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Gnu Gnotes From The Eyeball Scout

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics
“Hallelujah!!! (I laid off a slider)”
Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

Even in a non-contending year come fascinating stories that compel you to come back for more mediocre baseball. Especially fun to watch are the young players who have talent, if not polish, and today the Eyeball Scout hones in a few of them...

Cristian Pache

Considering he is batting all of .155/.197/.233 (a robust 29 wRC+), I find myself somewhat sanguine around Pache’s future with the A’s. Of course you start with the elite CF defense that raises his floor considerably, but it doesn’t mean you can keep a .155 hitter in the lineup every day.

Thing is, Pache has shown plenty to like even while also showing plenty to hate. He has power, the ball jumps off his bat, and he continues to be near the top of the league in hitting balls hard (when he hits them at all). He has also shown the ability to hit the ball hard (when he hits it at all) to LF, CF, and RF.

He is currently one of those hitters whose “expected stats” are much better than his actual stats, suggesting he has hit into his fair share of bad luck and that natural regression will improve his numbers. He should probably be hitting around .200 which, while not great, is a much easier jumping off point for getting up to .250 — and with that the OBP and SLG follow upwards.

His floor appears to be a bit like Bobby Crosby, whose strong defense at a crucial position allowed him to parlay chasing slider off the plate after slider off the plate into a 7-year career. (Crosby batted .236/.304/.372 for his career, an 80 wRC+). Likely that’s around where the low end of where Pache will settle in, with a higher ceiling should he figure some things out that Crosby simply couldn’t.

Another player Pache reminds me of is Jackie Bradley Jr., the consummate “elite CF glove, too bad he can’t really hit” guy. A .220.297.350 career hitter, Bradley Jr. has nonetheless hung around for 9 seasons and accumulated 15.4 WAR.

No doubt the kid has some serious work to do. But the tools appear to be there and time is still on his side.

Luis Barrera

I’m honestly kind of shocked that Barrera cleared waivers upon being DFA last month. You’re telling me teams like the Orioles and Pirates wouldn’t have been wise to find a spot on their big league roster for Barrera?

But hey, I’m not complaining because Barrera is showing why he came up through Oakland’s system as one of their more promising prospects. What stands out to me is Barrera’s willingness to use the whole field and focus on hitting balls crisply from line to line. He slices balls inside 3B and drives them hard to RF and generally makes a lot of contact. These are good qualities big swingers like Sean Murphy, Chad Pinder, and Christian Bethancourt would do well to incorporate into their game.

On the minus side, Barrera does show the “10 cent head” quality that probably contributed to the DFA. Even last night he did a dumb when he charged the Anthony Rendon base hit with Shohei Ohtani at 2B, double-clutched — a sign from God since he had no play at the plate to begin with — and then still decided to uncork a throw over the cutoff man all the way to the plate.

These fundamental blunders, like getting doubled off 1B as a pinch runner or overrunning a ball because you are trying to throw it before you catch it, could derail Barrera playing at a level where you just don’t get away with too many mistakes. But he has a quick bat, makes solid contact, and is hard to defend, plus he is speedy on the bases (and cut the corner of the 1B bag last night like a champ).

There’s a lot to like physically in Barrera’s game. Let’s just hope the brain can keep up.

A.J. Puk

I was never fan, didn’t love the draft pick of a guy who was already throwing 100 pitches to get through 5 IP in college. And what I saw in early big league stints continued to leave me underwhelmed.

Well, something has clicked with Puk because for the first time not only are the stats great but the Eyeball Scout is impressed with what he is seeing. Puk has pretty much ditched the changeup he incorporated in order to have a “starting pitcher’s repertoire” and the fastball/slider combo is lethal. He is locating pitches like I’ve never seen him do and as a result he is getting ahead of batters and carving them up.

As much as a SP with great stuff is far more valuable than any reliever, I am inclined to say that physically, mentally, and in terms of repertoire, Puk is best off staying in the bullpen and serving as the 2 IP reliever I have been craving for years. That is plenty valuable and if it finally isn’t broken I say don’t fix it.

Not only do Puk, Sam Moll, Zach Jackson, and Dany Jimenez give the A’s a pretty legitimate looking bullpen, they are all under team control for years meaning there is potentially a core there — to the extent that any reliever can be relied on year to year — for the next contending team.

So yes, the A’s are 17-24 and very much in a “development year,” but an outfield and a bullpen are developing. The Eyeball Scout is pleased.