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A’s “Braintrust” Not Showing The Former Or Inspiring The Latter

MLB: JUL 20 Astros at Athletics
There’s a better chance this produced a DP than a hit.
Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s one thing to make head-scratching trades don’t pass analytical or critical muster and then predictably look terrible in hindsight. It’s another to scout a player with the exit velocities of a weakling and the fly ball routes of an inebriated seagull and proclaim him to be “the most complete player in the minors!”

When what’s done is done and the guys you have are the guys you have, now all that is incumbent upon you is to at least select the right players to suit up for your big league (or is it “big league”) squad.

And the A’s braintrust (or is it “braintrust”?) can’t even get that right.

Blunder 1:

The number of missteps, just in roster decisions, over the past month are startling. It began with the injuries to Carlos Perez and Manny Piña that necessitated the call up of a catcher.

This was a chance to give a look to 25 year old Kyle McCann, who is reaching that critical age where he is not too old to be a prospect but if it’s going to happen it probably needs to happen soon. McCann is having a solid season at AAA batting .287/.360/.502 and showing it’s not all Las Vegas mirage by maintaining a healthy .278/.359/.470 line on the road.

More importantly, selecting McCann would have enabled the A’s not to call up 21 year old Tyler Soderstrom when Oakland’s top prospect was showing, in AAA, all the weaknesses that scouts worry about with him: hacking at too many pitches and rolling over on outside offspeed pitches. Soderstrom was batting just .254 at AAA with a .303 OBP, far below league average.

So the A’s called up Soderstrom, who predictably has been in over his head. Still lacking good pitch selection or the wisdom to take outside pitches the other way, Soderstrom has started his big league career 3 for 22. He is the rare big league hitter who has managed to hit into more double plays (4) than get hits (3), and while this debut probably won’t scar him for life it hasn’t benefited anyone.

Blunder 2:

Then Oakland found itself in need of a call up when Ryan Noda took a pre-game ground ball off his face. It created, for the umpteenth time, an opportunity to give a look to Max Schuemann, another prospect whose age (he turned 26 last month) suggests that if there’s going to be a time for him it’s going to be now.

All Schuemann has done this season at AAA is to bat .309/.423/.498. All he did last season at AA is to bat .290/.418/.438. Defensively, he has literally played all around the diamond seeing time at 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, LF, CF, and RF, meaning he could conceivably have slotted in for any of Esteury Ruiz, Ramon Laureano, Ryan Noda, or just replaced the ineffective duo of Aledmys Diaz and Nick Allen at SS.

Schuemann, inexplicably, has yet to so much as make his major league debut despite showing a hit tool with terrific plate discipline that has translated to a .300/.420 average the past two seasons. It’s not like the big league team is getting hits, getting on base, or scoring runs — maybe you want to give Schuemann a chance to see what he can do?

Instead, the A’s called back up Jonah Bride who after last night is now slugging .208 for the season. And .237 for his career. Seriously? It wasn’t even a matter of matching positions, because Bride was called up for Noda, and it wasn’t a matter of eschewing older prospects because Bride is 27.

It was just a matter of not understanding that regardless of what the A’s internal beliefs might be around Schuemann (heck, their beliefs around Bride were clearly dead wrong), he has proven that he deserves a chance to show what he can, or can’t do, in the big leagues.

Blunder 3:

And then maybe the most puzzling one of all, not because it’s the most important decision but just because it makes absolutely no sense. Oakland dealt Shintaro Fujinami to the Orioles for 26 year old LH reliever Easton Lucas.

Now you may have been underwhelmed by the trade but let’s face it: despite his big time stuff, Fujinami’s had a disastrous April and May, and despite his recent success the role he settled into was as neither a starter nor a closer. The market for inconsistent 7th inning relievers just isn’t that robust and so a reliever, with 6 years of control, whose fastball has ticked up several MPH this season, might have been a worthwhile flier to take in exchange for 2.5 months of Fujinami.

Here’s where the A’s lose me. Instead of placing Lucas on the roster to replace Fujinami, Oakland decides that what they should do instead is to bury Lucas at AAA for now so they can sign a different reliever to put on the big league roster. And that reliever is Tayler Scott.

Let’s take a look see at Scott, shall we? He’s 31. He has, after last night, thrown 39.1 IP in the big leagues. In those 39.1 IP, he has allowed an astonishing 63 hits. 9 of those hits have been HRs. He has walked 25 batters, which is a rate of 6.55 BB/9 IP. He has also hit 6 batters.

What this means is that somehow, in 39.1 IP Tayler Scott has managed to allow 94 batters to reach base. I’m not exaggerating to say that if you look at the rates of hits, walks, HRs, and HBP, you see pretty much the stats you might expect to see from a position player pitching the 9th inning of a blowout.

So the A’s traded for an interesting 26 year old LH reliever and assigned him to AAA so they could sign the 31 year old Scott and put him on the roster?

In summary, at AAA right now you have a 25 year old and two 26 year olds who have some talent and the MiLB resumes to warrant an extended look for a rebuilding team in desperate need of young breakouts. They are languishing at AAA right now in favor of a 21 year old whose AAA performance screamed that he was not yet ready for prime time, Jonah Bride and Tayler Scott.

Just blunderful.