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MLB Rookie Report: LHP Patrick Schuster, Oakland Athletics

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Southpaw reliever Patrick Schuster made his MLB debut this week after a long-and-winding minor league journey that ended with his Nashville manager first punking and then promoting him.

Oakland LHP Patrick Schuster
Oakland LHP Patrick Schuster
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Oakland's Patrick Schuster got some pub as an amateur leading up to the 2009 draft, when the HS senior threw four consecutive no-hitters and had his attempt for a fifth broadcast by ESPNNews. He was seen as as the second-rated prep lefty from Florida that year behind David Holmberg, but a team would have to splash second-round cash to steer him away from his home-state Gators commitment.

The Diamondbacks caved on Schuster's bonus demands following his enrollment at U of F, and inked their 13th rounder to a $450K deal. He threw 29 effective starts in the Snakes' lower levels, but was demoted to a relief role midway through his 2011 MWL campaign for reasons that remain unclear.

Schuster needed a full season to mold himself into a reliable bullpen stopper at high-A Visalia, but was left exposed in the 2013 Rule 5 Draft. The Astros selected him first and sent him to San Diego to complete the Anthony Bass trade, but he was cut loose by the Friars in spring. Kansas City then claimed him purely as a roster placeholder in their attempt to pass Carlos Peguero through waivers, and he was returned to the desert at the end of March. The D'Backs flipped Schuster to the Reds in the middle of last year, but the minor league free agent chose Oakland in the offseason with the promise of a PCL assignment.

On his sixth team in less than three years, Schuster's final hurdle before reaching the Show was a postgame punking engineered by Nashville Sounds manager Steve Scarsone. Ol' skip put on the whole 'trouble in the principal's office' routine before delivering the news that Schuster was bound for the Bigs.

The 6'2" southpaw isn't going to overpower hitters, but he throws strikes from a nearly-sidearm slot and gets enough groundballs to perhaps carve a niche for himself. He excelled for Nashville in the first half, garnering 37 K's in 34.2 innings while stifling batters to a .206 BAA without allowing a homer.

The Stuff

Schuster is a soft-tosser, sitting 87-89 with his heater. The pitch plays up with deception in his delivery, as he throws across his body from a low three-quarters look that mimics MadBum's to an extent. BrooksBaseball charted his primary pitch as a sinker in previous spring appearances, while other sources classified a FB during his first week with Oakland. Either way, the offering has the armside run and natural sink needed to induce groundballs and weak contact, imperative traits for a reliever that doesn't light up the gun.

Schuster's preferred offspeed is a mid-to-high 70's sweeping slider, and it has the potential to be a bat-misser if he can corral the late break on it. He also has a low 80's changeup in the holster, which he shelved in his debut but brandished 6/23 times on Wednesday.

The lefty has been greeted rudely in the Show, giving up 4 ER in his first 2.1 IP. There is a chance he's sent back down to Nashville in short order, but the A's seem likely to lean on him at least until LHP Sean Doolittle gets healthy.

If Schuster gets time to acclimate, he might be able to work himself into a viable bullpen option and perhaps a stealth trade candidate. With the exception of a brief 18-inning stint for PCL Reno in 2014, he has been consistently respectable against RHH's in the minors. For that trend to continue he'll need to enhance and establish his change-piece at the highest level. At the very least, Schuster could prove to be an effective LOOGY on the strength of his funky arm angle and quality sinker-slider combo.