When the Eyeball Scout last saw the A’s in person, they were in the middle of hammering out 11 runs in the top of the 6th inning. It was an inning so long it threatened to force me to miss my flight home had I been superstitious about not leaving a game mid-inning.
All in all, the Eyeball Scout was able to witness 3.6 A’s games along with a Padres-White Sox game (quick report: Jered Weaver still throws really slow and James Shields is still bad). Here are some observations not yet shared from my time watching the A’s in the Cactus League...
Surprise standout: Jaff Decker. I really liked what I saw of Decker, who hit most everything hard while also showing solid plate discipline. Both are reflected in his ST numbers, which were 6 for 17 with 3 BBs after he ripped a liner today that was caught.
Once a definite prospect known for his strong hit tool and surprisingly solid OF defense, Decker fell out of favor following multiple failed trials in the big leagues. Decker’s career minor league numbers are very solid (.265/.389/.436) but in 111 at bats his MLB numbers are dreadful (.162/.252/.225).
Decker is still only 27, and being that he bats LH with a glove good enough to play CF he is not that far down on a shallow depth chart that includes only veteran journeyman Alejandro De Aza and Jaycob Brugman — and Brugman is considered to be better suited to RF.
Physically, Decker looks like Derek Norris’ long lost twin if batting LH and playing CF could qualify someone to still be Derek Norris’ twin. He’s the darkest of dark horses to make the Opening Day roster, but look for him to be a possible factor if the A’s need an OF call up mid-season. He’s intriguing.
Just Move Him Already: Franklin Barreto. One of my bigger beefs with the A’s minor league brass is their tendency to wait too long to move players who are going to have to move off a position sooner or later. I would much rather see a player get good, by getting more reps, at his future position than to see him lose development time at a position he can only play like Ryon Healy plays 3B.
Franklin Barreto might make for a very good 2Bman, but watching him this past week I really don’t see SS in his future. Given that the A’s have Marcus Semien under contract for 4 more seasons, have an organizational need at 2B, and given how close Barreto is to the big leagues, a move to 2B seems like a no-brainer.
Barreto bounced nearly every throw he made from SS, and when he does accidentally get throws to 1B on the fly the arm strength is not impressive. Barreto’s glove was ok, getting caught in between hops one time but generally showing adequate range and weaknesses (e.g., footwork, judgment) that can be improved with coaching and time.
All of this adds up to skills that should play just fine at 2B, but I didn’t see the kind of natural instincts, skills or arm that fit at SS. Just move him already.
In Contrast...: Richie Martin. From the first ball hit to him, Richie Martin looks like a true SS. Gliding to get the best angle and hop, transferring from glove to throw, and firing strikes to 1B with a strong arm, Martin’s defense stood out to me in sharp contrast the concerns I have outlined above with Barreto. Just hit enough, Richie, just hit enough.
One Tool, But Quite A Tool: Renato Nuñez. I’m known as bearish on Nuñez, worried that while his hit tool is fine, the lack of plate discipline, speed, and defensive ability will render him a one-dimensional player with the upside of a mashing DH with low OBP and high SLG.
My opinion of his strengths and weaknesses hasn’t changed, and the weaknesses do outweigh the strengths in number, but I have to acknowledge that when Nuñez hits the ball he consistently hits it hard, and often far.
We saw Nuñez HR during our stay — as he did again today with a pinch-hit 2-run HR that tied the game against the Rangers — but even the balls which stayed in the yard were banged with authority. The guy can flat out hit the ball hard. Whether that alone gets him to the big leagues is another question. Nuñez ends the day now 6 for 16 in the Cactus League with a pair of HRs.