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Oakland Athletics

The A’s have added a lot of talent over the past 18 months.  However, most of the talent has come from trades as they continue to underachieve at the draft table and in the International market.  Since they refuse to sign big free agents, they must rely on excellent player evaluation and development.  I think they lag when you compare their organization with teams with similar approaches.

As with all systems, there is talent.  I continue to be high on Tyler Soderstrom and see him as an offensive-first player who may have to move off catching.  Zack Gelof has plus power and should be able to hit enough to become a full-time regular.  Their pitching is comprised mainly of acquired players with mostly mid-rotation or number-four starter ceilings.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Tyler Soderstrom
  • Biggest Mover: Jordan Diaz
  • Emerging Prospect: Carlos Pacheco

1. Tyler Soderstrom (1B/C)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 1B or Top 10 Catcher
  • Tools Summary: He has plus power and should hit enough to produce 25+ home runs yearly.

I’ve been extremely high on Tyler Soderstrom since the A’s pick him with the 26th selection in the 2020 Draft.  He has plus power with a solid approach that should allow him to hit 25+ home runs yearly.  He struck out more than I would have liked last season, but he was also young for the level.  There are still questions about whether he will stay a catcher full-time; consequently, the A’s had him spend considerable time at first base last season. However, there’s little doubt that he’ll hit and hit with power.

2. Zack Gelof (3B)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B
  • Tools Summary: He could not build on his 2021 power breakout but still has enough power to hit 20 home runs annually with average speed and solid on-base skills.

Based on how well Zack Gelof handled Low-A in 2021, the A’s had him start the season in Double-A in 2022.  He performed well but did not show the level of power he showed in 2021, slugging a modest .438 (120 points below what he did in 2021). He has a solid approach, strikes out more than you would like to see (27.4 K-Rate) but is a solid-average runner with a chance to hit 20 home runs in the future.  If you add it up, he could produce a .250 batting average, a .340ish OBP with 20 home runs and high single-digit stolen base numbers.  That should be good enough to make him a top-15 third baseman in a 15-team fantasy league.

3. Max Muncy (SS)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS with risk
  • Tools Summary: He has plenty of tools, but his lack of consistent contact adds risk to him meeting his ceiling.

Max Muncy nearly went 20-20 in 123 games across Low and High-A last season.  He also struck out 30% of the time.  I’ll remind you that history has not been kind to players who strike out over 30% of the time in the lower minor leagues.  In general, they do not become impact performers at the highest level.  But there’s too much upside in Muncy to give up, as the speed and power are real, as are his defensive chops.  The ceiling is still a Top 15 shortstop with obvious pressure on his batting average.

4. Jordan Diaz (2B)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 2B
  • Tools Summary: A hit-first player who is developing power that could point to 20+ home run. 

Jordan Diaz built upon his 2021 season by slashing .306/.352/.561 In 120 games across Double and Triple-A.  He makes excellent contact, only striking out 14% of the time.  While his walk rate was only 5.3%, that is typical of players who make such good contact. Simply put, they can hit everything and, therefore, can afford to be aggressive. He has solid raw power and continued to show that by hitting 19 home runs.  Given his lower half, I don’t see him being much of a base stealer, and he could eventually move to first.  However, the upside is a .270 hitting with 20 to 25 home run pop.

5. Ken Waldichuk (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP
  • Tools Summary: He lacks the total arsenal and control to be much more than a 4th starter, but nobody has figured him out yet.

Ken Wadlichuk built off his breakout season in 2021 to pitch well in Double and Triple-A.  The effort got him a September call-up to the Major Leagues, but not with the team that drafted him, but with the Oakland Athletics.  While he has posted impressive statistics in the minor leagues, the ceiling for me continues to be a number four starter despite the gaudy numbers.

In reviewing his PitchFX data, his fastball is his best pitch.  It averages 94 MPH with a high spin rate, and while hitters batted .301 against it, it will become an above-average, if not plus, pitch over time.  His slider, which I’ve seen him throw a lot, is a great pitch, and the data reflects the difficulty hitter have at picking it up.  The change-up is his worse pitch, and the data suggests he’ll have problems against right-handed batters if it does not improve.  There’s a lot to work with, and pitching half his games in Oakland will improve his stat lines, but the arsenal and his current command and control point to a number four starter, maybe more if he can improve his command over time.

6. Daniel Susac (C)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 Catcher
  • Tools Summary: He has plenty of raw power to produce 20+ home runs, but the swing is long; therefore, you should expect plenty of strikeouts.

Daniel Susac was the Athletics first-round pick last July.  He’s a 6-foot-4 catcher with above-average defensive skills and significant raw power but plenty of swing-and-miss in his game.  In his sophomore year at the University of Arizona, he slugged .582 with 12 home runs.  He played in 27 games in his professional debut, mainly in Low-A, but there was nothing notable in his performance.  The upside is a starting catcher for a Major League team with the chance to hit 20 home runs but with pressure on the batting average.  In other words, he’s your typical average fantasy catcher.

7. Henry Bolte (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Complex ETA: 2026+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 OF with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: There are plenty of tools with which to get excited.  However, there are also serious questions about how much he’ll hit.

