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Nico’s Wheat/Chaff Update For Prospects

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The Eyeball Scout specializes in "small sample theatre" and as a result always reserves the right to change his mind as new small samples build on older ones. September offered several A’s prospects and young ‘uns to strut their wares and provide new observations for experts random-people-on-the-internet like me to judge. My current takes, and taeks, going into the off-season:

Ryon Healy: Wheat!

I do think Healy’s defensive upside is limited. He size and lack of speed/range make him, in my view, not a COF option, a slightly below-average 3Bman at best, and probably at best an average 1Bman. I do think he could be solid at 1B, even if not spectacular, but what elevates Healy to "wheat" status is his hit tool. I think it’s for real.

The walk rate isn’t ideal, but as he hits more Healy is likely to see fewer and fewer strikes and if he is willing he might see his walk rate naturally rise over time. What I love about Healy is that he shows legitimate power to LF, a very good right-center field stroke, and he tends to hit the ball hard. Healy should maintain a solid BABIP and I think the slugging is for real. A line of .280/.330/.500 seems realistic to me and put with average defense makes Healy a "keeper" as part of a true core to build around.

Bruce Maxwell: Wheat

Make no mistake, Maxwell will have a big league career. If you’re a catcher who calls a good game and is a quality receiver, you will have a career as a backup catcher even if it’s with 8 teams in 11 years.

Maxwell has a chance to be better than a backup catcher, and in his September trial I was impressed with his good eye, his willingness to take pitches hard to LF, his work with the pitchers, and what appeared to be a perfectly decent throwing arm.

We have yet to see Maxwell hit for a lot of power (1 HR) but that potential was evident in balls he whacked off the left-center field wall seemingly with ease. A slow start and a torrid finish left Maxwell’s slash line at .283/.337/.402, which is probably ambitious for a career line going forward but shows that his ceiling is to be a solid player on both sides of the ball. (I’m not sure how offense and defense are on different sides of a ball, but I’m just going with the expression because I know it exists.)

More likely, Maxwell is about a .240/.310/.380 hitter but that’s not bad at all for a catcher, especially one with defensive value. I see Maxwell as a legitimate option to platoon or to share catching duties, a solid complementary piece even if not an All-Star.

Joey Wendle: Slight Wheat

Following an unsustainable flurry of hits, Wendle regressed to finish with a pretty forgettable slash line of .260/.298/.302. He didn’t walk much and he didn’t slug much, but Wendle’s minor league history suggests that you can expect a lot of doubles from him and his line drive, foul line-to-foul line stroke agrees.

Defensively, Wendle isn’t Mark Ellis but he sure stood out amongst his peers (Jed Lowrie, Chad Pinder, Arismendy Alcantara, Max Muncy) who field 2B like, well, a DH, a utility infielder, a CFer, and a 1Bman. Wendle is a true 2Bman who gets a good first step, has decent range, is solid and efficient in all aspects of the game, and far from hurting you there will in fact help you.

I now think a realistic line from Wendle would be around .270/.300/.380, which when paired with good defense makes him a solid complementary piece to have around.

Matt Olson: Toughest Call But Slightly Leaning Chaff

For me Matt Olson is the hardest prospect to commit to along the wheat/chaff prediction spectrum. I guess in this political season it makes him the Ohio of prospects.

There is little doubt that Olson brings multiple strengths to the table: He will walk, he will hit for power, and he can play defense. Adding to the positives, Olson acquitted himself very well in RF in September and his minor leagues stats need to be viewed in the context of his being very young for his league. At 22, Olson is far from a finished product.

On the flip side, Olson’s long swing concerns me today just like it did when I first saw him in spring training. Already prone to striking out a lot, if Olson’s swing forces him to start early he will be devastated by changeups and as EBHI chronicled Olson is set up well to mash pitches that are up but not so much ones that are down, especially down and away.

I’m encouraged by what I saw in RF and I have no doubt that Olson will slug some in the big leagues. I also think there are low batting averages and there are low batting averages, and my concern is that Olson might be a .200/.300/.400 hitter, which still has value but isn’t terrific from your 1Bman or RFer. He could wind up being a lot like Yonder Alonso, just with a different profile (more power, less BA), giving you excellent defense and some offensive value, but not the kind of value you were hoping for.

If Olson hits .250 in the big leagues, he’s probably some serious wheat — and if he hits .150 he’s some serious chaff. The question is where, in between, he might fall and I’m still just not sure how that swing will play in the big leagues, or whether an adjustment can and will be made.

22, already in the big leagues, accomplished defensively, and with great plate discipline to go with a lot of raw power, Olson could wind up being really good. But if the A’s trade him in order to solve a need elsewhere I will understand the decision not to put Olson into the "true keeper" group that I believe includes Matt Chapman, Franklin Barreto, and Healy.

Chad Pinder: Ultimately Chaff

A’s fans are also divided on Pinder. When he hits the ball he hits it hard and it’s possible there is either a place on the infield where Pinder can settle in and succeed, or else he can offer value through versatility.

What I see is someone who just isn’t good at defense — in particular his arm is a train wreck of poor mechanics and worse results. I have seen Pinder make errant throws from the SS hole, from 2B, and even making a short toss to 2B. Long throw or short, left side of the infield or right, Pinder just has a wild, "I wonder where it’s going" arm.

Meanwhile, Pinder and Renato Nuñez share that "hit tool" is pretty much the extent of their batting skill set. You can hit the ball hard when you hit it, but without good plate discipline (Olson), or especially strong contact skills (Wendle), you are just too easy to exploit and subdue.

I know this sounds harsh, but ultimately I won’t be surprised if Pinder, for all his "hit tool," can’t produce better than a .220/.260/.350 line in which he sprinkles in some impressive clouts to the alleys but simply strikes out and bounces out too much in between. And I just don’t like his glove, personally, at any position. My 50th percentile comp for Pinder? Grant Green.

Renato Nuñez: Chaff

Nuñez is a lot like Pinder except that he doesn’t offer the potential defensive value of a middle infielder, of someone who is at least agile. In Nuñez you have a player whose best defensive position is 1B, if not DH.

This means that you have a player whose speed, OBP, and defense are not likely to provide value and will in fact offer some negative value, which means Nuñez will need to hit and slug a ton in order to offset his many built-in limitations. As we saw with a certain Billy Butler, at worst this produces an albatross and at best it produces a good DH. I’m betting that Nuñez’ hit tool isn’t so terrific that he can overcome the problem of being a bit of a hacktastic sloth. What I saw in September was pretty much what I expected: when he hit the ball, sometimes good things happened, but I don’t see enough good things happening to sustain a lasting career. My 50th percentile comp for Nuñez? Jesus Guzman. (Remember him? Another "3Bman in name, 1Bman in actuality, DH in skill set, cup-of-coffee in the big leagues" guy.)

Brett Eibner: Chaff, Chaff, Chaff

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the chaffiest of them all? Despite some pedigree and a body that looks like it should be good at a lot of things, Eibner is in fact kind of bad at everything.

His swing is long — I mean really long — and his equally long strides don’t seem to get him to fly balls as fast as it seems like they should. His reads? His base stealing ability? His power? I just can’t identify an area where I could say Eibner is above average. Or in most cases even average. He’s just kind of "not very good" at everything, I’m sorry to say.

At least to my eyes. In fairness to Eibner, UZR liked him in the outfield, including his time in CF. I thought he was "fine" but nothing more. Regardless, I am convinced that Eibner simply cannot hit. Even he often seemed perplexed and agitated by how late his swings were and how weak his contact was. Late they were and weak it was.

Pitchers? It’s a long off-season so we’ll address them another day...