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Eyeball Scout Drops By For A Few Winks

Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Is the season half empty or half full? Hard to say, but it’s certainly half over. Here’s some of what the Eyeball Scout is seeing these days...

Beau Taylor

Taylor’s days with Oakland are inherently limited by Chris Herrmann’s 30 day rehab. So likely no matter what he shows, Taylor will be optioned when the All-Star break concludes and Herrmann’s rehab is over.

The Eyeball Scout has sure liked what he has seen, though. It’s not that Taylor is a good major league hitter, as undoubtedly over time he would be exposed as the 29-year old journeyman his resume suggests he is.

But Taylor is the consummate Ray Fosse catcher: the guy who is there to take care of the pitching staff and handle himself behind the plate, and whose offensive contributions are additional gifts. And then on top of that, Taylor does add some offensive value.

Taylor is a rare A’s catcher who gives me confidence in his pitch calling and handling of the game plan. Watching the games, when Taylor is behind the dish the pitch calling makes sense, pitches are actually caught and framed competently, and he is fairly agile blocking balls in the dirt. His arm is only average but in a small sample, so far he has more than held his own controlling the running game.

At the plate the one skill Taylor reliably brings is good plate discipline, suggesting that were he a primary catcher he would offer decent on base skills even after pitchers figured out how to get him out most of the time. He appears to have some power, which is a bonus, suggesting that his true ability, in a larger sample, might look something like .230/.300/.380 — nothing spectacular, but perfectly respectable for a solid backstop.

Overall the player Taylor reminds me of most, if you consider solid work behind the plate calling pitches, blocking balls, and working with pitchers, despite only an ok arm, and a bat that is sufficient only for a catcher, is Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki is, hands down, my favorite A’s catcher since Terry Steinbach.

So call Taylor a “Suzuki-lite” and that’s high praise for a catcher whose big league debut comes nearly at age 30 following 6, count ‘em 6, seasons at AA alone. Hopefully Herrmann is an upgrade because he’s coming, but in this short stint Taylor has shown me enough to give me confidence in him as a worthy alternative.

Jurickson Profar

Every season there is someone who is controversial and becomes everything from AN’s whipping boy to AN’s beleaguered martyr. In 2019 the “whipping boy/martyr” award probably goes to Profar.

The Eyeball Scout continues to marvel — and I mean that in a neutral way — at the difference between Profar’s stance, swing, and approach, batting from the left and right sides of the plate. From the right side, Profar looks balanced, willing and able to let pitches get in deep, shows good pitch recognition and plate discipline, and can whack balls to all fields. From the left side, though, Profar continues to jump at pitches early with little recognition or patience, a tendency to hack at the same slider in off the plate and changeup down at the ankles, and a pull swing designed to roll over and pull everything.

Here’s a “shoot from the hip” theory. Profar’s right side stance lines up his (possibly dominant) eye at the correct angle for him to see and track pitches, while his left side stance views pitches from more of a “closed stance” angle that does not allow him to track pitches as successfully. Sometimes a few degrees angle can make a world of difference in how a batter sees the ball out of the pitcher’s hand, and it really appears as if Profar’s more open stance from the right side is allowing him to track pitches exponentially better than his more closed/straight up left hand stance.

If I were looking for a ‘quick fix’ for Profar’s left side woes (.181/.250/.353, 19% line drive rate), I would start by trying to get his eye to line up with the pitcher more like it does from the right side (where Profar happens to be batting .339/.379/.468, 30.2% line drive rate, for the season).

Daniel Mengden

Mengden’s achilles heel, in the big leagues, has always been command of his legitimate 4 pitch arsenal. Mengden can throw his fastball, slider, curve, and changeup at any time, which is potentially devastating to a hitter, so long as he has any idea where any of the pitches are going.

Wednesday night in St. Louis, Mengden commanded all his pitches and he did so throwing only 90-91 MPH most of the time. What stood out was how excellent the slider and curve were, but those pitches work off the fastball and Mengden commanded his fastball as well.

Perhaps Mengden is simply a better pitcher dialing it back a couple MPH in order to locate his fastball better. He proved Wednesday that throwing low 90s he can be utterly dominant, and certainly in the past he has shown he can throw 93-94 MPH and be terrible.

In any event, the Eyeball Scout thought Mengden’s breaking pitches were sensational against the Cardinals and the start offered a glimpse of what a “put it all together” Daniel Mengden can look like. If nothing else, he should be top notch trade bait for any National League team as 3 of his very best big league starts now have come against NL teams (the other two being complete game 2-hit shutouts against the Phillies and Diamondbacks).

Bad week for the Andersons, no doubt, as they combined to give up 14 ER on 17 hits in 5.2 IP, but Mike Fiers has tossed 7 quality starts in a row and will try to get the A’s back on the beam at 7:07pm tonight. “See” you there!