to be seen. Now that he's in Minnesota, though, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire will have the flexibility to put Danny Santana at shortstop more often if he chooses to. That's part of the plan, he said, but it sounds like that won't be on an everyday basis.
"I just mean we can do it now, I have a backup center fielder," Gardenhire said Tuesday. "It's not like [Schafer] is coming in to be the starter and Santana is going to [shortstop], it just gives me maneuverability. It gives me a chance to get Santana action in the infield because I have a center fielder that can go out and play."
The way the future of the organization currently projects, Byron Buxton will be in center field in the not-too-distant future. That's why it could make sense to see in the final two months how Santana would handle an extended look at shortstop. (It's also why, for example, Hicks played left field Tuesday for Rochester and will get regular looks at all three outfield spots.)
Eduardo Escobar played shortstop for the Twins on Tuesday, and they also have Jorge Polanco coming through the system.
"I'm not going to separate shortstop and center field, I think if you can hit, you can hit. I think [Santana] will hit anywhere," Gardenhire said. "I've always said [with] this guy, when [pitches] around the zone like they are in the big leagues, he does pretty good. I just think that he won't change if he goes to shortstop, he won't change his approach."
Gardenhire added: "He looks pretty comfortable right now. I think he finally has a feel for what he's doing out there. I think he's been a natural shortstop as far as I'm concerned and we've seen him through the minor leagues do that. We'll see. Shortstop's a grinding position, there's a lot of action going on there."
So perhaps the most important thing Schafer adds to the Twins is the flexibility to learn more about Santana as a shortstop. What does Schafer add on the field?
To start, he's fast. He has 88 stolen bases in 110 career attempts (80 percent success rate). But in more than 1,250 plate appearances, the 27-year-old has hit just .222/.307/.304. He says he believes that he's underachieved to this point.
"I feel defensively I'm extremely good. I feel as far as stealing bases and stuff I've been extremely successful," Schafer said.
"I think so far to this point in my career I've underachieved at the plate. I think there's been times when I've been really good and then I've kind of gotten knocked off course a little bit, whether it's just been injury, a lot of times I just couldn't quite get it back," he said. "Hopefully I can get that on track here and be consistent."
He said that he told the Braves "quite a few times" that he'd like more playing time. He got just 93 plate appearances in 63 games this season. He got 265 plate appearances last season with the Braves and 360 with the Astros the year before that.
Will this be a long-term stay in Minnesota?
"I look at it as a great opportunity and hopefully I can make it a long-term thing," Schafer said. "I'm happy for the change of scenery and I'm happy to be here."
Additional reading: Schafer seems, based on his stats, like a fourth outfielder at most.