Human Beanball Magnet and Pirates 2012 draftee Tyler Gaffney has decided to hang up his baseball spikes for a pair football cleats. The former Division-I football player will be re-enrolling at Stanford University, the school the Pirates drafted him out of in the 24th round last year. That will put his professional baseball career officially on hold.
Gaffney cites his love of the gridiron - this past season was the first in several years that he didn't compete in organized competitive football - as one of the primary reasons for his return. The other is his desire to complete his degree. Gaffney will be a welcome re-addition to a Stanford football program that is now considered one of the elite programs in college football. He should receive plenty of time at running back as there are carries to go around after the departure of star running back Stefan Taylor.
For the Pirates, it's an unfortunate loss. Taylor is far from an elite prospect, but he did show an intriguing mix of baseball skills and good athleticism while playing in short season ball after being drafted. His hit tool and power tool were solid, although nothing special for a college product playing at such a low level. On the other hand, Gaffney demonstrated an elite ability to get on-base. He walked just as much as he struck out, showing great plate discipline and he showed an uncanny ability to get hit by pitches, boosting his on-base percentage. In fact, Gaffney nearly got on-base half the time in the 153 plate appearances, registering an insanely high .483 OBP.
It's unclear where Gaffney will go from here into the future. Clearly, his next year will be spent at Stanford and he'll miss this summer. According to Gaffney, he's trying to get out of his baseball contract, but the Pirates will retain rights to him unless they give them up. Gaffney only has one year of football eligibility remaining. Depending on where he is on his degree, he could play the football season and be ready to return to the Pirates next spring if both sides so desire. The lost year of development would hurt Gaffney, but considering the fact that Gaffney was only a 24th round pick, the Pirates probably didn't lose out on too much. Plus, considering Gaffney's surprising debut, it's probably too early to write him off completely, even if he'll be going through two-a-days this summer instead of playing outfield for the West Virginia Power.