June 2009

Schafer sent to Gwinnett

OK.  It’s official.  Jordan Schafer has been sent back to the Minors to regain the promising form that has been absent during the first two months of his career. 

While Gregor Blanco prepared to make his first big league start of the year on Tuesday afternoon, Schafer packed his belongings and prepared to re-introduce himself to the Minor League level with Triple-A Gwinnett.

Blanco, who spent the entire 2008 season with Atlanta, got off to a slow start with Gwinnett this year.  But over the past two weeks, he has hit 348 (16-for-46) with eight strikeouts, a .426 on-base percentage and a .391 slugging percentage.    <p>
The Braves remained patient with Schafer through the season’s first month.  But since his last multi-hit game on May 7, the young outfielder has hit .160 with 25 strikeouts, a .229 on-base percentage and a  .187 slugging percentage.  <p>

Anderson showing signs of encouragement

Given that it was their first home run from an outfielder since May 1, the Braves had every reason to enjoy watching Garret Anderson jog around the bases after taking Max Scherzer deep during Sunday’s win over the D-backs.
But what I found most encouraging about Anderson’s first homer of the season was the fact that it produced a seemingly greater rarity   —  an obvious smile as he entered the dugout.
This isn’t to say that Anderson hadn’t previously smiled since joining the Braves in February.  Nor am I indicating that a player’s value is based on the amount of times that he shows his pearly whites.
But in this case, it was just good to at least see a sign that Anderson is having fun and seemingly getting comfortable with his new environment.   More importantly , in his past 17 games,  he’s hit .333 with a .424 slugging percentage.   
While those numbers might not be eye-popping, they’re pretty impressive when compared to those posted during this span by the Braves other outfielders.    
Dating back to Anderson’s return from the disabled list on May 5, the Braves left fielders have hit .306 with a .743 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).   Their center fielders (primarily Jordan Schafer) have hit .156 with .408 OPS and their right fielders (primarily Jeff Francoeur) have hit .228 with a .493 OPS.
In other words the mix of Anderson and Matt Diaz in left could prove to be serviceable.  Of course while hitting  .406 with a .563 slugging percentage in his past 13 games, Diaz has also provided the Braves even more reason to also utilize him with greater regularity at the other two outfield positions.
Regardless of how they fix their problems in center and right, the Braves at least have reason to feel better about the $2.5 million that they spent on Anderson.  
In other words, I no longer view Anderson as the $2.5 million mannequin that Scott Boras was shopping.  When I wrote that in April, Anderson was preparing to go on the disabled list and prolong extended strings of inactivity that had started on March 6, when he injured his calf while preparing for his second exhibition games.
Had Anderson shown at least some form of emotion while dealing with his leg ailments, I’d have probably viewed his situation in a more sympathetic manner and strayed away from thoughts about the possibility that he simply didn’t want to be in Atlanta.    
But that’s not who Anderson is.  Instead, he’s a calm and reserved professional, who has remained true to his personality while never attempting to indulge the media with false emotions.    
Having dealt with a handful of players who have displayed a false personality in the public eye, I’ve grown to appreciate guys like Anderson who simply want to play the game and avoid the spotlight that it brings.
Anderson won’t be a defensive asset and he won’t provide the power the Braves desperately need. But while letting his play speak for itself over the past month, he’s steadily proven that he was the best option the Braves had when they were still seeking an outfielder during February’s final week.  
Schafer’s sticking around:   Since recording his most recent multi-hit game on May 7, Jordan Schafer has batted .160 with 25 strikeouts a .229 on-base percentage and a  .187 slugging percentage.   But even with Gregor Blanco showing some recent progress with Triple-A Gwinnett, the Braves haven’t provided indication that they’re ready to send Schafer back to the Minors.  
Over the past two weeks, Blanco has hit .348 (16-for-46) with eight strikeouts, a .426 on-base percentage and a .391 slugging percentage.  

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