Sheldon Neuse: Athletics 2019 Minor League Player Of The Year
Perhaps the disaster that was the first half of the 2018 season will be the best thing that ever happened to 24-year-old third baseman Sheldon Neuse.
Neuse signed with the Nationals as a 2016 second-rounder out of Oklahoma. The Athletics acquired him a year later when they traded Sean Doolittle to Washington.
The righthanded-hitting Neuse rose so far so fast that he found himself at Triple-A to begin 2018. He got off to a miserable start, hitting .224 in the first half.
The Texan then turned it all around, hitting .321 after the break. He carried the same force into this season. Through 117 games at Triple-A Las Vegas he hit .322/.391/.551 with 24 home runs and 95 RBIs.
"I think the whole key to his improvements were through failure,” farm director Keith Lieppman said. "He took it to heart and came back and improved. He’s a grinder—his defense has improved. His whole game has improved.”
Neuse played shortstop in college, and the A’s are grooming him to play all infield positions. They see him developing into a multi-position player. After playing mostly third base as a pro, "he’s played a lot of shortstop and he’s been able to play second base,” Lieppman said. "He’s metamorphosing into an Oakland-style player.”
The troubles of last year forced him to develop a the plate. "He could get exploited at Triple-A with the better pitching talent," Lieppman said. "He didn’t have the skill to hit a foul ball or take a good check swing. Through failure, he learned to improve that skill. Last year’s failure served him well. It forced him to take a good look at his game."
With a definite plus hit tool and average power, Neuse has solid major league potential. He has improved to average on defense across the infield, with a plus arm and a tick-below-average speed.
Above all that, he has the mental acumen to turn failure into an asset, a critical tool for big league success.
— After experiencing his first big league spring training, catcher Jonah Heim put together a big season, advancing to Triple-A and proving he belongs. He is a player to watch in the system.
— Righthander Gus Varland, who made a big impression in 2018, had Tommy John surgery. He was a 14th-round pick out of Concordia-St. Paul (Minn.) and put up an 0.95 ERA in his first 13 games.
— Outfielder Greg Deichmann returned to Double-A Midland from the shoulder injury that has hampered him much of the season. The A’s plan to extend his season by assigning him to the Arizona Fall League.