2B or not 2B? That is the question for Sheldon Neuse and the Oakland A’s.
For almost the entirety of his minor league career, Neuse has played third base. But the A’s have a superstar at the hot corner already in Matt Chapman, hopefully for at least a couple more years, so if Neuse stays at that position then it might have to be in another organization.
But if he can shift to second base? That would be a different story, and it could open up some interesting possibilities for the green and gold.
This idea isn’t new, nor is it completely based in fantasy. The A’s have already thought of it and given it a try in real life, having Neuse play a little bit of 2B in Triple-A in 2019 as well as in his MLB debut trial that same year. He even looked solid there in his small sample! But then the whole 2020 minor league season was wiped out, and he didn’t get a chance to further prove himself.
Maybe Neuse can play 2B. And maybe he can hit in the majors. Maybe, maybe, maybe. But the thing is, the A’s might have to settle for “maybe” somewhere on the roster, whether it’s the rotation, the bullpen, shortstop, or right here at the keystone.
What if Neuse was the maybe they went with, hoping for a solid line-drive bat with some power to go with neutral or better defense? After all, at age 26 next year, with encouraging numbers in his most recent Triple-A season, it’s time to either give him his chance in the bigs or trade him before his remaining prospect value withers away.
But it’s not just about giving Neuse an opportunity. It’s about what else you can do if one of your biggest offseason needs is resolved at the minimum salary with no trade resources spent.
What if penciling in Neuse at 2B (and letting go dreams of dropping several million on free agents Kolten Wong or Tommy La Stella) allowed you to keep Marcus Semien at shortstop, or at least bring in a genuinely exciting SS replacement? Or sign or acquire an impactful starting pitcher or late-inning reliever, or even re-sign Liam Hendriks? Or whatever other pipe dream you have for Oakland’s offseason?
I’m not suggesting this is a good or bad idea, nor guaranteeing what effect it could have on the rest of the payroll. It’s just one of the options at hand. We’ve discussed bringing back La Stella, and we’ve kicked the tires on Wong, so Door No. 3 is simply promoting the in-house candidate who is a Top 10 prospect in the club’s farm system.
Neuse, 2019 AAA: .317/.389/.550, 126 wRC+, 27 HR, 10.0% BB, 23.6% Ks
Those numbers (at age 24) came in the context of hitter-friendly Las Vegas and the Pacific Coast League, but they still paint the picture of acceptable plate discipline and power, along with the sky-high BABIP he’s shown throughout the pros.
The A’s can either spend on infielders and then have to rely on rookies like Daulton Jefferies and James Kaprielian (or some other cheap flyer or waiver wire pickup) in the rotation, or they can fill an open lineup spot with a similarly promising rookie and spend some money on the pitching staff instead. Pick your preference, and vote in the poll.
What should the A’s do at 2B in 2021?
This poll is closed
Re-sign Tommy La Stella
Sign Kolten Wong
Acquire/sign someone else notable (Adam Frazier, etc.)
Promote Sheldon Neuse and spend on pitching/shortstop