Clemson's emerging power source

Clemson freshman first baseman/third baseman Richie Shaffer (right) is hitting .351 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 25 games this season.

Mark Crammer

CLEMSON -- When asked who puts on the best batting practice show, Clemson freshman Richie Shaffer smirks for a moment, hesitating before ultimately ceding to Kyle Parker's power exhibits.

While Parker is one of the few elite power bats in the country this season, he is not the only Tigers player capable of clearing the new left-field bleachers at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

Generously listed at 190 pounds, the wiry 6-2 Shaffer can also pepper the new bleachers thanks to tremendous bat speed generated from his whip-like wrists.

"I tell (Parker) I'll be catching him soon," Shaffer said.

Shaffer might not just catch up to Parker's gaudy power totals, but he might also replace Parker as the face of the program.

This could be Parker's last spring with the baseball program, a year after Clemson lost a tremendous amount of talent in the 2009 draft. Shaffer, who was also a standout pitcher in high school, is the one recruiting catch who made it to Clemson.

He was Baseball America's 27th best high school prospect last year and was drafted in the 25th round, giving pro ball some thought before coming to Clemson.

Jack Leggett has said he reminds him of former Clemson great Jeff Baker, and hitting coach Tom Riginos calls him a future middle-of-the order bat.

Shaffer could also provide a boost down the stretch, beginning today at Maryland. Shaffer, who can play first or third, has gone 8 for 18 with a home run since returning from a hamstring injury that cost him four weeks.

"His power is going to come," Riginos said. "He's going to be a big-time power guy. He's still not at full strength; when he gets back to full strength and he can actually use his backside, his right side, you are going to see a lot of home runs. He has light-tower power.

"Watch him in BP -- he and Kyle Parker just throw the ball out there."

In 25 games, Shaffer is batting .351 with three home runs and a .963 OPS, an OPS better than the freshman years of Parker, (.959), Khalil Greene (.962) and Baker (.868).

If Shaffer had been healthy, he might also have challenged the freshman home run totals of Parker (13), Greene (8) and Baker (11).

He drew some comparisons to another wiry player he often ran into in high school, South Carolina signee Wil Myers, who turned pro after being selected in the third round.

To reach his ceiling, Shaffer said improving his strength and pitch recognition are key.

"I think it's definitely been a learning experience the whole year," Shaffer said. "Missing four weeks kind of set me back a little, but it kind of gave me a chance to step back and watch some of our older guys like Kyle Parker, John Hinson and Jeff Schaus and take in what they are doing, watch their approach at the plate. It really helped me settle in and realize I can do the same kind of things they do."

Shaffer has also exhibited leadership attributes as he met with the media, taking responsibility for his ninth- inning baserunning gaffe against North Carolina last month that might have prevented a Clemson series win.

Shaffer bounced back to square up pitchers regularly against Florida Gulf Coast. He singled and walked against Florida Gulf Coast ace Chris Sale, an early first-round prospect. It appears Shaffer might be ready for a productive final stretch, which would be welcome news for a Clemson team that has lost three straight ACC series.

"He just got behind for a while. He's not had many repetitions," Leggett said. "He's just got to get a little bit more consistent, better pitch recognition. He has some bat speed."