It would be so A’s to win a bunch of games in a row, finally show a game on TV and get the mucus beaten out of them. Such appeared to be Oakland’s fate as they fell behind 7-1. But these young A’s have moxie, grit, pixie dust -- hopefully not the kind that evaporates at the end of March — and lo, possibly even behold, the A’s came back to win 9-8.
All of which pleased the Eyeball Scout, who devoted himself to 3.5 hours of baseball win or lose, so why not win? The question is: What did the Eyeball Scout see on this first Pacific Daylight Time day on 2017?
Watching Raul Alcantara, my impressions were strikingly similar to the ones I had at the end of 2016. This is not especially a good thing in that I was hoping to see a step forward with Alcantara being another off-season removed from Tommy John surgery.
What stands out to me about Alcantara’s stuff is that in contrast to reports from before TJS, his current stuff just does not have a lot of life. It’s not bad, mind you — I saw a few good sinkers (mostly tapped foul), but little zip on the fastball. There were no radar gun readings but I would guess Alcantara was throwing his fastball mostly 90-91 MPH while perhaps topping out at 93 MPH. It’s not the velocity, though, which concerns me so much as the fact that in sharp contrast to Jharel Cotton, Alcantara’s fastball does not seem to "get on the hitter" like you would want to see.
As for his splitter, it looked more like a changeup to me and while he threw a few for strikes it is more a pitch that benefits from the change of speed than it is a pitch with any real diving action. That’s why it was more effective as a called strike (and yes, I thought Alcantara got gypped out of a strikeout of Schwarber to start the game) than it was at garnering swings and misses.
Also notable to me was the absence of coming in on batters. Mostly Alcantara worked the knees and the outside corner, rarely trying to tie a hitter up or claim the inside part of the plate.
As for his command, the 58 pitches need in less than 3 innings speak to the fact that Alcantara is hardly a strike-throwing machine. A few too many balls, and not enough missed bats, is a dangerous combination.
That all being said, I don’t think Alcantara is bad (but enough about Ross Detwiler). To me he is more in the company of Zach Neal, a guy you don’t really want to have to rely on in the rotation but who can be valuable as a long reliever and occasional spot starter.
Alcantara looked like a "#6 SP" to me before and he looks that way to me now. I have no problem with him serving as the A’s long reliever, but would be disappointed to see him make more than an emergency start or two. I’m curious what you saw and how it compares to my perspective.
First off, it was great to see Barreto at 2B where I believe he should be playing every day. He didn’t get a lot of action there but turning the 6-4-3 DP in the 8th I thought he looked smooth.
Ken and Vince today quoted Bob Melvin saying something along the lines of "Barreto is as close to the major leagues as a player can be without being there," and if that’s the case then he really needs to be getting reps at 2B where he is probably an upgrade over Jed Lowrie now.
At the plate, I just really like what I see. The triple to RF came on a terrific swing not unlike Kris Bryant’s swing that produced the 2-run HR to right-center. No one, myself included, truly knows what "staying inside the ball" means, but whatever it means Barreto did it beautifully there. He lets the ball get in deep without sacrificing the ability to spray line drives, or the ability to pull the ball as he did in his second at bat for the sacrifice fly that would have been a bases clearing double but for a sensational diving catch.
Perhaps the A’s rumblings about Chad Pinder playing some outfield relate to the need for Barreto to get acclimated to 2B by playing there every day. It’s not a logjam anyway because Pinder can play SS (well, he can stand there with a glove and he can make errant throws equally well from anywhere).
I expect the A’s to make sure Barreto doesn’t qualify for free agency before 2023, which means don’t expect to see him before June. But if I’m a betting man, expect to see him in June because he is knocking at the door big time. A couple months playing every day at 2B, though, would do him good so hopefully that’s the plan for now and he will give the big league roster a shot in arm sooner rather than later.
The "Long Swing Matt" Twins
Matts Chapman and Olson got a couple at bats each, both drawing bases loaded walks in their first plate appearance. So I only got to see the smallest of swing samples, but combining today with what I saw in person last week the two swings do look different to me.
Much as I like Olson personally and believe he has a chance to be good, his swing still looks long to me. I have noticed him swinging and missing a fair number of changeups and knowing that his pitch recognition is a strength, my take on that is that he probably is starting his swing early in deference to its length. With the titanic HR he blasted Friday night, clearly when Olson connects the ball can go a long way. But if we’re talking swing mechanics -- and I am far from an expert on this — Olson’s swing still leaves me concerned.
In contrast, Chapman’s swing looked more compact to me. In particular I loved the short "attack the ball" swing he took today rifling a pitch off the mound and into CF for a hit. Chapman definitely has "K-rate issues" to address, but I’m not sure that too long of a swing, or a faulty swing, is to blame.
For those who also had a chance to see today’s game, I would love to hear your thoughts on these players and others who may have stood out in some way...