While there’s no doubt that utilityman Sheldon Neuse will have some type of impact on the Los Angeles Dodgers organization this season, the biggest question surrounds at which level he will primarily contribute.
Along with pitching prospect Gus Varland, Neuse (pronounced “Noisy”) was snagged by the Dodgers in a trade that sent lefty reliever Adam Kolarek and outfielder Cody Thomas to the Oakland Athletics on Feb. 12.
Originally, Neuse was selected by the Washington Nationals in the second round of the 2016 MLB draft out of the University of Oklahoma. In 2017, along with pitchers Jesus Luzardo and Blake Treinen, Neuse was sent to Oakland in exchange for relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson.
The 26-year-old Neuse has logged 25 games at the big-league level, all coming with Oakland during the 2019 season. In 183 major league AB, he has a .246/.320/.404 slash line with six homers, nine doubles and 25 RBI. He appeared in 20 games at second base and five games at third base that same season.
Neuse spent the entirety of 2020 at Oakland’s major league alternate training site.
Over the course of his four-year minor league career, the six-foot, 230-lb. Texas native slashed .294/.354/.458 with 49 homers in 414 games, but struck out 442 times, which calculates to a 28.2 percent punchout rate. During his time in the majors in 2019, he struck out 34 percent of the time.
As far as his current roster status goes, he is part of the Los Angeles 40-man roster, and he has two option years left on his contract, affording the Dodgers a bit of flexibility with his usage in 2021.
Conceivably, in the bigger picture, we might want to keep in mind how Chris Taylor might be utilized on the field this season. Earlier this week, we heard skipper Dave Roberts say that he values Taylor’s versatility, and while Taylor will likely play every day, he will not be limited to one position.
Some fans believed that Taylor could have been a candidate to see the lion’s share of time at second base, but Roberts’ comments theoretically lead us to believe that lefty-hitting Gavin Lux is also part of the picture. And, while lefty-hitting utilityman Zach McKinstry could see added time this season, Neuse could have the edge if paired with Lux at the keystone because he hits from the right side.
Nevertheless, Neuse will certainly need to prove his worth during the upcoming Cactus League schedule, particularly with his offensive game.
In a Zoom conference on Saturday, Neuse fielded a handful of questions from reporters, specifically about some of his tendencies on the field and his value as a utilityman.
“Grew up playing shortstop, played third when I got into professional baseball,” Neuse said. “Made my major league debut at second base and played a little first base here and there. So, honestly, anywhere in the infield I feel comfortable.”
While there was one comparison made to Neuse with former Oakland second baseman Max Muncy and his rise to fame with the Dodgers, Neuse hinted that he hasn’t yet been approached about any prospective adjustments to his swing or launch angle, being that he’s been in camp for just a week.
As far as a 26-man roster spot goes, Neuse isn’t completely out of the picture, although some pundits feel that incumbents like McKinstry and Matt Beaty may have the upper hand on the final few spots.
Still, because Neuse is on the 40-man and has options, chances are that he’ll likely see time on the roster at some part of the season, even if it means starting his 2021 campaign at Triple-A Oklahoma City.