Jordan Schafer believes he’ll work his way back to Braves

It looks like Jordan Schafer hasn't lost all of his fans, as he signs an autograph before Gwinnett Braves game.

Jordan Schafer apparently hasn't lost all of his fans, as he signs an autograph before a Gwinnett game.

On April 5 of this season, a coveted prospect named Jason Heyward homered in his first major league at-bat for the Braves. You now can find him in the heart of their batting order, with nearly as many runs batted in as Chipper Jones and Brian McCann combined.

On April 5 of last season, a coveted prospect named Jordan Schafer homered in his first major league at-bat for the Braves. You could find him this weekend in Lawrenceville, hitting .217 for Triple-A Gwinnett.

There is no permanence in sports. But right now, fair or unfair, we can assume there are fewer people projecting Heyward will fall off a cliff than there are those believing Schafer will fulfill expectations.

Schafer knows this. He’s OK with it. Actually, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to slide off the Next Great Thing radar. Makes it sweeter if you can prove them wrong.

“Oh, 100 percent,” he said when asked if he believes some have written him off. “I’m sure there are a lot of those people out there. I had to listen to it all last year. But I know what my ability is. I know where I belong and how I can compete. I haven’t lost faith in myself, but I can understand how other people might have. It’s just going to take time for me to prove it to them.”

This is what Jordan Schafer looks like when he smiles. He had just homered in his first major league at-bat in Philadelphia.

This is what Jordan Schafer looks like when he smiles. He had just hit a home run in his first major league at-bat last season in Philadelphia.

It’s way too early for “bust” talk with Jordan Schafer. He has youth (23) and talent. He remains the Braves’ best hope for a starting center fielder and long-term leadoff hitter (Martin Prado, notwithstanding). That’s just not going to happen right away. Schafer went from the organization’s No. 1 prospect in 2008 to a suspension for HGH (which he has long disputed) to struggling in his rookie season (following that early home run), getting dropped to the minors and then having wrist surgery last September.

To what extent the wrist injury skewed Schafer’s statistics (.204 with 63 strikeouts in 167 at-bats) can’t be certain until he returns to the majors. But perceptions have taken a hit, as has his psyche. Waiting for timing, strength and production to return can wear on any athlete, especially a young one. In his first 26 games with three teams  in the minors following rehab, he was hitting .241. He went 8  for 42 (.170) in the first 11 games but 7  for 22 (.318) in the next five.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, and he wants it to happen overnight,” G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said. “It’s way more mental than it is physical. He didn’t have this thought process before, with all the down time to think about all this stuff. He just let his tools play. Then he got to the big leagues and it was humbling. But he’ll be better for this down the road.”

Schafer has needed some counseling along the way. In addition to Brundage, he has had long conversations with his father and a sports psychologist (whom he had seen in 2007 before stopping). It has been difficult, though he managed a joke when asked how he liked playing in Gwinnett.

“The stadium over there [Turner Field] is a little closer to my house,” he said.

He talked about feeling frustrated. He talked about needing patience. He talked about growth. He admits he could’ve handled things better, and let things bother him too much in the past.

“I tried to listen to a hundred different people at one time,” he said.

“The past two or three years I’ve probably been through as many highs and lows as anybody can go through. It’s made me stronger mentally. I don’t think anything can faze me now because I’ve been through so much. I was telling somebody earlier that I wouldn’t let my kid play this game. I’d have him play golf.”

He still sees himself as the Braves’ leadoff hitter one day, though he won’t put a timetable on it. He has even solicited Otis Nixon for advice.

When Schafer returns to the stadium down I-85, he said, “I won’t be shocked and awed this time. It’ll be more of a business type approach. Last time I let those distractions get to me. Mentally, I’ll be better prepared.”

It’s not just the wrist that needed healing.

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72 comments Add your comment

Reid Adair

June 6th, 2010
1:54 pm

Great article, Jeff. It seems that Jordan Schafer has changed his mental approach to the game, in addition to recovering from his surgery. I hope he does make it back to the Braves’ roster and Turner Field in the near future.

andy a

June 6th, 2010
2:02 pm

Headed to chavez ravine. Go braves!

andy a

June 6th, 2010
2:02 pm

Enter your comments here

Efuzz

June 6th, 2010
2:04 pm

I wish the kid the best. I hope he heals and gets his swing back soon. We could sure use him in CF with the big club.

mclOUTh

June 6th, 2010
2:04 pm

He can’t get ready soon enough. Maybe by then Nate will lose the dirty pics he has of Bobby and we can get a change in the lineup.

mclOUTh

June 6th, 2010
2:05 pm

Top 5….best ever finish…

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ReidAdair, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: Jordan Schafer admits he could've handled things better last year. http://bit.ly/b9j6Oi [...]

