Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Human Beanball Magnet

Gaffney might need a football helmet.
Tyler Gaffney is used to violent contact.  Before being drafted and subsequently signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the outfielder played as the backup running back for the Stanford Cardinals, one of the better college football programs of the last half decade.  However, this past summer, Gaffney - who also played for the Stanford baseball team - traded in his pads for a glove and bat.  Despite leaving the game of football, Gaffney has been unable to leave behind a penchant for violent contact.

Gaffney signed as a 24th round pick for a undisclosed bonus amount.  He was sent to State College as an advanced college bat and for the Spikes, Gaffney showed an incredible ability to get on-base.  In 151 plate appearances, Gaffney reached base 73 times, a .483 clip.  Part of that ability to get on-base is derived from very strong plate discipline.  Gaffney posted a 13.2% walk rate that was mirrored by a 13.2% strikeout rate.  In addition, Gaffney clearly has some type of mystical magnetic ability that attracts beanballs.  To complete a perfect trifecta, Gaffney managed to get hit by pitches 20 times, 13.2% of the time.

It's almost guaranteed Gaffney will not be able to continue to get by pitches at the insane rate he did in 2012.  While it's quite possible he will continue to get pegged more often than the average hitter, a 13.2% rate is unsustainable. For comparison, Craig Biggio holds the modern day record for getting beaned.  In 12,503 plate appearances, Biggio got hit 285 times, a 2.2% clip.   Gaffney got hit six times as often in 2012 as Biggio did for his career.  Furthermore, if Gaffney does somehow continue to get hit nearly one of seven plate appearances, it will be nearly impossible for him to stay consistently healthy.

Gaffney is a fairly interesting prospect.  He's athletic as evidenced by his ability to be a D-1 running back at Stanford.  Playing football also means he has never focused full time on baseball.  In his fairly small trial at State College, Gaffney showed a myriad of solid skills apart from his beanball magnetism. He posted a .297/.483/.441 line, showing excellent plate discipline, a good hit tool, and decent power.  He has an outside shot to stick at centerfield, but most likely will have to move to a corner outfield spot in the future.  Because of this, Gaffney will have to mirror his elite ability to get on-base with some more pop, and a muscular 6'1, 225 lbs frame suggests that is a possibility.  Gaffney is a long shot to make the major leagues, but as a 24th round college pick under the new CBA, Gaffney is a surprisingly good prospect who had a solid start to his professional career.


  1. So going pretty much off topic, but something I've always wondered: What do you think it means to describe a prospect/player as "athletic"? I have three theories:

    1. Fast
    2. Good at a lot of general physical-type things without necessarily any connection to baseball. Coordinated, fast, strong perhaps, can jump high. Ballet dancers are probably athletic.
    3. Speedy

    What do you think?

    1. I think just a mix of speed, agility, and jumping ability really. Obviously athleticism is way more important in football and basketball than in baseball.