Hudson Valley Notebook: Anticipating Shaffer

Last week found Hudson Valley going through their first rough patch of the season, this week's finds the ‘Gades as one of the hotter teams in the New York-Penn League, having won five of their last six games. Hudson Valley now stands at 15-11, 1.5 games behind McNamara division leaders Brooklyn. The resurgence has been helped by newfound power hitting and a couple new faces in the clubhouse.

Anticipating Shaffer as Rickard impresses

The Tampa Bay Rays' first round selection of last month's draft, 25th overall pick Richie Shaffer, was added to the roster on Friday after signing a contract reported to be worth 1.7 million on deadline day.

Shaffer just finished his junior season at Clemson University, where he played both first and third base and was known as one of the best power options in the draft. He batted .336 and slugged .573 in 2012, totaling 10 homers and 46 RBI. The Flemington, N.J. native was also third in the ACC with a .480 on-base percentage and drew 63 walks.

Manager Jared Sandberg said to not expect to see Shaffer in the lineup for about a week.

"He's got to get his arm back in shape, get into a daily routing of throwing everyday," Sandberg said. "He's got to get his legs underneath him. He hit in the cage yesterday, he's going to hit in the cage today, and again tomorrow. He's following a running progression. We're going to get him out there when he's ready; we're going to be patient with that process."

Meanwhile, fellow Hudson Valley newcomer Joey Rickard made quite an impression in his first week. The center fielder out of Arizona has only played four games for the Renegades, but he has already totaled eight hits, three runs, two RBI and three stolen bases. He is hitting .471/.471/.647 and has already equaled his home run total from his final year at Arizona with one.

"He's put the bat on the ball, getting competitive at-bats, I really like how he plays the game," Sandberg said. "Any combination of that speed and that ability to put the ball in the gap is a good combination."

Power surge

After going nearly the entire first month of the season without a home run in Dutchess Stadium and only five on the road, the Renegades hit four in two nights at home on Friday and Saturday.

Joel Caminero hit his second dinger of the season on Friday against the Batavia Muckdogs. On Saturday, Rickard, outfielder DeShun Dixon and second basemen Tommy Coyle each recorded their first of the season off of Mahoning Valley Scrappers' pitching.

"I think it's the guys buying into the fact that they need to go up there and have a good at-bat, get a good swing, be aggressive," Sandberg said of the newfound power. "If these guys start to try and hit home runs and try to be a hitter they want to be, they are not going to be that guy. So if they can continue to try to be who they need to be and stay within themselves, be a good hitter first, good things are going to happen.

Coyle quietly emerging as top hitter

Tommy Coyle, the Renegades' every-day second baseman, has the highest batting average on the squad (excluding Rickard through four games) at .305. A 16th-round selection in the 2012 draft out of North Carolina, Coyle leads the team in games played with 24 and is second in at-bats with 95.

Coyle has shown potential at several aspects of the game, including patience at the plate, drawing 14 walks and striking out 15 times, as well as base running, with nine stolen bases while being caught only twice. In his last 10 games, the 5'7" second baseman is hitting .378/.404/.489 with a triple and a home run.

"He got off to, batting average-wise, a not so good start," Sandberg said. "He had some good at-bats and I saw what I saw and kept him in the three hole through those times, he was moving runners when he needed to. Now, here he is hitting over .300."

Eric Vander Voort is the Hudson Valley beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @ecvandervoort.


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