Neuse is slashing just .179/.244/.229 with nine doubles, no home runs and 14 RBI across 198 plate appearances with Triple-A Nashville.
To say it would have been difficult to see this level of demise coming with Neuse would be a considerable understatement. The 23-year-old had enjoyed a meteoric rise in 2017, logging time at three different levels of the minors and particularly decimating pitching at both the High-A and Double-A levels within the Athletics organization. Neuse then followed up his promising season by slashing .310/.375/.621 over 28 spring training games earlier in 2018, a line partly comprised of five home runs and 15 RBI. However, one of the bothersome statistical trends that may have been a harbinger of at least a slight downturn has come to fruition this season. Neuse's strikeout rate has ballooned from a Double-A figure of 28.0 percent to a career-worst 37.9 percent, after progressively rising by more modest increments in each of his prior minor-league stops. Moreover, after posting absurd .490 and .532 BABIPs at Stockton and Midland, respectively, last season, that metric has come down to a much more realistic -- but still elevated -- .302 thus far in 2018.
Neuse is 3-for-7 with two walks and two strikeouts through two games with Triple-A Nashville.
It's a testament to how advanced Neuse's bat is that the A's assigned him to Triple-A after just 22 games at High-A and 18 games at Double-A. He probably profiles best as a designated hitter in the big leagues, but may be able to hit enough to fit just fine in that role.
Neuse went 2-for-3 with five RBI from a three-run home run and a two-run single while also drawing a walk and scoring once in Sunday's 14-0 Cactus League win over the White Sox.
Just another scoreboard-busting performance for the 23-year-old, who's opened eyes this spring with five homers and 15 RBI over 49 plate appearances. Neuse similarly smoked Double-A pitching in a modest stint at Midland last season, posting a .373/.427/.433 line over 75 plate appearances after arriving in a five-player deal with the Nationals last July. While he's likely to start 2018 with the RockHounds, a fairly prompt ascension to Triple-A Nashville is certainly conceivable, and an eventual major-league call-up isn't completely out of the question, either.
Neuse has impressed the Oakland field staff so far this spring, Julian McWilliams of The Athletic reports.
While Neuse has seen time at third base, second base and shortstop, he openly admits that "hitting" is his favorite position to play. This works perfectly for the A's, as it's easy to see Neuse slotting in at DH in the not-so-distant future, given the other young infielders who figure to be part of this core. He hit a home run over 450 feet in Tuesday's game against the Indians, but it's not his impressive strength and raw power that has impressed the A's. "Anybody can go up there and hit 60 mph batting practice (pitches) and hit home runs; you better be able to do that. But it's the discipline of the approach he has in batting practice (that's impressed us)," manager Bob Melvin said. "It's hitting the ball the other way, driving the ball in the gaps. That's a big part of his game." Neuse is a top-100 prospect for dynasty leagues, even if he isn't ranked that way on real life lists. After impressing in the Arizona Fall League and now early in big-league camp, Neuse appears to be on the fast track. He could head back to Double-A to open the year, but should spend the bulk of 2018 at Triple-A, potentially earning a callup in the second half.
Neuse was acquired from the Nationals in 2017 as part of the return for relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. The young third baseman immediately flashed his hit tool with the A's, posting a gaudy wRC+ of 203 with High-A Stockton and a wRC+ of 143 with Double-A Midland. Neuse is a relatively attractive dynasty asset and could potentially make his big-league debut this upcoming season.
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