The Pittsburgh Pirates have seen a former minor league player turned college and NFL running back return to their organization.
In 2012 the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted an outfielder by the name of Tyler Gaffney in the 24th round of the MLB draft. Gaffney was coming off a strong three years as a baseball player at the Stanford University. Gaffney played in a total of 159 college games for the Cardinal, but he also played three years of football for the University. He obviously was a standout on the baseball field, but also had a relatively solid football career too.
He had such a successful football career and a passion for football that he decided to leave the Pittsburgh Pirates organization and return to Stanford for his last year of eligibility in football. The Bucs allowed him to do so, and although they maintained his rights, they did not allow him to participate in any of the organizations’ activities.
The move paid off as Gaffney had a monster senior season at Stanford as their running back. He busted out of the backfield for 1709 total yards rushing in 14 games. He also chalked up 21 touchdowns on the ground. Now, he did not have the prototypical tools that NFL teams look for in running back and was projected more as a fullback type. Despite his impressive stats in his senior year, he was not drafted until the sixth round by the Carolina Panthers.
Gaffney was on numerous NFL teams in his short career. However, Gaffney never received an official carry in his four years of playing time. He spent his first season on the Carolina Panthers practice squad. Then, after being waived by Carolina, he ended up on the Patriots roster for two seasons, including when they won the Super Bowl in 2017. His last season was this past year when he spent the whole year on injured reserve with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
So what are the Pittsburgh Pirates getting in the now 26-year-old former running back? When he played at Stanford he hit for a career slash line of .299/.405/.427. He had an above average power, posting a .128 ISO, but his best trait was obviously his plate discipline. When he played in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization he was with the State College Spikes, or Short-Season A ball. In his 38 games with the organization he batted .297/.483/.441. He belted 11 extra base hits including six doubles and five triples. Also, he swiped 11 bags and walked 20 times while striking out 20 times as well.
Of course, at the time Gaffney was 21 years of age. The right-handed hitter and thrower is now 26 and has been away from the game for nearly five years. With that, he most likely still kept up with it some during the offseason, as it seems likely he knew he would eventually return to the baseball diamond. He has officially been reactivated in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.