Friday night against Duke ace Marcus Stroman, Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer showed about 20 scouts—including several crosscheckers and a few scouting directors—that he has no trouble catching up to premium velocity.
Shaffer went 2-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout Friday night, with both singles coming off of 95 mph fastballs from Stroman. The strikeout came against Duke reliever Andrew Istler.
After the game, Shaffer was complimentary of Stroman's stuff.
"He was electric today," Shaffer said. "You can't be thinking anything besides fastball, because he's really got a heavy ball. He kind of has that short arm motion, so it really gets on you real fast. I was just trying to look for something up in the zone and was trying to stay off his slider, because when it's on, it's almost unhittable. . . the at-bat that I walked, he threw me a 2-0 slider and I think it might be the sharpest slider I've ever seen. Thankfully, it was a couple inches off the plate and wasn't a strike. But there's a reason he's as good as he is. He has great stuff and I was fortunate enough to get a few pitches up in the zone and get a few hits."
Stroman threw nine innings, giving up one unearned run off of seven hits. He walked three and struck out 13 for a no-decision. Clemson eventually won the game, 4-1, in 11 innings. After the 2-for-4 performance, Shaffer is now hitting .349/.489/.670 on the season with 11 doubles and seven home runs.
Clemson coach Jack Leggett has been impressed with Shaffer's development over the past three years.
"He's been more selective at the plate," Leggett said. "He's patient but aggressive and he's using all fields. He's understanding that line drives and hitting the ball in the gap and those sorts of things are big. He's a big RBI guy, got a big hit early in the game to break the ice early. He's playing good defense at third base and is getting more comfortable all the time over there and he's doing a lot of good things, leadership wise. His leadership colors are coming out."
Shaffer has a tall, physical frame at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. He has broad shoulders, but a trim ways and moves well for his size. He's light on his feet at third base and isn't a clogger on the bases. He has above-average arm strength and, if he has to move off of third base, may be able to handle a move to a corner outfield spot instead of heading straight to first base.
While scouts have to think about the future, Shaffer is very much living in the present.
"People can say whatever they want about me, but I'm confident in my abilities at third base," Shaffer said. "Right now, my goal is to play a good third for our team here. That's the most important thing now for me, is to make all the plays I can make and help our pitchers get outs. Whatever my future holds down the road, that's not really a priority for me right now. I'm just trying to focus on helping my team get wins, but I'm confident in playing wherever on the diamond."
• Even though Stroman's effort was marred by a loss, he still looked brilliant. His fastball was in the 93-96 mph range and he mixed in his 82-86 mph slider and his 81-83 mph changeup.
• Clemson starter Kevin Brady started out in the 92-94 mph range, but settled in at 90-92 and was down to the 89-90 range by the fourth inning. He recently scrapped his curveball for an 80-82 mph slider, which was a good pitch considering the circumstances. Brady allowed one run on four hits with one walk and three strikeouts over six innings. Righthanded reliever Scott Firth throws across his body a little, but shows a loose arm and a fastball in the 93-95 mph range. The arm strength is interesting, but Firth doesn't have good control—as evidenced by his five walks over five relief innings—and his 83-84 slider is inconsistent.