ANAHEIM — A’s minor league hitting coordinator Jim Eppard dropped in for this weekend series against the Angels to watch Oakland’s hitters and provide feedback for manager Bob Melvin.
Melvin said it’s good to have the organization’s roving instructors come in to evaluate every now and then.
“He’s a guy that saw us when we left (spring training),” Melvin said. “There’s been some time that goes by. When you’re part of it each and every day, sometimes you don’t see the perspective of someone that hasn’t been here in a while. It’ll be good to sit down with him on Sunday and see what he thinks.”
Eppard, who was drafted by the A’s in 1982 and spent four years in the majors with the Angels and Blue Jays, is in his first season as Oakland’s minor league hitting coordinator. He’s also served time as the Angels hitting coach. Eppard has spent two stints with all of the A’s minor league affiliates so far, giving him a solid read on many of the A’s top prospects.
I ran a few names by him, and Eppard shared a quick evaluation of each:
SS Franklin Barreto — The A’s No. 1 prospect has enjoyed a recent mini-hot streak with Double-A Midland, but overall he’s hitting just .244 with seven home runs, 29 RBI and a .303 on-base percentage in 72 games. Barreto, still just 20, showed nice power during an impressive run in major league spring training, but there’s room for development for a player the A’s feel has tremendous potential as a top-of-the-order hitter.
“Sometimes you’ve gotta take a step backward to take the steps forward that you want to take,” Eppard said. “I think he’s learning how to be more of a hitter and not just be a swinger. Look for a fastball and hit the ball out of the park — they (adjust) to that here in the big leagues in a hurry if that's your approach. We’re trying to get him to understand what it’s going to take to compete here, and help this team win.”
3B Matt Chapman — Chapman, 23, set a high bar for himself with a sensational spring with the big club, leading the A’s in homers and RBI. Now with Double-A Midland, he leads the Texas League with 17 homers, but he also has a league-high 100 strikeouts in 72 games and is hitting .234.
“He’s going through some growing pains of his own,” Eppard said. “The thing that’s really difficult (about the Texas League), there’s only eight teams, so you’re only seeing seven different teams over 144 games. They get to know each other. If you have a weakness, they’re gonna try to exploit that weakness and you’ve got to try to figure out how to compete and how to take care of that weakness. He’s learning that. … There’s some really special things that that kid has. And Barreto, he’s pretty special as well.”
1B/OF Matt Olson — Olson, 22, was primarily a first baseman before this season but he’s serving as Triple-A Nashville’s regular right fielder. The A’s are trying to develop his versatility in the mold of a Brandon Moss-type player. On the offensive side, Olson is another prospect whose current numbers don’t match the potential that the A’s see. He’s hitting .209 with seven homers and 30 RBI in 71 games.
“You look at Triple-A, you’re seeing quality pitchers that on any given day can pitch in the big leagues, and then you’re seeing young prospects who come up that have good arms,” Eppard said. “He’s learning a new league, and he’s a younger player himself. I think there’s a learning curve that a lot of young players go through. But the talent’s there, the size is there, the work ethic is there. He’s doing all the things you need to be successful. It just hasn’t shown up in the stats yet. I think it will.”