Ted M

June 6th, 2010
2:11 pm

Thanks Jeff, please keep us posted on his progress.

Ted M

June 6th, 2010
2:13 pm

I keep thinking Nate is gonna get hot…I don’t know just because…then he never does.

The Sham

June 6th, 2010
2:27 pm

@ Jeff – what kind of complications made this wrist injury such a big deal? Was it broken, ligament damage, what?

Chopper

June 6th, 2010
2:28 pm

I saw Schafer play in Chattanooga about three weeks ago. He looked great. Swung the bat well with a lot of pop and showed his speed when he got on the base paths. He’s too good not to get another shot at it in the big leagues, either with the Braves or some other club. I wish him well…

CajunStorm

June 6th, 2010
2:31 pm

Jeff, “He went 8 for 42 (.170) in the first 11 games but 7 for 42 (.318) in the next five.”

You must hav meant 7 for 22. That would be a .318 avg. Not to be the correction A-Hole but 42 AB’s in 5 games is impossible.

Anyway, I think we’ll see Schafer here after the All-Star break. I feel he has the talent to be a better CF than Nate and have a better bat. If Schafer gets above .275 in AAA it’ll be time to bring him up and I’d keep Blanco up as back-up. We’re getting younger so let’s keep mixing in the youngsters. Every minute with Bobby and Chipper these kids can get the better.

The Real Brave

June 6th, 2010
2:35 pm

A non-story. Should never have been brought up and put into that situation. His stats in AAA show that.
He is NO Heyward!

GT Alum

June 6th, 2010
2:41 pm

Hey, Jeff. He got 42 ABs in his next 5 games?

Seriously, good to hear Schafer has confidence that he can make it back to the majors, and that he might be starting to get back to the player he was before the injury. Make sure he knows that even though there are a lot of doubters, there’s still a lot of us who believe his second trip to the majors will be a lot more successful and a lot longer. Would love to see him back in Atlanta by the start of next year.

GT Alum

June 6th, 2010
2:49 pm

Real Brave, you’re right – he’s no Jason Heyward. A player like Jason Heyward only comes along once every 10 or 20 years.

But just because he’s no Heyward doesn’t mean he’s another Jeff Francoeur.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TDC, Jeff Schultz. Jeff Schultz said: Jordan Schafer believes he’ll work his way back to Braves http://bit.ly/duTxw5 [...]

jazzyk

June 6th, 2010
3:10 pm

Here’s hoping Schafer makes it back to the bigs with the Braves. Jeff, you’re absolutely right about him being the long-term solution in center field and at leadoff. As far as I can tell, Schafer still has speed and base stealing potential. If he can become an effective bunter and slap hitter, he’ll boost his OBP giving the Braves and chance to scratch out runs when the long ball’s not happening.

The Grinch

June 6th, 2010
3:43 pm

We definitely need him back. He’s gonna be fine.

Ted Striker

June 6th, 2010
3:58 pm

I sincerely hope he makes it to MLB. But if he doesn’t, that merely means that someone else — with likely as many hopes and dreams and desires of a big-league career — makes it instead.

lanier

June 6th, 2010
4:03 pm

Count on it this guy is finished

Millermoose

June 6th, 2010
4:44 pm

The way Nate McCouth has been playing, I think Jordan should get an opportunity to show what he can do. McClouth has done a poor job defensively as well as offensively and needs a refresher course in Baseball 101.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2010
5:01 pm

Reid — Thanks. Needless to say, the center field position is wide open, and I think a lot of people would rather see Prado in the 2 hole.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2010
5:01 pm

Andy A — Have a Dodger Dog.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2010
5:02 pm

Ted M — Will do. Thanks.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2010
5:04 pm

The sham — Bone spur removed and I think he had two small bones connected by a wire. I don’t know that there were complications. It’s just a long rehab.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2010
5:06 pm

CajunStorm — Thanks, and that typo was fixed. … I don’t think there’s any question Jordan can be a significant upgrade over McLouth, both defensively and offensively.

mclOUTh

June 6th, 2010
5:07 pm

We have a good start today….no Nate. Thank GOD!

The Dogfighter Returns

June 6th, 2010
5:26 pm

So are you implying that j-hey will be in the minors next year? :)

This dude has had counseling (he is mentally soft), since he was looking for a magic potion in a bottle I am not surprised.

Jeff this story ain’t looking pretty. This guy does not exude confidence or any impression that he knows what he is doing in the batter’s box.

