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Eyeball Scout Notes On Some Core Hopefuls

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners
“Nick the Slick”
Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The Eyeball Scout sees Aledmys Diaz and Carlos Perez but chooses to turn a blind eye. They are not the future of the ballclub in any city or with any team name or colors. Today we look at some of the players who hope to be mainstays and offer some non-statistical observations...

Nick Allen

In all likelihood, with the lack of power that will force him to hit to “7 man infields” and a tendency not to notice “chase sliders” until they reach the catcher’s glove, Allen is best suited to being a utility infielder who steps in to start for the injured SS and you don’t really miss a beat.

That’s not an everyday starter, but it is a useful player, and with Darell Hernaiz knocking on the door it may well be Allen’s fate in the very near future. That being said, the Eyeball Scout sees a positive trend in this past month.

To my eyes, Allen has finally gotten less “jumpy” at the plate and seems willing to take more pitches in order to save his swing for pitches he can actually either knock hard or poke through the coveted right side hole which is his ally. I am seeing Allen be more discerning in not only taking balls but even “pitcher’s strikes” earlier in the count when he can afford to be choosy.

The results don’t always show up statistically in small samples — witness the ball he crushed halfway up the wall in LF last night that found the glove of a leaping Randal Grichuk. Tip your hat to a superb defender but that’s a great at bat.

Some of the improvement does show up in the stat line, as Allen’s August was solid even if not spectacular. He batted .268/.307/.408, a line that with his defense would make him every bit worthy of a starting job, and his K rate was an impressive 13.2%.

Allen has already proven he is worth starting against LHP, with a career .270/.312/.415 (108 wRC+) line, slick defense, and smooth tandem work with fellow young ‘un Zack Gelof. It remains to be seen how much his hitting can improve in the big leagues, but at least he appears to be “trending upwards”.

Ryan Noda

Don’t sleep on Noda being more than a “good Rule 5 find”. He might be closer to a Mark Canha level “we stole away a mainstay”. Noda has, all season, been a valuable “if only he didn’t K so much” player who will always K quite a bit.

The strikeouts preclude him from maintaining a good batting average, but nonetheless it is worth noting how sensational it is for a rookie to maintain a .382 OBP over 101 games and 385 PAs.

If only he could hit for just a little more average, make a little more contact, K a bit less....

Well, since his return from the IL Noda has made a lot of contact without losing any of his other skills. Perhaps shortening his swing a tad with 2 strikes, Noda has continued to be just as discerning at the plate but in his 41 August PAs he K’d only 19.5% of the time.

It’s the first month in which his K rate was below 30% and in trading a few Ks for a few hits Noda batted .273 for the month. A larger sample will reveal either a trend or a fluke, but the Noda I’m seeing right now just seems locked in, finding that coveted balance of patience and commitment to contact and when he hits the ball he really hits it hard (so you can expect a high BABIP).

As is, with a 32.2% K rate for the season Noda is already very good with 2.1 WAR in just 101 games. Any future Noda with a 25% K rate is vying for a spot on an All-Star team.

Ken Waldichuk

The Jekyl and Hyde of pitchers, Waldichuk’s future is really hard to predict given that he is so often 2 pitchers on the same day. One of them is much more fun to watch than the other. When he’s rolling along, you can see a #2 SP in there, with fastball, slider, and changeup all capable of garnering swings and misses, ample velocity to keep hitters honest and terrific break on the slider.

And then he will lose his control, but the worst of it isn’t the ship going off course it’s his inability to right the ship once it veers. Next thing you know, a tidy little one-hit shutout has cascaded into a frightening shop of walk and HBP horrors, 27 pitch innings he can’t even finish, and a pitching line that belies how well the rest of it went.

An “inability to stop the bleeding” is hard to predict and difficult to cure. And it doesn’t just happen the second time through the order or in the 1st inning. It can happen anytime or no time just usually sometime. Very confounding.

Even though those “yips” — or whatever they are, maybe just a mechanical failure no one can fix in real time — surfaced big time in his last start up in Seattle, still Waldichuk’s second half has been better than his first half was.

In the first half, Waldichuk posted a 6.63 ERA and allowed 90 hits in his 72 IP. His second half ERA is 4.71, and in 42 IP he has allowed just 36 hits. Even the BB rate is down, albeit from 5.50/9IP to a still problematic 4.29/9IP.

To my eyes, and to the stat line, Waldichuk has become less hittable in the second half — the stuff plays, folks. And it’s not like he’s always wild. Sometimes his control is excellent for long stretches. And then in the span of 5-6 hitters he can undo all the good work and the only way to solve it is to yank him, which often means a short outing and taxing the bullpen something fierce.

I would say it’s really the last hurdle Waldichuk needs to overcome, because even if he has “flurries of wildness” if he can figure out a way to limit the damage, right the ship, and continue on, he can be a mid-rotation SP. But right now that hurdle is still 15 feet high and no one has been able to find a pole vault.

Your thoughts on these players and these observations, or on other players the A’s are hoping will be part of a good core, such as Jordan Diaz, Lawrence Butler, Zack Gelof, Shea Langeliers, and JP Sears?

Weigh in and we’ll see y’all at 1:07pm for some more A’s baseball goodness.