Joe Sclafani, Utility Man
Houston Astros minor leaguer, Joe Sclafani was drafted as a shortstop in the same class as #1 prospect Carlos Correa, as well as the Astros #16 prospect, Nolan Fontana. In a piece by Brian McTaggart, Sclafani said, “Obviously, realistically it was going to be a bit tougher for me to stick here [at shortstop],”
Between Double-A Corpus Christy, and Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2014, Sclafani played all over the diamond. The bulk of his time was split between second (54 games) and third base (31 games), but the utility man also saw time in both left and right field, as well as a game at his natural shortstop.
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Not only is he versatile in the field, Sclafani has hit at every level, and could be a big boost at a number of positions. He is a career .295 hitter in three minor league seasons, including a .339 average in Oklahoma City in 62 games. What’s impressive with the 24-year old is his walk total (138) is very similar to his strikeout total (147) over his minor league career.
With George Springer holding down right field, and Marwin Gonzalez or Gregorio Petit among the options at short, that leaves left field and third base as viable options in 2015 for Joe Sclafani. The production from these two positions was lacking.
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While Sclafani won’t help much with the power numbers, if he winds up hitting ahead of Springer and Chris Carter in the lineup, his run total could be very close to Jose Altuve‘s 84 last season. With the speedy Altuve leading off, and Sclafani behind him, there would be a lot of first to third opportunities for the Astros, needing just a sac fly for an early lead.
Joe Sclafani is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League with the Salt River Rafters. According to the piece by McTaggart, he has been working on fielding different positions, as well as stealing more bases. They have him listed as a third baseman in the Fall League, and he has accrued a .290 batting average in 31 at-bats against some of the best pitchers in the minor leagues. With runners on, he is batting .467 (15 ABs) and with runners in scoring position, that number grows to .500 (10 AB), and this clutch hitting has led to his 8 rbi in the Fall League.
Undoubtedly, when the Astros return to Kissimmee this Spring, Sclafani will get a long look heading into the 2015 season.