I hope he saved his signing bonus. For every J-hey there are about 5 J-schays.

Delbert D.

June 6th, 2010
6:32 pm

Not likely to make it in my opinion.

Nick

June 6th, 2010
6:33 pm

Jeff – How do I go about contacting AJC staff to complain about an AJC columnist or Journalist if I feel they have a piss poor attitude on their blogs?

Realist

June 6th, 2010
6:33 pm

I’ve followed Schafer the past three seasons and I’m not real sure what the excitement is about. I see raw ability but nothing that shows me optimism on the major league level. His minor league stats are nothing special.

Nick

June 6th, 2010
6:35 pm

Don’t worry Jeff it’s not you, lol. You always have a positive attitude and never seem to be disgruntled.

I pick my nose

June 6th, 2010
6:50 pm

He seems to me to have the inate skills…he looks awesome striking out…if he had connected it’s a homerun…I got no clue..?? good article Jeff…but I’m stll picking my nose….

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2010
6:55 pm

Dogfighter — I’m not calling it quits on Schafer yet … But the J-Schay thing — that’s pretty funny.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2010
6:55 pm

Nick — Just tell me and I’ll pass it along to the stockholders.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2010
6:56 pm

Nick — by the way, Scrooge was just misunderstood.

turkeycaller

June 6th, 2010
7:06 pm

Good article. Do the Braves have any interest in trying to sign Marvin McCollum Jr.out of Cleveland?

Dale Murphy Fan

June 6th, 2010
7:25 pm

ok, who was it that thought Milky was a good pick up?

Dale Murphy Fan

June 6th, 2010
7:29 pm

Can Schafer play center? And Schafer is a center fielder.

CJDawg

June 6th, 2010
7:46 pm

Schafer is a center fielder by nature DMF. Not that I have any unside info, but the 50 game suspension was explained to me and, if the story was true….and it came from a very good contact, it was a bogus, bogus call by MLB, an overcorrection by all means.

Schafer may have been a victim of what I call the Ricky Henderson Syndrome. To me, that’s when a great fielder with speed to burn wants to also wants to hit tape measure shots. Rickey was one of a kind, both on and off the field. The Olerud story is an allll time great, but by far, the story of RH having his million dollar check framed is the best.

Schafer will be our CF and leadoff man IMHO next year for sure. I think he will be a call up this year and hit late in the order while flashing his brilliance with the glove. I think he could really be a key for us. I might be dreaming, but McCann, JJ, Hanson, Freddie Freeman, Schafer, Medlen, Prado, Cody Johnson, the pitcher with the name I can’t spell and some kid named Heyward give us a pretty dang good nucleus for the next …..however many years. I hope we can find the right manager to succeed Bobby (GLENN HUBBARD!!!) and keep on winning. I love this game.

IlliniBrave

June 6th, 2010
7:56 pm

I’d rather have an immobile Eric Hinske in CF than Jordie Schafie. The guy seems like a cluster-f*** and I’d just as soon write him off and move on.

Clay

June 6th, 2010
8:03 pm

Come on DJDawg, the players’ union would have killed MLB in the event of a “bogus call.”

Schafer got caught buying HGH from a company south of the border that sold it to many professional athletes. There’s no test for HGH, so the US professional leagues focus on the sellers/buyers.

Schafer hasn’t hit more than about .217 since that year (on HGH) when he was the #1 Prospect in the minors, except for about 2 weeks in spring training in ‘09.

Nick

June 6th, 2010
8:04 pm

Jeff – The guy is a good writer but it is David O’Brian. He always seems to get pissy on his blogs with fans. He does not seem very hospitable.

Nick

June 6th, 2010
8:05 pm

I don’t know how he is personally, but on his blogs he seems to give attitude on his blogs.

Navigator

June 6th, 2010
8:08 pm

You have to believe to keep going, but I don’t think he has big league talent.

DSP

June 6th, 2010
8:08 pm

Jeff – Do you know anything about Edward Salcedo. Where he is playing at the time?

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2010
9:23 pm

Turkeycaller — Thanks. And don’t know.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2010
9:24 pm

Dale Murphy Fan — Don’t know if anybody other than Frank Wren thought Melky Cabrera was a good pickup.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2010
9:26 pm

Nick — David can be feisty but so can all of us. He’s a great baseball writer.

Jeff Schultz

June 6th, 2010
9:27 pm

DSP — Edward Salcedo is still in the Dominican Republic, I believe, playing in a summer league over there. Last I heard, there were still some visa issues in terms of trying to get him over here.