As part of our focus on third base this week, I'm taking a look at two high profile draftees who currently play the position, but could eventually end up reviving the state of the position across the diamond. Joey Gallo and Richie Shaffer were both first round selections, with Gallo going in the supplemental first (39th overall) but also earning a significantly higher bonus at $2.25 million compared to Shaffer's of $1.71 million at 25th overall. Both players were expected first round picks with Shaffer projecting to go a bit higher than he did, and Gallo being thought of as a first round talent, but no one was sure where he'd go due to bonus demands and 2012 being the first year teams were operating under the spending cap instituted to
screw small market teams reduce spending on the draft. Though Gallo signed for more than Shaffer, that doesn't mean he was thought more highly of, only that he had more leverage to negotiate as a prep product compared to Shaffer's status as an attendee of a 4 year program, although he was only a junior.
Expectations can weigh heavy on the mind of first round selections, and drag down initial performance. Not so with these two, as Gallo set records in the Arizona League and Shaffer managed an OPS just shy of 900 in the short season New York Penn league. The two performed admirably in their first taste of pro ball, and share many of the same traits from a scouting report perspective. Gallo used his 80 raw power to lay waste to the Arizona League, dropping 18 home runs and the mic, en route to a promotion to the short season Northwest league where he struggled in a small sample of at-bats. While the power is impressive for Gallo, it comes at a steep price, as he recorded a K% of 27, though he did show a discerning eye with a BB% of 19. While it's nice to know his approach is in tact, it is concerning to see a prospect with that much swing and miss in his game at such a low level. Upon his promotion, he retained an impressive 16.4% walk rate, but saw his already high K% escalate to 38.8%. Having discussed his power, let's move to his other premium tool: his arm. A reticent pitcher in high school, Gallo could pump his fastball up to 98 MPH. As a third baseman that means he's got more than enough arm for the position, but at 6'5/205 lbs the question is whether he can get to enough balls to use his cannon of an arm. Gallo's range his limited and he lacks quickness, traits that would fare better across the diamond. It's unlikely however, that the Rangers move him there quickly as it would be a waste of his plus arm and they, like most teams, try to keep their prospects at the positions with the most value.
Though he is also known for his power, Shaffer broke decidedly fewer records than Gallo, hitting fewer extra base hits than Gallo had home runs. Shaffer did post an impressive OPS in his pro debut, with solid slugging numbers, but also showing an impressive eye at the plate, with a .406 OBP generated by an 11.6% walk rate. Like Gallo, Shaffer struggled with the strikeout in his debut, whiffing at a rate of 22.5%. Despite the strikeouts, Shaffer is capable of identifying pitches, and is able to layoff the soft spinning stuff at times as he demonstrated in college, posting more walks than strikeouts as a junior. He has the bat speed to keep up with premium velocity and should be able to hit for average and power down the line. While he's had questions on his defensive ability in the past, Shaffer has put in the work to improve his footwork at the position, making him a more viable option there.
Shaffer may lack Gallo's premium tools, but he's a better all around player and a superior defender with more polish, and which one you prefer might say a lot about how much risk you're willing to tolerate in your investments. I would expect Shaffer to begin 2013 at Lo-A, as the Rays move methodically with their prospects. Gallo could be held out until short season ball begins, but the Rangers are often aggressive with their talent and could push him to Lo-A where I would expect a lot of strikeouts and a lot of power, with not much in between. It could be a sharp learning curve for Gallo, but once (or if) it clicks, we're all going to hear about it. Shaffer is the safer of the two models, with less overall potential, but more likely to move quickly through his system. Despite their aggressive nature, the Rangers might have to move slow with Gallo as he takes his lumps and learns to make adjustments. Don't misread that as not worth looking at right now though - both of these players have the potential to make an impact both in real life and in your fantasy lineup.
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