Eyeball Scout Peers/Leers At Mengden, Wendle, R. Alcantara
Movie reviewers have used the "cheers and jeers" for a thumbs up/thumbs down model. Perhaps the Eyeball Scout could use a "peers and leers" model but there is just a tad too much "creepy neighborhood dude in a white van offering candy" in the word "leer" and I’m tired of talking about my Uncle Perv. He does have the best candy, though, I have to admit.
Anyhoo, let’s take an updated squint at some of the fresh young faces who are vying to be highly relevant in 2017...
I take everything Mengden does right now with a grain of salt, knowing that fatigue has been a concern since the All-Star break and it’s hard to know how much we are seeing the "real Mengden" and whether a winter off might bring a new look to his stuff.
I have generally been bullish on the bulldog, so it is only in that context that I have been a bit disappointed by some of what I have seen — though looking forward to seeing how it looks next spring with a fresh arm.
The main thing that has stood out is that Mengden does not have consistently good control, either of his fastball or his big curve. The pitch he seems to be able to command the best is his changeup, but with the fastball and curve Mengden gives away a lot of easy takes, and doesn’t have the kind of ball/strike ratio you would expect from a pitcher who is not afraid to challenge hitters.
On the plus side, at times Mengden gets terrific "arm side run" on his fastball, similar to the action we saw from Liam Hendriks last night as he threw two fastballs right by Mitch Moreland (a memorable at bat because it is the only time Moreland has ever made an out against the A’s). With that life and movement on his fastball, Mengden is indeed in a position to be aggressive in the strike zone if he can just harness his ability to throw the ball where he is intending to throw it.
Also encouraging is how consistently deceptive Mengden’s changeup seems to be to hitters. Even when he leaves the pitch up a bit he usually does not get hurt because batters are lunging at the point of contact with most of their power robbed.
At the moment, the ceiling of #3 SP seems like a reach but the promise of settling in as a solid #4 SP still looks attainable. I will be especially interested to watch Mengden in the spring to see if some of his woes are attributable to wearing down — or whether we have seen is what we will get.
Culminating with his 4-hit game on Thursday, Wendle has quickly earned a place in the hearts of A’s fans weary of watching Jed Lowrie dive for ground balls while they are being lobbed back to the infield and then giving his patented incredulous look to home plate umpires who dare to call strikes on close pitches.
Before the Wendle-hype train gets too far from the station, it is worth noting that Wendle’s next extra-base hit will be his first and that with 2 walks in 49 PAs Wendle is only masquerading as a quality leadoff hitter because he is batting .319.
The good news is that Wendle’s minor league career suggests plenty of doubles, and even the occasional dinger, and I have been encouraged by the generally solid contact he makes. I do think Wendle has a chance to parlay a good batting average into a decent slugging percentage, and my projected slash line for him if he is successful is to bat around .270/.310/.400.
Defensively, Wendle has been as advertised: good range, good hands, good fundamentals, and utterly reliable. Combine that with the aforementioned slash line and you don’t have a great player but you do have a solid complementary piece holding down the position until Franklin Barreto (or someone else) arrives to lay claim.
No doubt, Alcantara’s second start was miles above his debut. That being said, I still have concerns based on what I have seen so far. Alcantara’s curve has pretty much been a throwaway pitch, neither near the strike zone nor tempting, and so really he has mostly been relying on his fastball and changeup to attack hitters.
Alcantara’s changeup is at times good but it pales in comparison to the ones offered up by Jharel Cotton or even Mengden. As for the fastball, it’s a worthy pitch but seems prone to getting hit hard more often than you would hope just based on the velocity. It may not have the "giddyup" or deception that some pitchers get either from their release point (Manaea) or running action (Mengden).
I will be interested to see Alcantara’s third effort later today, to see if he can use the curve to any effect and to note how the hitters react to the fastball. At this point, I don’t really see a lot of upside beyond "AAAA depth" or long relief, which is problematic because Alcantara is running out of options and cannot be stashed in the minors. He will probably be in the mix vying for a rotation spot out of spring training, but at this point I would view him as an "odd man out" rather than part of the core Oakland is trying to assemble for the coming years.
Other assorted notes...
Good for Brett Eibner for hitting what would have been a key 3-run HR had Ryan Madson not happened, but despite some recent success the Eyeball Scout’s opinion of Eibner has not changed. His swing looks really long to me — given when he starts his swing, he simply cannot get to a good fastball, and if he starts his swing any sooner he will be eaten up by every changeup. My scouting report on him would be "If you have a good fastball, throw it all day because unless you speed up his bat he’s pretty helpless."
Chad Pinder. Oh my. I’m sure he’s a great guy but he is truly a train wreck in the field. I have watched him make errant throws on short tosses to 2B and routine throws to 1B, and the more I see him the more I am reminded of Grant Green, whose basic lack of defensive skills just follow him to every position.
It’s always tempting to make sweeping generalizations such as "Oh he can work on that" or "He just needs to sharpen his mechanics" or "Let him work with Wash," but the reality is that not every player can learn to throw well, not every player can be saved by a great coach, not every player has good defense in him. What the Eyeball Scout has not seen is someone with good defense in him and you can’t draw blood from a stone. (You can, however, draw blood if you have a red pencil.)
That’s the report for now. Agree? Disagree? Your observations on these guys or others? Care for a mint?