After selecting a high-floor player in Daniel Susac in the first round last July, the A’s swung for the fences when they took Henry Bolte in the second round.  He’s an exceptional athlete, the kid that when he steps off the bus, you point to and say, “I want him.”  He’s a plus runner and has plus bat speed with a great arm.  However, the swing is long with a lot of moving parts, and there are serious concerns about how much he’ll hit.  While the A’s love to draft toolsy players, their history of developing them is spotty at best.  For Dynasty League owners who love to dream of having the next Tatis Jr. on their team, here you go.  Just know the risk.

8. Luis Medina (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Closer
  • Tools Summary: Plus arsenal, but 30-grade control will likely move him to a bullpen role.

Luis Medina was part of the return for the A’s when they sent Frankie Montas to the Yankees at the deadline last July.  He had some of the best stuff in the Yankees system and now sits at the top of the list for the A’s.  While the arsenal screams top-of-the-rotation, he’s never been able to harness it and throw strikes.  Last season in 92.2 innings, he walked 66.  If he can get to average control, he could be a number two starter, but at this point, I think the A’s will move him to the bullpen to try and extract some value out of him as early as next season.  I have put his ceiling as a closer.

9. Denzel Clarke (OF)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF with risk
  • Tools Summary: He’s a large human with significant power potential.  It’s all going to come down to how much he hits.

In watching Denzel Clarke roam the outfield at the Futures Game, I was struck by how big he was.  He reminded me physically of Eloy Jimenez but with a lot more athleticism.  He runs well and has double-plus raw power but, at the moment, struggles to make contact with an overly passive approach at the plate.  At his length (6-foot-5), there will be holes in his swing, but if the A’s can work with him to keep his strikeout rate in the mid to upper 20s, he could hit enough to pop 30+ home runs annually with some stolen bases just for fun.

10. Lawrence Butler (1B/OF)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF or Top 15 1B
  • Tools Summary: He has plenty of power and speed to have fantasy relevance, but he needs to cut down on his swing-and-miss.

Lawrence Butler is an interesting prospect.  He’s athletic, with plenty of raw power and enough speed to steal double-digit bases yearly.  However, his swing is long, partially because of his length, leading to too many strikeouts.  Last season in High-A, he struck out 31.5% of the time.   But I like the swing, and there is decent strike zone judgment, so I think there is a better-than-average chance he makes enough contact to be a full-time regular at the highest level. Granted, he’ll likely not hit over .250, but he could post a .330+ OBP with 25+ home run pop and the threat to steal bases.  That’s a player to keep an eye on.

11. Ryan Cusick (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: He has a big fastball and a solid slider.  He needs to stay healthy to see if he can throw enough strikes to reach his ceiling.

When the A’ sent Matt Olson to Atlanta before last season, Ryan Cusick was part of the return.  He missed most of the season with a broken rib, and when he returned, he showed some rust and could not throw consistent strikes.  I had a chance to see him in the fall league, and he looked better.  He has the big fastball that I saw hit 97 MPH, but he could not land his slider for strikes, and his change-up left me wanting more.  There’s at least a number three starter profile, given his size (6-foot-6) and fastball-slider combination.  He could move to the bullpen if he can’t command his pitches.

12. Gunnar Hogland (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: Unknown Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP with health risk
  • Tools Summary: He pitched well in his three starts after a lengthy rehab from TJS.  Unfortunately, he was shut down again with more arm trouble.

Initially drafted by the Blue Jays in 2021, Gunnar Hogland spent most of the 2022 season recovering from Tommy John Surgery.  He finally saw game action in late July, throwing eight shutout innings, striking out eight, and walking one.  However, he developed bicep tendinitis and was shut down for the rest of the season.  He’s more command and control over pure stuff, but he needs to stay healthy and pitch to put an actual ceiling on him.

13. JT Ginn (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP
  • Tools Summary: He has average stuff across the board.

Initially drafted by the Mets, JT Ginn is another A’s pitcher who missed time due to injury.  I saw him in the Fall League, and his arsenal looked light with a fastball that sat in the low-90s with an average slider and change-up.  He didn’t pop out to me, and then I was reminded he was a first-round pick; I left disappointed.  He did have Tommy John surgery in 2020, so perhaps the velocity and sharpness will return over time.  For now, the upside is a number four starter and more likely a reliever.

14. Pedro Pineda (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2026 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 OF with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: He’s only 18, but the tools are plentiful, and if he can develop a decent hit tool, he could be an impact player.

Pedro Pineda was one of the notable signees of that stacked 2019 International Class.  As with many in his class, he has struggled to establish himself, striking out an alarming 43% of the time in 2022.  He’s athletic with solid bat speed, but he’s young and chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone.  I’m still holding onto him as he has yet to grow into his man strength, and when he does, I think there could be solid power.  Couple that with more experience to reduce his strikeout rate, and I continue to put his ceiling as a full-time regular.

15. Carlos Pacheco (OF)

  • Highest Level:  DSL ETA: 2026+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Small, compact player with a feel to hit.  Given his size, the over-the-fence power could be limited, but there is also a chance for 20+ stolen bases.

Carlos Pacheco was the A’s most significant international acquisition last January.  While he only hit .183 in 52 games in the DSL last summer, there’s plenty to like.  He’s athletic with plus speed and plenty of bat speed to project at least future doubles-power.  The A’s also like his feel to hit and believe he has an approach that will allow him to hit at the top of the lineup one day.  He did walk nearly as much as he struck out while posting a 20% K-Rate.

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