Braves prospect Schafer suspended
Minor Leaguer projected as Atlanta's center fielder in 2009
DENVER -- Jordan Schafer spent the month of March showing why many consider him to be one of the game's top young stars. Now, the 21-year-old Braves Minor Leaguer finds himself staring at the embarrassment of a substance-abuse suspension.
Major League Baseball announced late Tuesday afternoon that Schafer has been suspended 50 games for using human growth hormone, a performance-enhancing substance that is in direct violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
"We are extremely disappointed that Jordan has violated the Commissioner's Performance Enhancing Drug Policy," Braves general manager Frank Wren said in a prepared statement. "We are supportive of the program and will continue to educate all of our players. Earlier today Jordan asked to speak to his teammates to apologize for the mistakes he has made and for letting the organization and his team down. During his suspension, we will continue to support and counsel Jordan."
When asked to provide further details, Wren said he wouldn't provide any additional information.
While preparing for Tuesday night's game against the Rockies at Coors Field, many Braves players and coaches were wondering how MLB determined that Schafer was using HGH. Currently, there is no approved test for the banned substance.
But MLB would have had the right to deem Schafer guilty based on evidence they gathered via conversations with him, other players or even some of his non-baseball related associates.
Schafer, who has been projected to be Atlanta's center fielder by the start of the 2009 season, has recorded just one hit in 11 at-bats with Double-A Mississippi this year. When he was limited to one at-bat during Friday's doubleheader against Huntsville, Mississippi manager Phil Wellman told The Huntsville Times that his player was addressing "personal issues."
When the Braves parted ways with Andruw Jones in October, Schafer, despite the fact that he'd never played above the Class A level, became an immediate candidate to fill the Gold Glove center fielder's void. He was coming off a strong Minor League season and in the midst of further raising his stock during the Arizona Fall League.
After hitting .324 and recording 34 hits in 26 games with Peoria, Schafer was named to the AFL's All-Prospect team. Braves manager Bobby Cox went to Arizona to see the young center fielder and was impressed in much the same manner that he was while watching Schafer again during this year's Spring Training.
While participating in his first big league camp, Schafer appeared in 17 Grapefruit League games and hit .316. When he was sent back to Minor League camp, he drew praise from Cox, who indicated the youngster would have won the staring center field job if Mark Kotsay hadn't been acquired from the A's in January.
"I liked him all spring," Cox said on March 22, when Schafer was cut from big league camp. "He's a good-looking player. I like him a lot."
Many scouts considered Schafer to be the most improved player in the Minors last year, when he combined to hit .312 with 15 homers for Class A Rome and Advanced Class A Myrtle Beach. During the 2006 season, he hit just .240 with Rome.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.