A’s fans of all ages are familiar with Mike Gallego. For those who lived through the Tony La Russa/Bash Brothers era, they remember Gallego as a steady presence in the infield of three consecutive A.L. pennant-winning teams. But for younger fans, they know him primarily as the arm-waving coach who’s been manning the A’s third base coaching box for the past half dozen years.
Never known for his bat in his playing days, Gallego made his name with his steady glove work in the infield. And in addition to coaching third base for the A’s, he also works with the teams’s infielders. So we decided to get Gallego’s take on the glove work of some of the A’s top young prospects looking to make a name for themselves this spring…
AF: Tyler Ladendorf is interesting because he’s a guy who can play all over the field and he’s gotten a lot of opportunities here this spring. But what have you seen out of him defensively?
MG: Well, we’ve seen him a little bit the last couple of years in spring training. He was never officially in camp with us, but he was one of those guys who would be brought up for games sporadically. He never really got an opportunity, but this year he’s been taking advantage of an opportunity that has been given to him and he’s been very impressive. With the athleticism that he has on the field at any position, he’s one of those guys where you don’t lose a thing, and maybe gain some things, at certain positions when Ladendorf’s playing defensively, from second base to short to third to the outfield – he’s pretty impressive out there as well. He looks pretty comfortable with the glove on his hand, and he’ll give you a good quality at-bat as well. So he’s been very impressive this spring. I can’t say if he’s coming north with us or not but, if he does, I think we’ll be better for it.
AF: So you feel pretty confident seeing him at six different positions anyway?
MG: No doubt in mind that he can handle all the positions that we put him in.
AF: Now Max Muncy, who’s always been primarily a first baseman, has been getting a lot of time over at third base this spring. So what’s your opinion of what you’ve seen out of Muncy so far over at third?
MG: Well, if somebody hadn’t told me that he hasn’t played much third base, I would have never known that, because he’s taken to third base just as easily as I’ve seen anybody make that transition over there. He seems very comfortable over there. I saw him the first day of spring training, we had that simulated game, and he made a backhanded diving play on a ball that was past him and got up and made a great throw. That was the first day that he impressed his name on my mind. So he’s very impressive over there. He looks very comfortable. The only thing that he needs now is reps. The more reps he has, obviously the more comfortable he’s going to be with the position. He’s got plenty of arm, he’s not afraid to work, and a power-hitting third baseman – those are nice to come by!
AF: So you think he’s got the instincts for third then?
AF: A lot of people wondered about Joe Wendle when the A’s traded away a guy like Brandon Moss for him this offseason. But tell me what you thought of Wendle when he was here in the big league camp this spring.
MG: Wow, that is one of the best second base prospects I’ve seen come through camp in many, many years, and I’m not just talking about the Oakland A’s camps – I was with the Red Sox and the Rockies as well. This guy’s a pure, solid, future major league second baseman. He’s just so fundamentally sound, but also has the ability to make and finish the great plays out there. And he’s fearless at turning the double play – a freight train could be coming down on him to break it up and he’s staying in there and taking the hit. He’s just so fluid around the bag and so smooth on routine ground balls that it’s hard to find a flaw in his defensive game.
AF: And how’s his range?
MG: His range is outstanding. I always emphasize that one of the biggest keys to being a good major league infielder is an explosive first step. I’ll sit in the dugout and watch each infielder and watch their movement on every pitch. And you’ll see a lot of guys, a pitch is made and a ball will be fouled off and the infielder will just be standing there. Well, he’s moving on takes – the guy doesn’t even have to swing and he’s anticipating where this pitch is going to be hit. So to see that in a young player is just unbelievable. When he has that type of focus on each and every pitch, it’s pretty impressive to see.
AF: Now Matt Olson is obviously one of the A’s top hitting prospects, but what do you think about his ability in the field?
MG: I never knew how good a defensive first baseman he was. Everyone talks about his offense. He’s a Keith Hernandez over at first base – so smooth, very quick for his size, very confident. He makes your infielders that much better because they know they just have to get it in the vicinity and he’s going to catch the baseball – short hop, long hop, high, low. He’s an agile first baseman. He’s another no-doubter, and hopefully you and I are both around to see these guys play in the big leagues, because I look forward to seeing these guys play.
AF: What have you seen out of Billy Burns in the outfield and what do you think about his long-term potential in center field?
MG: You know, Billy’s just an impressive young player with a lot of talent and speed. As far as his mechanics are concerned, he’s shown some arm strength. He made a throw the other day and threw somebody out at third base who tried to take an extra base on him. And he’s bound and determined to impress and to prove that he belongs here, so hopefully he’ll get his shot here some day.
AF: Another guy I wanted to ask you about is Marcus Semien at shortstop. Prior to him coming here, a lot of people questioned his ability to stick long-term at shortstop. The A’s front office obviously seemed to have confidence in him sticking there when they brought him over. So what have you seen so far out of him at shortstop?
MG: You know, I’d like to speak to those people who doubted it. I’d want to hear what they had to say, because he’s been nothing but A+ to me. He’s taken to the position and pretty much has learned to own it. He’s done exactly what we had hoped for – for him to come in and take charge – and he’s done it in such a humble way. He’s such a nice kid – hopefully hanging out with me a little longer, he can get a little meaner. But other than that, he’s very athletic.
AF: What would you say is Semien’s greatest strength as a shortstop?
MG: He’s got great arm strength, there’s no doubt about it. He has that “easy cheese,” as we call it. He doesn’t put a lot of effort behind his throws, but they have some serious carry to them. It’s obviously developed into a solid, plus arm at shortstop. And you can’t miss his range. He’ll go back on fly balls and he’s calling off outfielders, and that’s definitely refreshing to see that kind of range out at shortstop. He’s another kid who’s not afraid to work. You know, having all these young kids around wears our butts out. I mean, these guys don’t know how to stop. It’s been a pure joy to have all these guys in camp and to watch them develop right in front of your eyes and just show what they can do and hopefully make a name for themselves.
AF: So you think the front office got it right bringing him in as the shortstop then?
MG: Thank God they didn’t ask me anything! They’re pretty on top of everything upstairs, and they have a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for. Billy [Beane] and his staff have done an excellent job with the crop that they brought in this spring.
AF: So overall, you’d say this is a pretty hard-working group with a pretty good attitude?
MG: Well, like I said, the coaches have to pace themselves because these guys will wear you out. As far as hard work is concerned, there’s definitely no fear of that. They’re a great bunch of kids.
AF: So you don’t see a lot of lazy old guys around this camp then?
MG: Nope, you don’t see those guys around here, not unless you look in the coaches’ office maybe.
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