Alternate Headline: The Complete Case For A Violin
How about this one?
The Eyeball Scout "calls ‘em as he sees ‘em" — in fact, despite his best efforts to gain friends and avoid enemies, the Eyeball Scout has no choice. It is an essential element of his very being that the Eyeball Scout must be honest and forthright in his analysis, even if it costs him Xmas cards and Chanukah gifts from the families of certain ballplayers. The Eyeball Scout also tends to spend entire paragraphs referring to himself in the third person. He is...the most interesting optical device in the world. (When he is not watching baseball games he is looking at Dos Equis...)
So with deepest apologies to the aggrieved, here is some recent eyeball scouting of players who could be part of the A’s future. Or not.
Boy have I been unimpressed with Eibner. He appears to be "kinda bad at everything," belying his 2nd round pedigree and alleged tools. If Eibner has good speed, it sure as heck is not closing speed on fly balls, and for a guy reputed to be competent in CF he looks a bit below average to me in RF. And while Eibner looks strong, he appears to be from the Mark Ellis school of throws that look like they suffer from "shredded shoulder syndrome," which is far less appealing than shredded pork with garlic sauce.
At the plate I see a slow bat. Eibner is routinely tied up by inside pitches and whiffs on elevated fastballs. To generalize it further, actually, he just swings and misses an awful lot and when he does make contact it is often of the lazy fly ball variety thanks to swings that look like the bat is dragging through the zone. I am less bothered by Eibner’s .156/.220/.289 slash line as I am by the fact that he looks like a .156/.220/.289 hitter.
Despite his recent struggles, in Jake Smolinski I still see the soft side of an excellent outfield platoon, but in Eibner I just see a player who appears to have below average outfield instincts, a below average arm, below average bat speed, and below average contact skills. I was no proponent of Billy Burns, but the problem with Eibner is that while also rarely getting on base or playing a fundamentally sound outfield, Eibner can’t even contribute what Burns can when he is on base.
Grant Green may have been selected before Mike Trout in the 2009 draft, but any time you have a player who can fill the stat sheet with more errors than walks you should be a bit nervous. (If you think I’m exaggerating, by the way, in 2016 at AAA Grant Green has walked 10 times and has been charged with 11 errors!)
Green’s "hit tool" was rendered moot by his hacktastic approach at the plate and the inability of his throws to find 1B without a compass, and I fear that a similar fate will befall Chad Pinder.
Pinder has made some loud contact in the big leagues, twice crushing balls to the wall in Chicago and recently sending a double deep into right-center field against the Red Sox. The trouble is, Pinder’s approach at the plate is "swing" and that will get quickly and decisively exposed in the big leagues. True to his reputation, I have seen little discernment in Pinder’s approach. He likes to hack at the first pitch and seems to view 3-1 counts as opportunities to "grip it and rip it" regardless of whether or not the pitcher gives in with a great pitch to hit.
In the field Pinder has been fine, but we have already seen evidence of his erratic throwing arm and certainly his form gets no high marks. His range hasn’t really been tested one way or the other, his hands have been fine — it’s not like he has been terrible, but any "offense first" player with zero plate discipline is relying on an awful lot of hard contact to survive in the big leagues.
Verdict: Pinder warrants a longer look and could settle into a passable utility role, but he is not really part of the "young up-and-coming core" that excites me.
Speaking of hacktastic...Why is it so hard for some players to take more pitches? Here’s a guy with a reputation for being a solid defender with some pop in his bat, whose clear weakness has been his inability to draw enough walks. Wouldn’t it make sense that in your first cup of coffee in the big leagues, you would try to show some patience at the plate?
Apparently not, because in most of his at bats Wendle has swung before the Eyeball Scout can even reach for the scissors and make one decisive stabbing motion northwest of his nose. Again, it’s just too easy for big league pitchers to expose the weaknesses in a "swing early and often" approach and while it’s tempting to imagine Wendle as a .270/.310/.400 hitter who singles and doubles a lot but just doesn’t walk much, in reality batters with little patience or discipline usually wind up batting more like .240 and slugging more like .350 because they are easy targets.
Defensively, Wendle has good instincts, good range, and good hands and is likely the best defensive 2Bman the A’s have among players who can bat over .100 (sorry, Tyler) and this might keep him relevant in the big leagues for a while a la Eric Sogard.
I could see Wendle becoming the next Sogard, perhaps with a bit more offense and a bit less defense, supplanting the actual Elf because he makes only league minimum. But that’s a pretty low bar for a team preparing to introduce the likes of Matt Chapman, Franklin Barreto, and perhap soon after that Max Shrock, to the infield. If he’s fighting Tyler Ladendorf for the role of "infielder who plays some good defense," and batting something like .250/.290/.360, heck just give me Ladendorf for the web gems and the pinch running.
Verdict: Somewhere between the 25th and 30th man on a roster. We call those guys "AAAA depth."
OK, so this week’s Eyeball Scouting yields kind of an 0 for 3. Despair not: there is plenty to like, including my hunchy man-crush on Max Schrock to be discussed soon, and the exciting success that "Wheat, wheat, WHEAT!!!!" prospects Matt Chapman and Franklin Barreto are having this week for AAA Nashville.
Now if you’ll excuse me, with the un-gouged good eye the Eyeball Scout must prepare to watch Raul Alcantara on Monday afternoon, and use his Mind’s Eye to imagine Jharel Cotton’s performance in Wednesday afternoon’s "radio only" affair.