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Oakland A’s call up infield prospect Sheldon Neuse

Khris Davis goes on paternity list for birth of child

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Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s called up infield prospect Sheldon Neuse on Thursday, the team announced. He fills the 25-man roster spot temporarily opened by Khris Davis, who went on the three-day paternity list on Thursday for the birth of his child. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Wei-Chung Wang was designated for assignment.

Entering the season, Athletics Nation voted Neuse (pronounced “noisy”) as the team’s ninth-best prospect on our Community Prospect List. That ranking came after a poor season in Triple-A last year, but in 2019 he got a second chance at that level and turned in a much stronger showing at age 24. It also helped that the A’s affiliate moved from pitcher-friendly Nashville to hitter-heaven Las Vegas.

Neuse, 2019 AAA: .317/.389/.550, 126 wRC+, 27 HR, 10.0% BB, 23.6% Ks

The A’s acquired Neuse in July 2017 as part of the trade that sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington and brought Blake Treinen and top pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo to Oakland. (He’d been the Nats 2nd-round draft pick in 2016.) The right-handed batter crushed the ball for the rest of 2017 in Oakland’s system, moving from High-A up to Double-A, and then kept hitting well in the Arizona Fall League. The next year he got invited to A’s spring training and led the team in homers for the Cactus League.

However, he slowed down in 2018, starting the season on an aggressive assignment to Triple-A after just 18 games of Double-A the year prior. Between that quick promotion and Nashville’s tough home park, he posted a disappointing line that included a 72 wRC+, no power, no walks, and too many strikeouts. He did show improvement as the summer went on, but he still entered 2019 with a lot to prove.

All of those problems went away this year in Vegas. He finally tapped into some power for the first time, with more homers than the previous three years combined, though 17 of his 27 dingers came in the Aviators’ launching pad of a park. Meanwhile he slashed his strikeouts considerably while also drawing more walks, taking his ratio from more than 5 K/BB down to just over 2 K/BB. Through it all he still maintained his signature enormous BABIP (.384), which is now at .379 for his entire pro career (1,728 PAs) and .401 since joining the A’s system more than two years ago (1,266 PAs).

Over at The Athletic, Melissa Lockard reports that one factor in Neuse’s improvement was learning to lay off the high fastball. She offers this quote from the A’s player development staff: “[In 2018] He was chasing out of the zone and he was in a [Nashville] ballpark where some balls he hit before that might have gone out were caught, so his confidence was low, he was pressing and then he gets overly aggressive and his strike zone expands.” He’s since tightened up that plate discipline, as you can see in his improved numbers.

On the other side of the ball, Neuse is considered a plus defender at third base. He may also have some versatility, too, as he spent most of August playing second base given the A’s questions marks at that position. Either way, he’s a better athlete than his 6’0, 218-pound frame suggests, and his throwing arm gets an excellent 60-grade from both MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs (on the 20-to-80 scouting scale). In college he played shortstop and threw mid-90s as a relief pitcher.

It’s not yet clear how the A’s will use Neuse, but second base and DH are possibilities, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. Oakland has struggled to find a permanent answer at second base, and the normal DH, Davis, will be out of action for a few days. However, Neuse is not in the starting lineup on Thursday for the finale in Kansas City against the Royals.

This is the third prospect the A’s have brought up in the last week or so. Lefty pitcher A.J. Puk came up last week, and OF/1B slugger Seth Brown got the call this past Tuesday. Davis doesn’t need to come off the paternity list until Sunday, which happens to be Sept. 1, so rosters will expand that same day and presumably Neuse could stick around at that point.

Welcome to the Show, Sheldon!

Other details

To make room for Neuse, the odd man out is Wang. The lefty signed as a minor league free agent and worked his way up to MLB, where he made a real contribution to the team. He appeared in 20 games and got solid results, despite shaky peripheral stats. He doesn’t have powerful stuff, but he did a good job making the most of what he’s got.

Wang, 2019: 3.33 ERA, 27 ip, 16 Ks, 11 BB, 4 HR, 5.28 FIP

Over the next week, the 27-year-old Wang will either be claimed on waivers by another club, released, or accept a non-roster assignment to the minors.

There should be another move coming soon, too, as star pitcher Sean Manaea is expected to come off the 60-day injured list any day now. He joined the team in Kansas City after a successful rehab assignment in Triple-A, and he will travel with them to New York for the upcoming Yankees series, reports Slusser. He’ll require a 40-man spot when he’s activated. Fellow starter Chris Bassitt is also going on the paternity list sometime after today’s start, notes Slusser, so if Manaea requires a 25-man spot before rosters expand then perhaps that could be his opening.

In one final note, star 3B Matt Chapman is out of the lineup on Thursday, after being hit in the head by a pitch on Wednesday. However, this was already a scheduled off-day for him, says Slusser, though of course it would have been a good idea to hold him out anyway just to be safe. He has a headache but no concussion symptoms, reports Slusser, and the hope is that he’ll be back in the lineup in New York, adds insider Martin Gallegos.

Updated roster

Here’s a look at the updated 40-man roster. Players in italics are not on the 25-man roster. Those with a second dash before their name (--) have not yet debuted in MLB, and those with asterisks** are on the 10-day injured list (or, in the case of Barrera, the minor league IL; or, in the case of Davis, merely the paternity list).

Remember that more 40-man spots will likely be needed soon for the return of Manaea from the 60-day IL, and the potential promotion of a third catcher for September.

Oakland A's 40-man roster
Pitchers Hitters

Mike Fiers (R)
Tanner Roark (R)
Brett Anderson (L)
Homer Bailey (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
-Daniel Mengden (R)
-Paul Blackburn (R)
-Tanner Anderson (R)
--Grant Holmes (R)
--James Kaprielian (R)


Liam Hendriks (R)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Jake Diekman (L)
Joakim Soria (R)
Blake Treinen (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)
A.J. Puk (L)
-Jharel Cotton (R)
-J.B. Wendelken (R)

Chris Herrmann (L)
Josh Phegley (R)


Matt Olson (L)
Jurickson Profar (S)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Corban Joseph (L)
Sheldon Neuse (R)
-Franklin Barreto (R)
--Jorge Mateo (R)


Mark Canha (R)
Robbie Grossman (S)
Chad Pinder (R)
Seth Brown (L)
-Khris Davis (R)**
-Ramon Laureano (R)**
-Stephen Piscotty (R)**
-Skye Bolt (S)
-Dustin Fowler (L)
--Luis Barrera (L)**

10-day IL: OF Ramon Laureano (leg), OF Stephen Piscotty (ankle)

60-day IL: RHP Daniel Gossett (TJS), LHP Sean Manaea (shoulder)