The Oakland A’s battle for second base has quite a few contestants. One that is flying under the radar may prove to be the future at the position.
Before COVID-19 put the breaks on spring training, the Oakland A’s had a fascinating battle for second base. While several players were theoretically contending for the position, there were four main front runners, either without options or a Rule V draft pick, vying to be the player to man the keystone.
Whether the A’s select Tony Kemp, Jorge Mateo, Franklin Barreto, or Vimael Machin may not matter in the long run. Another candidate, although one considered a long shot because he has minor league options left, could be the future at the position.
Sheldon Neuse came over to the A’s as part of the package that brought Jesus Luzardo to the organization. While Luzardo has understandably attracted far more attention, Neuse has also developed into a prized prospect. The infielder is currently ranked as the A’s sixth best prospect according to MLB.com, who may be a Ben Zobrist type of player.
After struggling in his first taste of AAA action in 2019, Neuse exploded in Las Vegas. He produced a .317/.389/.550 batting line, hitting 27 homers and 31 doubles over his 560 plate appearances. That production led to his first taste of major league action, where Neuse put together a .250/.295/.304 batting line, hitting three doubles while drawing five walks and striking out 19 times in 61 plate appearances.
While his numbers are likely inflated due to the ball used in AAA last season, he did show a return to his previous form. Neuse had been known for his solid approach at the plate, which had gotten away from him in the previous year. His walk rate climbed to 10% while he slashed his strikeout rate to 23.6%, allowing Neuse to be the player that he had been in the past.
It is his bat that can make the difference. As it currently stands, Neuse is the type of player the A’s love – capable of playing short, second, and third, while even getting some time in left. If nothing else, he could be a super utility player, another Zobrist.
But the A’s already have that type of player in Machin. While the A’s would love to have Machin become that type of player, it would be a somewhat disappointing end result for Neuse. But, if he continues to pound the ball when the AAA season begins, he could force his way to the majors, taking over at second for good.
Sheldon Neuse’s time will come for the Oakland A’s. If second base continues to be a revolving door of disappointment, that time could come sooner than expected.