Let’s hear it for the new guys! Sheldon Neuse, Jesus Luzardo, and Sean Murphy are making an impact as they get their feet wet at the big league level. Here’s what the Eyeball Scout has observed in these 3...
Color me impressed so far. In previous spring trainings the Eyeball Scout found the swing a bit long, but that hasn’t at all been the case in the big leagues. Even when he was batting .120 I thought Neuse’s at bats were solid enough that hits were soon to follow, and sure enough the RH batter is getting hot.
Mostly Neuse is offering at the right pitches, initially fouling off ones he might drive now — hence the low batting average, as good at bats eventually yielded outs instead of hits but are now producing better results.
What I think has impressed me the most, though, is Neuse’s ability to ease his swing, focus on contact, and stroke pitches the other way. This was first evident with his first big league hit, a clutch 2-run double down the right field line at Yankee Stadium, but has been seen several times since.
It is beyond me how Franklin Barreto and Jurickson Profar (from the left side), two hitters who would so greatly benefit from this approach, have been unable to gear down their swings and serve balls the other way because it is the single biggest thing holding each back as a hitter.
Neuse has shown this ability to use a “two strike approach” so often missing in today’s game, and it has made him far more difficult to pitch to, has opened up the entire field, and has helped him to jump his batting average to .265 after a 6 for 9 showing in the Rangers series so far.
Defensively, I have been equally impressed with Neuse at 2B, considering that the position is very new to him. His range has not been much tested yet, but he shows good hands, a great arm, and dexterity making the transfer on a double play. He also seems to have solid instincts, such as how he fielded a high chopper and flipped the ball backhanded to Semien to start a 4-6-3 DP last night on a play that could easily have gone sideways.
I don’t know if Neuse has become the A’s “2Bman of the future” but I suspect he is suddenly #1 on the depth chart — it is now likely his job to lose, or at least should be.
Luzardo’s debut was impressive (3 IP, 1 hit, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, mowed down the heart of the Astros’ order in a tight game), but what I think may be most impressive is that from the Eyeball Scout’s point of view Luzardo did all this without his signature command.
Luzardo ran several 3-ball counts because he was not able to throw his fastball quite where he was trying to. Mostly he was starting it too far inside to a RH batter so that even as it came back to the arm side it was clearly inside. He was not fully able to adjust, repeating this “ball from the time it leaves his hand” pitch and falling behind in the count more than he normally would.
I chalk this up to “big league debut” jitters/adrenaline, but if the best is yet to come you can see why scouts, opposing batters, and A’s personnel rave about the 21 year old. Luzardo’s fastball sat around 95MPH with visible movement, the changeup he threw to Jose Altuve was filthy and broke down Altuve’s swing, and his best pitch over the 3 IP was probably his slider.
If Luzardo’s subsequent appearances include his signature command, A’s fans are going to see why some of us would be comfortable throwing him into the fire of a wild card game, even a wild card start. He is, in fact, the A’s best pitcher soon, perhaps now.
Hopefully, throughout his career Murphy will average a HR every other game and 78% of his hits will be for extra bases. A career slugging percentage of 1.091 is reasonable, right?
OK, perhaps this is an unsustainable debut for Murphy, but what the Eyeball Scout is drooling over is just how hard he hits the ball when he hits it. There have been some absolute rockets, from his “is it high enough?” HR into the Crawford boxes to his “swung on, gone” HR that cleared the bleachers, to his doubles into the left field corner that exited the infield in a blur.
Also promising is that Murphy has not appeared to be daunted, in any way, by coming up to the big leagues for the first time and being thrown into the middle of a playoff race. We will see how he handles the inevitable struggles, but it’s hard not to be excited by how he has handled himself so far.
Defensively, we know Murphy’s arm is plus. In terms of blocking balls, I like his athleticism — he moves his whole body to try to block an outside pitch, which is a welcome contrast to the “Phegley stab,” but still has work to do to get his glove to the right spot more consistently.
As for calling a game, that’s always a bit hard to parse but given the low bar (I haven’t been particularly impressed with any A’s catcher, in this regard, since Kurt Suzuki) he seems to be doing well. If nothing else, pitchers seem to be mostly in synch with Murphy, which is in sharp contrast to the constant shaking off, pained looks, and impromptu conferences, that dot many of Phegley’s starts. It’s not just you, Wilson Ramos!
So that’s a pretty positive report from the Eyeball Scout, eh? These 3 have taken the league by storm and have a chance to help elevate the A’s from “best of the rest” to legitimate contenders for the AL West beginning in 2020. There’s a reason Oakland is winning so many games right now and these 3 play no small part in the team’s bright present and brighter future.
Your thoughts on these 3?