Enough about the veterans who look spent (Vogt), overrated (Casilla), or rejuvenated (Lowrie, Alonso). The future lies in the success of the latest wave on which the A’s will either surf or drown. Here’s the Eyeball Scout sees...
The Eyeball Scout still believes strongly in Cotton, a talented pitcher who can still strike out 7 batters in 3 shaky innings. What Cotton, along with Bruce Maxwell and other battery mates, need to learn is how to "read the room" better.
Cotton’s first start of the year was against the Angels, and watching their approach you could see that Angels hitters were looking for the changeup. You can tell that a team is looking soft when they lay off of a lot of well executed chase pitches and also are late on the fastball.
This should have informed Cotton’s plan of attack when he faced the Angels again last week, and sure enough their approach was the same — as, unfortunately, was Cotton’s. Yunel Escobar was ready for a changeup (3-run HR), Cole Kalhoun was late on a fastball, and mostly where Cotton got beaten was with his slower stuff, while batters were consistently late on his fastball.
Contrast this to Cotton’s finest start of the year, a day game in Kansas City in which the A’s RHP surrendered just 2 hits in 7 IP. Cotton threw exclusively fastballs and cutters the first time through the order, handling a Royals lineup that was waiting for the changeup. Having established that hitters had to look fastball in order to survive, Cotton then unleashed his changeup the second time through the order to great success. Always one step ahead, Cotton dominated.
Even though Cotton’s changeup is special, he needs to learn to lead with his fastball and cutter so that batters simply cannot sit on the changeup. Cotton’s fastball is plenty good enough and his cutter is also at times very good. Most of all, he needs to read batters’ swings, and their takes, to note what their approach is and make sure to pitch away from it.
Experience is a great teacher and I trust Cotton will learn this in due time. And whenever he does, I think he has a chance to be a very solid SP.
One throw doth not a fielder make and it would be precipitous to anoint Pinder an accomplished RFer just because he unleashed a great throw home in the one game he played out there. Nonetheless, Pinder acquitted himself well and reports a pretty high level of comfort in the outfield despite not having played there for many years.
The Eyeball Scout has never been sold on Pinder as an infielder, and has a feeling he is one of those guys who may have been miscast for years. Alex Gordon was like this, coming up as a shaky 3Bman only to reinvent himself, relatively late, as a very accomplished LFer.
I would not be at all surprised if Pinder turned out to be a better outfielder than infielder, despite having spent his entire professional career to date on the infield. If he has a future in the big leagues, I suspect his emergence as an outfielder will play a big part.
At the plate, what I like most about Pinder’s bat is how the ball carries off his bat. Though he is not built like Josh Donaldson or Mark Canha, Pinder shares the attribute that the ball travels well off his bat to all fields. I still see him primarily as a platoon player too prone to flailing at sliders from RHPs, but I could see him carving out a role as a decent outfielder who can fill in on the infield and mashes LHPs. More than that, though? Still not seeing it.
The Eyeball Scout also sees a mixed bag in Maxwell, but with more to like. What I like in his game is that Maxwell, in contrast to his colleagues Pinder and Renato Nuñez, is very patient and discerning and will take a walk. He is also a big, strong dude who has at least the potential to hit for power to all fields — though his swing will need to follow suit or he will just be another large person who hits small.
Behind the plate I like Maxwell’s game calling far better than that of Stephen Vogt or Josh Phegley, and his throwing arm has been consistently strong and accurate — less so than Phegley’s but more than adequate.
The down sides? It looks to me like Maxwell can be overpowered by a good fastball, which if true will be exploited quickly. His blocking of balls in the dirt needs work and there may be limited upside to how much he can improve given his big, slow physique. And while his body screams "power," like the old Yonder Alonso he does not harness it on a regular basis.
Overall, I still think in the balance Maxwell is the best catcher the A’s have right now and that he should be starting the majority of the games, not sent to AAA on Monday as is expected. But realistically, right now he profiles as about a .240/.320/.380 hitter with slightly above average defense.
Agree? Disagree? Have thoughts to add? Feel free to weigh in, Chen.