Throughout an unusual season, Sheldon Neuse's ability to produce at the plate has followed him from two organizations and three leagues on three different levels. When the calendar flipped to the fall, not much had changed for the A's 14th-ranked prospect.
"I'm comfortable anywhere," Neuse said. "I just want an opportunity to hit."
The 22-year-old was given the opportunity and, with three different teams, he batted .321/.382/.502 with 16 homers and 79 RBIs. But he still has a couple of weeks to go in his first full season after the A's tapped him as one of seven prospects to play in the Arizona Fall League.
"I took a couple days off, but then I just went right back to work before I came out here," Neuse said. "This was a great honor and opportunity to just kind of open some eyes and try and make a name for myself."
The Fort Worth, Texas, native had been well-traveled before joining the Mesa Solar Sox. He broke camp in April with Class A Hagerstown in the Nationals organization and hit .291/.349/.469 with nine homers, three triples, 19 doubles, 51 RBIs and 40 runs scored in 77 South Atlantic League games.
When the big club saw an opportunity to acquire some veteran arms for the bullpen in July, Neuse was dealt to Oakland with right-hander Blake Treinen and left-hander Jesus Luzardo for southpaw Sean Doolittle and righty Ryan Madson.
"Getting traded was definitely a roller coaster of emotions," he said. "I had to leave some friends behind over there, but [I was] coming into a new organization with open arms and an open mindset."
Offseason MiLB include
The change in scenery was not the only adjustment the University of Oklahoma product had to make. The A's decided Neuse had shown enough to earn the bump to Class A Advanced Stockton, bypassing their Midwest League affiliate in Beloit.
"That kind of said something about where they want me to be moving forward and kind of what they thought of the first half I had there with the Nationals," he said. "That's where I thought I was going to finish the year."
Neuse became an instant hit in the California League, making for a short stay with the Ports. In 22 games, he put up a .386/.457/.675 slash line with seven homers and 22 RBIs and 21 runs scored. That performance earned the 2016 second-round pick his second promotion in less than a month, this time to Double-A Midland.
"It was crazy, but it worked out," Neuse said. "Just grinding away, playing baseball and it all worked out. Definitely, at the start of this year, I didn't think that I would end up in Double-A with the Oakland Athletics."
The Texas League brought more of the same for Neuse, who batted .373/.427/.433 with six RBIs in 18 games and helped the RockHounds reach the best-of-5 Finals for the fourth year in a row. After dropping the first two games at home, Midland posted a 2-0 victory in Game 3.
Neuse drilled a three-run dinger, his first Double-A homer, to force a decisive Game 5, and the 'Hounds completed the comeback and the four-peat. He ended up going 13-for-38 (.342) with five extra-base hits, six RBIs and four runs scored in the postseason.
"It's been a crazy year, but you just got to come in and trust the process, trust the work you put in," Neuse said. "The results will take care of themselves."
Video: Neuse blasts three-run dinger for Midland
He had roughly three weeks to celebrate before returning to action. Neuse said he only took a couple days to rest before shifting his focus back to baseball and making sure he was ready to stand out in the fall.
"I was able to keep that plate discipline and approach I kept all through Double-A, through the playoffs, and just tried to keep it the time I was off before I came out here," he added.
Much like the first impressions he made in the California and Texas leagues, Neuse has been a major contributor for the Solar Sox. He batted .300 (15-for-50) with five doubles, six RBIs and 12 runs scored in his first 13 Fall League games. Perhaps benefiting from a more hitter-friendly environment, he's also regained his power stroke with three homers.
"I felt like the way I ended the regular season this year in Midland, it carried over into the [AFL] and I'm comfortable here," Neuse said.
While he was able to hit at every level without showing much of a hole in his swing, Neuse totaled 112 strikeouts this season. He's made it his Fall League mission to find a way to bring that number down without getting away from what had brought him success.
"I had some ups and downs this year, more ups than downs, but if I could just kind of level those out and get out of those ruts just a little bit quicker," Neuse said. "What I'm doing right now is working so I don't want to go in and make a bunch of drastic changes and hopefully come into next year and perform well in Spring Training and see where they want to send me."
At 6 feet and 190 pounds, Neuse seems better profiled as a third baseman but played nearly as many games at shortstop this season. He said another point of focus in Arizona is to continue to expand his defensive versatility and perhaps master the other side of the infield.
"If they want to move me up or they want to send me somewhere, if they ask me to play a position, I don't want there to be any hesitation or any doubt on either side that I cannot play that position," Neuse said. "I want it to be comfortable to me and I want them to be comfortable with putting me there and I want to be able to perform at that position wherever it is."
Neuse stays hot with third AFL homer
If his performance at the plate is any indication, Neuse will be able to handle a different glove as well as he handled a different uniform, city, league, level and organization.
"You're out there playing the same game and that's kind of the approach that I took into it. I just want an opportunity to play baseball," he said. "Hopefully, this next year it all works out the same way."