Athletics Take Patient Approach With Robert Puason
For a small-revenue team, throwing $5 million at an unproven teenager is a big deal.
The Athletics liked Dominican shortstop Robert Puason so much that they took the gamble back in 2019, and then they waited. And waited.
Through months and months of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the A's have waited for a chance to see their 18-year-old shortstop take the field and show just what he can do.
That should happen this season, and Oakland hopes Puason will put on a show. At 6-foot-3, 165 pounds, he is tall for a shortstop, but the A’s believe he has the skills to stick.
“He’s a young, naturally talented shortstop,” A's farm director Ed Sprague said. “He can play—he needs to play. His instincts are fine. He moves around well and has a good arm.”
Puason ranked as the No. 2 international prospect in 2019 when he showed enticing tools. He is a lean, lanky, switch-hitter gifted with the kind of quickness that should keep him in the middle of the diamond. His swing from both sides of the plate sprays line drives all over the field.
Since signing, Puason has been limited to games at instructional league, the alternate training site and spring training.
As with most prospects, there is a learning process ahead.
“He can flash a great play, then drop a routine two-hopper,” Sprague said. “He tries to get too quick; he tries to get too fancy. When he learns how to get consistent and use his skill set, he’ll be fine. Derek Jeter made 65 errors his first season, so you don’t worry about that now.”
It will be about developing focus and learning the wiles of the game as Puason begins his journey.
Grading tools is difficult this early, but Puason appears to be slightly above-average with his speed and arm. His swing is geared for more line drives than homers, but that could change as he develops his body and gains maturity.
Now begins the march to see how those skills will translate into performance.
— Lefty reliever Brady Basso has caused some excitement by consistently hitting 97 mph during the early days of minor league camp. He was Oakland's 16th-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 2019 and debuted with a 1.75 ERA in 15 appearances in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
— Righthander Chase Cohen hit 100 mph on the gun. Sprague speculates that a year of rest has helped some of the pitchers restore their arms and gain velocity. Cohen was a ninth-round pick out of Georgia Southern in 2018.