The 2008 Milwaukee Brewers draft class, to this point, is known more for who is no longer in the organization than who is still here.
First round pick Brett Lawrie was flipped for Shaun Marcum. Compensatory pick Jake Odorizzi was packaged for Zack Greinke. Second round pick Cutter Dykstra was moved for Nyjer Morgan. Other high picks, like Evan Frederickson, Cody Adams and Seth Lintz, have since been released.
In fact, of the seven players the Brewers picked in the first three rounds of that the only one left is Logan Schafer, who was picked 94th overall in the third round.
He was the Brewers organization’s minor league player of the year in 2009 after hitting a combined .308 with 44 extra base hits between Class A Brevard County and Class AA Huntsville, but it seemed as if his development would be stunted when he missed all but seven games in 2010 with a broken foot and a sports hernia.
He had done enough to warrant an invitation to the Brewers’ spring training in 2011 however, and though he didn’t make the team out of camp he picked up right where he left off in 2009 by hitting .315 with 33 extra base hits over 99 games with Brevard County, Huntsville and Class AAA Nashville.
He then made his major league debut that season, on Sept. 2.
Schafer made the club’s 40-man roster and played in 16 major league games in 2012 and he made the club out of spring training this year.
It seemed like the proper trajectory for a high draft pick, but the Brewers were more than set in the outfield with Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Corey Hart. Then, the team signed Norichika Aoki in the winter of 2012.
While Hart eventually moved to first base, Aoki solidified his place in right field. Gomez signed a long-term extension this offseason developed into an All-Star. And of course there was Braun, signed through 2020 with one Most Valuable Player trophy already under his belt.
His role to start the season would be as the fourth outfielder, at best.
"Until that lineup goes up, which is usually around 3, 3:30 (p.m.), I’m preparing to start," Schafer said. "I knew that the chances probably weren’t good, but I was prepared to start and ready to go. As far as my preparation, I’m preparing to play every day and always have been."
That put him in a position to have to produce in limited at-bats at the major league level, without the experience to do so.
"It’s a tough job – the toughest job in baseball," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I don’t think you know how a guy is going to handle it until he gets in that position, you give him enough at-bats to see if he’s the guy who can handle it, especially being young. I haven’t seen too many guys that are young that have done the job well. I know that was my job when I came to the big leagues and id dint do a very good job of it. It’s too hard. You don’t get enough at-bats. You think about our outfield, they’re going to play most of the time."
From Opening Day through July 22, Schafer had appeared in 83 of the Brewers 97 games, hitting .233 with 17 extra base hits. But he began playing more regularly when a thumb bruise began to worsen for Braun in late May, and eventually sent him to the disabled list in early June. In 40 games between June 1 and July 22 – 33 starts – Schafer seemed to be finding himself at the plate. He collected two hits or more in eight of those games and hit .246 with 14 extra base hits.
July 22nd is a marker, of course, because that is when Braun was suspended for the rest of the regular season for violating the league’s Joint Drug Agreement. While Roenicke didn’t flat out give the left field spot to Schafer – Khris Davis and Caleb Gindl are also seeing time – but it’s a greater opportunity to establish himself at the major league level.
"I’ll obviously have more of an opportunity to be playing, but I’ve been playing every day since early in June so it’s almost as if I just get to continue playing. That’s how I’m going to take it," Schafer said.
"I guess that would have been a different situation if Brauny had been playing every day and I hadn’t been and then I just get kind of thrown into the mix, but I feel like I’ve been a pretty decent part of this team this year and I feel like I’ve done some things to win some ballgames. Obviously my stats aren’t where I want them to be, but I feel like I’ve been playing pretty good baseball. Just being able to play every day, and hopefully get that opportunity, will help me help this team."
"I’m excited to be able to get to show what I can do. That’s all I can take from it, personally. The only thing I can control is myself and I’m just going to try and go out there and do what I do."
Schafer has started four times in the nine games post-suspension (through July 30) and is hitting just .200, but he does have a .400 on base percentage.
"I’d like him to have consistent at-bats," Roenicke said of what he’s looking for out of the 26-year-old. "I want Logan to be consistent in what he does offensively. He’s going to be, always, really good defensively. He’s always going to do the little things – bunt, stealing bases, taking an extra base. I think he’s always going to do that well. But the hardest part, as everybody knows, is the hitting. And to be consistent there, I think is important for him."
But, how to do that?
"I think it’s having a plan," Roenicke said. "The more you play, the more at-bats you get, the more confidence you get, you’re able to stick with a plan. I can say for myself, that hurt me, because I never had enough success in the big leagues to stick with a plan and say you know, I may be 0 for 5 in five games but I’m going to stick with this. I just didn’t have that in me. So, that’s why that job is so hard. Those guys that are good at it, they know what they’re doing. They go to the plate and they look for certain pitches and they stick with it. Sometimes it’s not going to work but the majority of times they’re going to have a better chance."
A chance is all Schafer is hoping for.
"I think I’m a major league ballplayer," he said. "I have been this year, obviously. I haven’t been doing as well as I’ve wanted to but I feel like I’ve been playing pretty good defense and you’ve got to at least have that. I’ve been swinging the bat better lately.
"I’m just going to continue being a good part of this team and hopefully fill in and help win some ball games. Seriously. I know I repeat myself about that a lot but each and every day you have a new opportunity to win a ball game and do something to help the team, so that’s how I go about my emotions and try and keep them in check – just one day at a time."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.