Shafer Adds Durability to Cubs' Draft Class

Aaron Shafer (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Aaron Shafer, the Cubs' second-round pick (65th overall) in the 2008 MLB Draft, had a most unscripted outing in what is likely to be his final college start for the Wichita State Shockers.

The 21-year-old Shafer surrendered eight runs and 10 hits in 2 2/3 innings last Saturday in Game 2 of the Tallahassee Super Regional between the Shockers and Florida State, who went on to win an elimination game the following day to advance to the College World Series, which begins later this week in Omaha.

The outing was far from the usual effectiveness Shafer showed Cubs scouts and those from other teams this season. Making 16 starts over 110-plus innings, the right-hander finished with 11 wins, a team-high 110 strikeouts, and a 3.26 ERA.

The 110-plus innings Shafer logged this year were a career high. He proved his durability in all three seasons with Wichita State by logging 84-plus innings in 2007 and nearly 100 innings in 2006, his freshman year with the Shockers.

The Cubs, alas, aren't losing sight of the forest for the trees.

"He's a pitcher that's shown good durability through the years at Wichita State," Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken said of Shafer. "He's competed at a good, successful level. He's got a very good feel for pitching. He competes well."

Shafer admits that he could have thrown the ball better in what is likely to be his final college start, but he tipped his hat to the victor just the same.

"It was their day to win," Shafer said, recalling that the conditions in Tallahassee were easily the hottest he'd played in several years, yet making no excuses for his team's loss. "They (Florida State) were just as hot as we were. It was hot, but we still beat them on Friday in that heat. We should have won one of those (remaining) games."

Shafer probably won't dwell on the loss for very long. After all, the Cubs are now expecting him to sign a contract and begin his professional career.

"I just talked to the area guy (Monday)," Shafer said of contract talks. "We're getting in contact. He said he'd kind of get the ball rolling. I still have some things to do in Wichita. I have some stuff I have to get done in town here, and then I'll go home and see my family and stuff. But we're getting the ball rolling shortly."

Asked to detail his repertoire, Shafer said he features a two-seam fastball and a 12-6 curveball that he lists as his go-to pitch when it's ‘on.'

He then detailed a rather uncommon off-speed pitch.

"I throw a palm ball, which is a little different when most pitchers throw a circle-change," Shafer said. "I throw a palm ball and kind of choke it up in there."

He said the pitch for him was just "a feel thing," and that it took him two years to learn how to develop and master the pitch.

"Certain things are more comfortable for certain people," Shafer said. "For me, I get true fastball rotation on it and it's a lot slower almost all the time. Whenever you're doing that with good arm speed, you can be effective with any kind of changeup.

"It comes out like a straight changeup, but it's not like Trevor Hoffman's or anything like that. When I'm getting true fastball rotation on it, hitters can't see it and that's the main thing."

Shafer primarily works off his fastball, he said.

"I pitch both sides of the plate," said Shafer. "That's kind of my game ... working off my fastball and then going to my secondary stuff as needed."

His velocity is normally upper 80s to low 90s, though Shafer has touched 94 mph.

Though listed as 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds in the Shockers' media guide, Shafer said he bulked up somewhat this season and put on anywhere from 5-10 pounds.

The Cubs think Shafer could stand to add some more weight.

"We think he can put a little more weight on and get a little stronger, but he's very solid pitching," said Wilken. "There might be more in his tank."

Off the field, Shafer plays acoustic guitar and has even written a few songs, he said.

"I sit down and write music occasionally," said Shafer. "I play music with the guitar. Here in Wichita, I play with some people, just go out and sing and have a good time with people. It's a good release for me, something to take my mind off everything.

"I play a lot of country music," he added. "Growing up on a farm, I grew up on country music. I grew up on Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. My dad used to wake me up on Sunday's and he'd be singing (Cash's) ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down.'"

As his college career – presumably – ends, Shafer has no regrets.

"It was a good season," said Shafer. "I wasn't as sharp early on as I wanted to be, but I finished strong and pitched well down the stretch. I know that last game, I could throw a lot better than that. It just happened that way.

"All in all, we put a great season together, made a good run at it and were one game away from Omaha. I can't regret it at all," he said.

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