Versatility Enhances Sheldon Neuse’s Value

The Athletics believe that versatility is an attribute that builds winning ball clubs. And there may be no more versatile player in the system than Sheldon Neuse.

That was why the A’s made the 22-year-old a priority target in their July deal with the Nationals in which they traded relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson for Neuse and lefthander Jesus Luzardo.

Washington drafted Neuse, a natural third baseman, in the second round out of Oklahoma last year, then played him at both shortstop and third.

“I also take ground balls at second and first,” Neuse said. “Then I go to the outfield and shag balls out there. I’m very comfortable moving around, and I like to play different positions.”

This make him a quintessential A’s prospect.

“We’re excited. He’s got value,” assistant general manager Billy Owens said. “He’s got the versatility to play different positions. He’s upbeat and well-versed in baseball knowledge. He played in a major college conference . . . He was a high-school quarterback. It all bodes well going forward.”

Neuse got off to a big start in the Nationals system this year, hitting .291/.349/.469 with nine home runs in 77 games at low Class A Hagerstown. He credits the big start to his instructors, who helped him learn the intricacies of pro ball.

“I learned a lot by going to (instructional league) with the Nats, then (I used) what they taught me there,” he said. “I had a good spring and got my routine down. I was able to perform on the field and have a smooth transition. I’m excited.”

Neuse, whom the A’s assigned to high Class A Stockton, said he improved both his swing and the usage of his lower body while in minor league camp.

Most scouts predict that third base eventually will be Neuse’s best position. “We want to keep him at short and give him time at second, too,” Owens said.

Neuse projects to be an average hitter, with slightly plus power. He has a plus arm, and he occasionally came out of the bullpen in college

Owens said the A’s had scouted Neuse extensively from the time he was a Dallas-area high schooler. He ranked high on Oakland’s draft board last year before the Nats plucked him, which forced Oakland to find another way to bring him to the Bay Area. Now, Neuse will spend his summers becoming the model of versatility.

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