The unexpected emergence of Sheldon Neuse

May 6, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oakland Athletics first baseman Sheldon Neuse (26) grounds into a fielders choice during the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
May 6, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Oakland Athletics first baseman Sheldon Neuse (26) grounds into a fielders choice during the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chances are, no one would have expected Sheldon Neuse to be the Oakland A’s best hitter in the middle of May. As it was, there was no guarantee that Neuse was going to make the A’s roster out of spring training. He was another of the myriad of their minor league signings as they hoped to find a diamond in the rough.

That has been the case with Neuse. He has emerged as the A’s best hitter thus far in 2022, producing a .305/.365/.411 batting line in his 104 plate appearances, hitting two doubles and two homers. His 139 OPS+ is the best of anyone with more than four plate appearances for Oakland this season, showing how little offense the A’s have had.

Can Sheldon Neuse continue to produce?

As strong as Neuse’s production has been, there are several warning signs. He has just five extra base hits at this point as he has primarily been a singles hitter this year. Neuse has also drawn just seven walks while striking out 28 times, rates that could catch up with him during the season.

The same could be said when looking at his Statcast metrics. Neuse ranks in the 25th percentile, or worse, in barrel rate, strikeout percentage, and chase rate. While he ranks in the 70th percentile in hard hit rate, he is not making enough contact to sustain his strong start to the season.

That is the case when looking at his expected numbers. Neuse has an expected batting line of .282/.350/.404, which would still be a solid batting line. However, it is not quite as good as he has done thus far.

At the same time, those metrics do not matter. The A’s have not received anything resembling competence with the bat from Seth Brown and Kevin Smith at the corners of their infield. Having Neuse get off to a hot start, even if it is seemingly unsustainable, gives the A’s someone that is at least productive, which they desperately need.

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Sheldon Neuse may be in the midst of a breakout season for the Oakland A’s. It is also fair to wonder if that production can be sustained.

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