After spending parts of seven seasons as a big league infielder, Steve Scarsone has now spent six seasons managing in the A’s minor league system, the past two as the skipper of the A’s Triple-A affiliate at Sacramento.
This year, the California native will be heading east as the A’s Pacific Coast League affiliate switches to Nashville. Scarsone also spends much of spring training in the big league camp with the A’s. So we took the opportunity to get his take on a few hot young prospects who’ve been making their mark in the A’s big league camp this spring…
AF: There are a few guys here in the big league camp this year you had last year at Sacramento I’d like to ask you about. Tyler Ladendorf was having a great year at Sacramento before his suspension. He’s been doing great here in camp. I know you’ve seen a lot of him over the years. Can you talk about the evolution you’ve seen with him and how he’s looked here this spring?
SS: Well, I’ve been fortunate. I’ve spent several years with Tyler coming up through the system. We were both together back in 2009 when he came over from the Twins in short-season A-ball. So I’ve been able to be around him ever since. He’s a guy who I think a couple of years ago was kind of wondering what direction he wanted to go. Fortunately, he dove in 100% into being a ballplayer. And he is reaching within himself and it’s shown on the field. It’s great to see a guy who had talent, had a lot of good things going for him but he just wasn’t quite focused yet. He became focused, he became a man, and now you see on the field he’s getting all the little things done. He’s shown Bob Melvin and the rest of the staff here that he can play infield, outfield and get quality at-bats. He’s doing things on the bases that they’re liking, and he’s just putting himself in a nice situation where, whether or not he makes the club out of spring, he can be that guy who can be that first call-up if somebody were to go down in either the infield or the outfield.
AF: So you think getting the mental aspect of the game together was really the key for him?
SS: Yeah, I definitely do. I think a lot of us, as players, get caught in a crossroads, where you get to a certain point in your development in your career where you have to commit 100% to this game and this job. And I think that’s what he did, and it’s shown quite well with the way he’s performed and the way he’s been focused. It’s a very good story.
AF: He’s obviously very versatile, but where do you feel he’s best-suited in the field?
SS: I’ve always liked him in the middle infield, either second base or shortstop, but he’s able to play third and he can play all the outfield positions. I bet you could throw him behind the plate! He has enough athletic ability to be able to do that. But I like him in the middle because there’s so much action going on there and I like a guy who’s capable of being in the middle of the action.
AF: Another guy who’s been doing well here in camp whom you had for a bit at the end of last year at Sacramento is Billy Burns. What kind of development have you seen out of him thus far?
SS: Yeah, he joined us in August of last year. He’s a guy who’s a leadoff, speed guy, and I think he’s been taught in the past to just slap the ball, put it in play and see what happens. I think what we saw in Sacramento last year was a concentrated effort to try to drive the ball a little bit – I’m not saying drive the ball over the fence, but let’s hit balls hard through the infield, let’s make the infielders have to move side to side, instead of coming in on the ball. That’s going to help his opportunities to get on base. And it seems like he’s carried that into the spring. He’s been taking good swings, he’s got numerous doubles, and he’s having a great spring.
AF: Well, he certainly seems to be having much better results from the left side of the plate this spring.
SS: Yeah, from the right side, he shows more power – a little bit more of a comfortable swing. From the left side, it was always slappier. So he seems to be sitting back a little better and having quality at-bats from both sides.
AF: And how do you feel about his capabilities as a center fielder?
SS: Well, I don’t think I’ve seen any kind of bad reads. He’s making good reads. Obviously, speed can get him to some areas that maybe other guys can’t get to. But the thing that I’m probably most impressed with is he’s charging the ball, coming up and making good, hard, quality throws. He’s not just flipping it in. He’s looking to throw somebody out or to stop a runner from advancing. But if that’s a reputation he gets as a center fielder, that could be a huge asset for him and help the club as well.
AF: A guy I wanted to ask you about you haven’t had on any of your clubs yet but I’m sure you’ve gotten a good look at here is Max Muncy. What have you seen out of him as a hitter so far this spring?
SS: He just has a nice, quiet, real compact swing. There’s not a lot of movement there to where his timing’s going to get messed up. So from what I’ve seen, it looks like he’s near or on time with every at-bat. When you’re kind of filling in every other day and your at-bats are kind of spread out, for him to step in the box and actually get something done, I like that. As a young player trying to get some exposure with the club, that’s a huge thing that the coaches are looking for – a guy who can come up with a quality at-bat. Now he’s transitioning over to third. It’s a different type of reaction. He’s putting in the work. He’s looking better all the time. If he comes with us to Nashville, he’ll get a lot of work and he’ll clean up a whole bunch. He’s a smart guy, so he’ll learn quick.
AF: And you were an infielder, so you might have a thing or two tell him.
SS: Yeah, that’s why I’m going to take it personally!
AF: Another guy who was here earlier in the spring, Matt Olson, got off to a good start. He’s obviously a very talented young hitter. What did you see out of him while he was here in big league camp?
SS: Well, he’s a potential everyday major league player. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb on that one. Obviously, the eye test is awesome – he looks great, he’s good sized, his swing is pure, there’s power, there’s recognition of what he’s trying to do at the plate. I think he might be trying a little bit harder than he needs to this spring. Obviously, he’s not in camp anymore. He wasn’t in a situation to make this team, but I think the impression that he gave everybody here is that he can play. And it’s just a matter of time before the organization feels he’s ready.
AF: And finally, about you, I know you’re a California guy. And with the A’s changing their Triple-A affiliate this year, you’ll be making the switch from Sacramento to Nashville. Any thoughts you have about making that big move?
SS: You know, in the minor leagues, you don’t want to be stuck in the same city for too long. So still having the same job as Triple-A manager but getting to go to a new city kind of gives you a fresh take on it. They’re building a new stadium, so we’re going to enjoy that. And being the new kid in town, we should get a little honeymoon period there. So hopefully we come in and play well so that they receive us well, and it’ll be a good set up for hopefully a long time there.
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