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Eyeball Scout: Bags (Under Eyes) Packed For Spring Training

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Oakland Athletics Photo Day
It’s an unorthodox stance, but Mateo makes it work.
Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Contact lenses: check. Saline solution: check. Willingness to draw sweeping conclusions after seeing a few minutes: check. The Eyeball Scout is ready for the Cactus League! Except for the whole “having to fly there” terror thing.

But once back on land, the Eyeball Scout will look forward to seeing A’s games on March 10th, 11th, and 12th, hoping to catch his first wayward glances and naughty winks at such intriguing prospects as A.J. Puk, Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler, and Sheldon Neuse.

What are some of the things the Eyeball Scout will be squinting to try to see?

* I want to see how smooth and natural Dustin Fowler looks in CF. Does he look like he never had major knee surgery? Does he look like CF is his natural position? At the plate I’m also intrigued by the pop in Fowler’s bat. Easily overlooked, because the focus with Fowler tends to be on his injury, his ability to stick in CF, and his plate discipline, is that Fowler showed far more slugging than you would normally associate with a speedy CFer.

Yet Fowler’s recent slugging numbers would be impressive if he were coming up as a plodding LFer. In 2016, at age 21, Fowler slugged .458 for AA Trenton. Then in 2017, at age 22 he slugged a robust .542 for AAA Scranton Wilkes-Barre. So I will eager to see the ball off his bat, as well as his jumps and routes in CF.

* I’m curious to see how Jorge Mateo looks at SS. Some of my quickest-yet-accurate assessments at spring training have come watching shortstops. On one end of the spectrum was watching Hiro Nakajima take infield and going “ruh roh,” and on the other end was being immediately impressed by a young ‘un who turned out to be Addison Russell.

Scouting reports tend to share that Mateo has all the tools and none of the polish. Just from video I can see that arm strength is not an issue but what remains to be seen is footwork, hands, the ability to instinctively approach plays in the most efficient way possible. The Eyeball Scout will also try to avoid blinking and missing a dash from home plate to first base.

* With A.J. Puk, if he pitches one of the days I’m there (60% probability, boosted by the fact that if he stays on turn he will in fact pitch while I’m there) what I’m curious to check out, from behind the plate, is how long his fastball and slider look the same from the batter’s point of view.

Puk’s success will be defined considerably by his control and command — if he throws enough quality strikes he is simply going to be hard to hit — but another measure is that if hitters cannot quickly discern “fastball” from “slider” they are not going to have a fighting chance at either unless they flat out guess. In that regard, the Randy Johnson comps may be valid even if no one is quite expecting Puk to challenge Johnson’s success because a precious few have ever done so.

* There is little doubt that Sheldon Neuse can hit. The question is how well he can handle himself on defense, and where he might be able to shine. And by shine I might just mean hold his own, because the more he hits the more “holding his own” will suffice.

I will looking for sufficiently quick lateral movement at 3B, Neuse’s natural position and the spot he has played so far in Matt Chapman’s absence. It would be intriguing if the A’s gave Neuse some opportunities in the corner outfield, where he has not previously played but where he would have a more definite avenue to the big leagues with Oakland. There I would be looking for Neuse’s ability to track fly balls and adequate foot speed to run them down. Good jumps and reads may only come with time, but “tracking” and “speed” issues can show whether or not the outfield are a natural fit.

Other shiny new toys I’m keen to see may or may not still be in camp by next weekend. They include Jesus Luzardo, Greg Deichmann, Kevin Merrell, and Austin Beck. What eyeball reports are you most wanting to get? Let me know and I’ll get my best people on it. (Their names are “Lefty” and “Righty”.)

Poll

Which prospect are you most keen to hear an eyeball report on?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    Dustin Fowler
    (145 votes)
  • 21%
    Jorge Mateo
    (95 votes)
  • 8%
    Sheldon Neuse
    (36 votes)
  • 28%
    A.J. Puk
    (123 votes)
  • 9%
    I refuse to answer a question that ends with a preposition
    (40 votes)
439 votes total Vote Now