A's prospect Neuse letting bat do talking

March 1st, 2018

MESA, Ariz. -- can't be bothered by his position. He just wants to hit.

That's what Neuse, ranked No. 11 by MLB Pipeline on the A's Top 30 Prospects list, has done his entire professional career, no matter the setting. He's played for four teams in less than two years under the watch of two different organizations, keeping his bat in motion the whole time.

When the A's snagged him in the trade that sent and to the Nationals last summer, they wanted to keep a close watch on their newest infielder. That meant stationing him at the Class A Advanced level in nearby Stockton, a manageable 75-mile drive from Oakland.

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The A's could only keep Neuse there for so long, though. He was overqualified for the job, demolishing the ball over a 22-game span that saw him hit .386 with a gaudy 1.132 OPS. He smashed seven homers in that span, collecting 22 RBIs.

So on he went to Double-A Midland, where his bat kept playing. He hit .373 and reached based at a .427 clip over 18 games to cap the regular season, then managed a .314 average in 22 Arizona Fall League games.

"I want a jersey on my back and I want to be able to play the game," Neuse said. "Coming over to the A's, I came in with an open mindset. Didn't really know what it was going to be like, but it was an easy transition."

Neuse, 23, makes a lot look easy, and he's trying to do the same with his defense. The University of Oklahoma product, taken by the Nationals in the second round of the 2016 Draft, is being groomed as a utility weapon. He typically bounces between third and shortstop but has also been clocking time at second base this spring.

On Thursday, he was back at third, as the A's make do without (right hand) and (left hamstring). He doubled in his first at-bat against Texas, showcasing what he does best and sending a well-struck line drive into center field.

Neuse's approach, A's manager Bob Melvin said, "is what impresses us. I mean, anybody can go up there against a 60-mph batting practice and hit home runs. You better be able to do that. But it's the discipline of the approach that he has in BP, because when you're in your first big league camp, coaches are watching you for the first time and you're trying to impress, you're trying to hit homers. That's not necessarily what's going to impress us. It's hitting the ball the other way, it's staying in the gaps, it's driving the ball, and it's a big part of his game."

Neuse prides himself in using the whole field, driving the ball the other way as much as he does pull it, "staying up the middle and using the big part of the field," he said. "This past year I was able to stay consistent. Didn't get too many drawls where I was having a down week or a down month."

Neuse doesn't consider himself a power hitter so much as he does a consistent contact hitter, and it's his bat that will get him to the big leagues.

"It doesn't matter where I play," he said. "I'm comfortable anywhere. I just want to hit. I just want an opportunity to hit."