Name: Sheldon Neuse
Height/Weight: 6’0’’, 195
How Acquired: Acquired on July 16, 2017 along with Jesus Luzardo and Blake Treinen from the Washington Nationals for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.
After joining the Oakland A’s organization via a trade in July, Sheldon Neuse tore the cover off the ball. He is a rising star in the A’s system. Will Neuse reach Triple-A and beyond in 2018?
Neuse landed with the Nationals in the second round of the 2016 draft after a junior season when he did it all for Oklahoma. At the plate, Neuse hit .369/.465/.646 with 10 home runs in 55 games. Neuse also served as the Sooners’ closer, saving five games and posting a 1.40 ERA in 19 innings. He signed for $900,000.
Neuse spent his pro debut season in the New York-Penn League and he had an unremarkable debut, batting .230 with a 646 OPS. The Nationals sent Neuse to Low-A to start the 2017. He quickly shook off the disappointing pro debut. In 77 games with Hagerstown, Neuse hit .291/.349/.469 and earned a spot in the Sally League All-Star game.
Neuse’s season went from solid to scalding hot after his trade to the A’s. He made his debut with the High-A Stockton Ports on July 20. Neuse had a walk-off hit in that game and never looked back. In 22 games with the Ports, he hit .386/.457/.675 with seven home runs. The A’s promoted Neuse to Midland on Aug. 14 and he barely missed a beat. In 18 regular season games with the RockHounds, he hit .373/.427/.433. Neuse finished the regular season with a .321/.382/.502 with 16 home runs in 117 games. He then hit .342 with a 971 OPS in the postseason.
The A’s sent Neuse to the Arizona Fall League, where he continued to improve his prospect stock. He finished eighth in the AFL in OPS with a 935 mark, and he was named to the AFL’s All-Prospect team.
Neuse won’t hit .380 next year like he did in his post-trade stint, but the A’s are high on his ability to hit for average and do damage in the gaps. He uses the entire field and can reach the seats as easily to the opposite field as he can to the pull side. Neuse is an aggressive hitter, but he is selectively aggressive, meaning he looks for a pitch in a particular area rather than swinging at whatever is thrown up there. As a runner, Neuse has average speed, but he is aggressive and can steal a base when the defense isn’t paying attention to him.
Neuse doesn’t look like a shortstop from a physical perspective, but he plays like one. He showed smooth actions and a plus arm at the position in 2017. He also fared well at third base, where he played exclusively with Midland with Jorge Mateo ensconced at short. Neuse could add second base to his position repertoire at some point in 2018 and he has enough foot speed and arm strength for the corner outfield spots, as well.
A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman came away impressed with Neuse’s ability on both sides of the ball.
“Very athletic. I think he has great instincts,” Lieppman said in a late-season interview. “He just has a real sense for the ball, whether it is offensively or defensively. He has really good hands for both sides of the diamond [at the plate and in the field], too. He’s an instinctual player and he has really good make-up. He can play short and he plays third base equally well.”
Neuse is a non-roster invitee to big league spring training. All things being equal, the A’s might send him back to Midland to start the 2018 season so he can get time at second base as well as shortstop and third base. However, if Neuse continues to hit this spring as he did in the Fall League, it will be hard for the A’s not to push him up to Triple-A to start the year. If he is in Nashville, look for Neuse to get the bulk of his reps at third base, at least until Mateo and Franklin Barreto move up to the big leagues.
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