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Eyeball Scout Gives Knowing Glances At Joseph, Puk

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MLB: AUG 22 Yankees at Athletics
“Um, sir, I’m kind of gonna need that...”
Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Eyeball Scout’s ‘80s pager was buzzing furiously this month, because “new blood” always causes the pager to go off like Gleyber Torres against the Orioles. Always game to engage vigorously in “small sample theatre,” here is what the Eyeball Scout has seen of late...

Corban Joseph

When you only have 26 at bats, your season line isn’t likely to look very good if the last half of them are hitless. So Joseph’s .192 batting average isn’t really any more problematic than his .385 average was prior to the “0 fer”. The question is, what are we seeing?

What I’m seeing is that Joseph is getting away from what should be his game, which is staying back on pitches, trusting his contact skills and spraying pitches to all fields. A clue to his current problems comes in a couple balls he has recently put in play: out in front of off speed pitches, his lower body having betrayed him, Joseph has reached out with his hands and tried to pull the pitch resulting in weak fly balls to RF.

Joseph needs to focus on staying back on pitches, not worrying as much about being late on fastballs because his strong contact skills will allow him to slash those pitches to LF — so long as he does not forget about that side of the diamond. At the very moment, Joseph is hitting like a “dead pull hitter” who tried to start his swing early and nothing could be more detrimental to him than to take this approach.

At the plate I still like Joseph better than “LH Profar” or Franklin Barreto, and if he returns to staying back on pitches and using the whole field I think he can be a decent contributor. He might even draw his first walk. In the field I haven’t been overly impressed, but I think Joseph has a chance to be close to average, maybe a tick below, certainly no worse than the predecessors he has supplanted.

A.J. Puk

It’s so difficult to judge a major league debut, when sometimes 98% can be attributed to “adrenaline”. Wednesday night Puk faced 3 hitters, walking the leadoff batter, inducing a pop fly, and then surrendering a line drive single before exiting. Both hitters who reached were LH batters.

What the Eyeball Scout saw, for roughly the millionth time, was evidence that the single most important skill in pitching is the ability to locate. Mike Tauchman was not impressed by 98MPH from the left side, ripping the first pitch he saw because it was in his wheelhouse. We saw this plenty from Frankie Montas when he first came up — velocity is fine, but the ability to command pitches is key. It may be a while before Puk consistently commands his pitches, and big league hitters feast on a lack of command.

Puk was not on a level playing field, though, because he did not have a wipeout slider. The first one he tried to throw lopped up there above the strike zone, likely a victim to adrenaline. With that sharp and late diving slider working, Puk will have some success even a 2-pitch reliever, but what I want to caution is that I still think my pre-season predictions will prove true: in their initial appearances, as they get their feet wet, the polished Jesus Luzardo will exceed expectations and the raw Puk will fall short.

One final thought: unable to see Sean Manaea pitch last night, the Eyeball Scout has to defer to the “look at numbers and conclude stuff” scout, but you can’t help but be encouraged and excited to see Manaea, in a hitter’s league, throw 7 shutout innings on 2 hits, 1 BB, and 12 Ks. And if one commenter’s suggestion that Manaea was hitting 93 MPH are accurate, then you kind of have to find a spot in the rotation for the A’s lefty. Stay tuned...

See you at 6:07pm for a Bumgarner-Bassitt battle of the B’s in the battle of the bay, where one of the B’s pitches for the A’s. Sorry, what?