Braves prospect Schafer suspended 50 games for HGH use

Outfielder Jordan Schafer, a top prospect in the Atlanta Braves system, has received a 50-game suspension for use of human growth hormone in violation of the minor league drug prevention and treatment program, commissioner Bud Selig's office announced Monday.

Schafer, 21, is playing for Mississippi in the Double-A Southern League. ESPN.com's Keith Law recently ranked him as the 27th best prospect in the minors, and Baseball America rated him No. 25 on its list of the top 100 minor league prospects.

"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."

Schafer, a third-round draft pick by Atlanta in 2005, had a breakthrough season a year ago. After hitting .240 for Class A Rome in 2006, he batted .312 in stints with Rome and Myrtle Beach of the "high" A Carolina League. He led the minor leagues with 176 hits and ranked third with 49 doubles.

Schafer is known as a superb defender, and there was some thought in the Atlanta organization that he might be ready to supplant Mark Kotsay as the Braves' regular center fielder by the second half of this season.

His suspension for HGH use is effective immediately, according to the announcement from Major League Baseball.

Schafer's father told ESPN.com's Mike Fish that his son did not fail a drug test and did not purchase HGH from an online pharmacy or supplier.

"At this point he would love to comment, but under counsel's advice he can't," David Schafer told ESPN.com. "He says he loves the Braves. He wants to play his entire career with the Braves. He loves the city and the fans of Atlanta. It hurts him that he can't make a comment, but under advice he just can't make a comment right now.''

Asked how Major League Baseball determined that Schafer used HGH, Mike Teevan, MLB's manager of media relations, said, "We have non-analytic means of identifying players. He falls under that category."

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com. His book "License To Deal" was published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.