MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

Scouting profile: Richie Shaffer

Scouting profile: Richie Shaffer

Background
Versatile right-handed-hitting Richie Shaffer was an outstanding baseball player at Providence (Charlotte, N.C.) Senior High School. In fact, he was an all-state selection in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

The Los Angeles Dodgers chose him in the 2009 Draft, but he elected to play collegiate baseball.

Shaffer went on from Providence to star at Clemson University, where he played first base his first two years and moved to third base as a junior. He hit 30 career homers at Clemson.

Shaffer was known in college as an outstanding defensive corner infielder with very good power at the plate. An outstanding student, Shaffer was an All-Atlantic Coast Conference Academic selection, in addition to his many baseball awards while playing for the Tigers.

The Rays selected Shaffer in the first round of the 2012 Draft. He began his career at Class A Advanced Hudson Valley the same year.

After playing parts of four seasons in the Rays Minor League system, Shaffer made his Major League debut Aug. 3 against the White Sox. Shaffer has been used at first base, third base and even in the outfield in addition to serving as a designated hitter for the Rays.

Despite hitting .290 vs. left-handed-pitching in the Minors this year, Shaffer has managed just five hits in 45 at-bats (.111) against lefties in the big leagues.

Shaffer is the No. 11 prospect on the Rays' Top 30 Prospects list.

Hitting
Shaffer has come a long way from struggles he experienced with breaking balls early in his career. He has become more disciplined at the plate, and he is recognizing pitches quicker and more effectively.

Using his pull side most often, Shaffer has strong hands and wrists that generate power with good bat speed from an uppercut swing. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Shaffer has the type of physical presence at the plate that results in long home runs.

Defense
Shaffer has quick hands, very quick feet and excellent reaction time at both corners. He will make all the plays and will show up on a highlight reel now and again with a defensive gem. He is an above-average defender with self-confidence, but I feel he projects better as a first baseman. Shaffer's range seems more limited at third base, but his arm is strong and accurate.

Strengths
Because he is such a good athlete, Shaffer can be used at any number of positions, as the Rays have been doing this season.

His power remains his best offensive tool. Last year, Shaffer's third overall, he hit 19 home runs playing for Double-A Montgomery. This year, Shaffer smoked seven homers at Montgomery and another 19 at Triple-A Durham prior to being called to the Rays big league club.

I scouted Shaffer when he played for the United States team in the 2015 SiriusXM Futures Game in Cincinnati. I also watched him play in a series for the Rays against the Tigers in September. Shaffer showed that quick bat speed and good hitting mechanics. He also displayed his strong and accurate arm.

Weaknesses
When I saw him play, Shaffer appeared to be fooled by movement on the ball. Some swings and misses remain in his offensive game. While his power is his calling card, Shaffer won't likely hit for a consistently high batting average. He will have to work hard to lay off pitches he can't drive.

I find this interesting
Shaffer was the first Clemson player in the team's history to be named First-Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference at two infield positions.

The future for Shaffer
Power, good defense and a strong arm all bode well for Shaffer. Those tools and his grit can fit nicely on a team that is looking to improve offensive production. He is playing mostly at first base because of the presence of Evan Longoria at third, but there appears to be a future for him with the Rays, even if it is in the outfield or as a designated hitter at times.

Shaffer in a word
Versatile

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.