Nick King/Lansing State Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC
First off, let me be crystal clear about something: In all likelihood Max Schuemann is not a big league caliber player. We infer this from not one, not two, but three hints:
1. Schuemann is the dreaded “old for his league,” a 25 year old tearing up AA. In combining the ability to rake with the sin of having had too many birthdays, he shares company with well, current A’s hitting coach Tommy Everidge.
Everidge’s .335/.403/.556 AAA line at age 26 earned him a callup in 2009. Everidge batted .224/.302/.365 for the A’s in his only big league season, and has now apparently devoted his career to helping other A’s achieve this batting line.
Another good comp is another former A’s infielder, Corban Joseph. In 2019, Joseph was 30 when he dominated AAA to the tune of a .371/.421/.585. His subsequent 37 big league at bats, however, yielded a batting average of just .189.
2. Schuemann lacks “pedigree,” which is another correlative predictor of success and failure. He is but a 20th round pick who was selected only after 592 prospects were preferred. If you want to know how the average 20th round draft pick fares, go down to your local IHOP and ask him. He’s working the 3rd shift tonight.
3. Clearly the A’s don’t believe in Max Schuemann, having left him in AA all season while promoting like prospects all around him — Jonah Bride to AAA and then the big leagues, Brett Harris to AA, reliever Garrett Acton to AAA, even Austin Beck to AA (may his career rest in peace).
What has a gaudy .333/.458/.511 slash line gotten Schuemann? Nada. And Schuemann has been doing it all year, as steady as they come. He batted .317/.444/.492 in April. He hit .333/.443/.430 in May. He’s hitting .349/.494/.651 so far in June. So he’s getting a little better and never slumping, just hitting, hitting, hitting. Oh, and running: he’s 18 for 22 in his stolen base attempts this year, after going 52 for 57 last season.
So here’s the thing. Even if Schuemann’s age, his lack of pedigree, your memories of Everidge, Joseph and the like, and your belief that he isn’t actually any good, make you disinterested in him as a prospect, if you’re the A’s you should still be moving him up the ladder.
For one thing, he’s only going to stay old for his league because he can’t get a promotion (heck, he was 24 until two weeks ago and could easily have been at AAA). If he goes to AAA, continues to prove himself as a hitter and thrives, he is on track to reach the big leagues at age 25-26, which is not ridiculous for a prospect — especially in the pandemic era in which a full year was literally lost.
For another thing, who is he blocking? Tonight’s Las Vegas Aviators’ lineup features Vimael Machin at 3B and Drew Jackson at 2B. Christian Lopes played 2B yesterday. These are non-prospects filling out a roster while the A’s wait for some actual talent to show up.
And here’s a point you probably already knew: the Oakland A’s can’t hit. They need to fast-tracking every successful hitter they can to see which ones might not be the mirages we all fear they might be, and which ones prove to be diamonds in the rough. Tyler Soderstrom is having a down year, Zack Gelof is hurt. Cristian Pache and Kevin Smith have been beyond awful. And a guy who just keeps hitting can’t find a job at AAA?
Let’s put it in perspective this way. If Schuemann were to come up and struggle, batting only .223/.307/.268, he would equal the line Tony Kemp brought into today’s game. If he were to bomb even more something fierce and hit .190/.258/.279, he would equal Jed Lowrie’s line for the season. Elvis Andrus is batting .217/.279/.330, folks. The bar on the infield for hitting is low.
What I’m failing to see here is the downside of promoting Schuemann to AAA, and to the big leagues if he continues to succeed, even if in your heart you think he’s probably just another older prospect enjoying a nice year.
No one said you have to promote him like, “Folks, you’re gonna love this guy!!!” Just promote him. And let it play itself out.
What am I missing here?