Oakland Athletics

Before doing the A’s system, I didn’t think there was a lot of depth and now I can definitely say…there’s not a lot of depth.  I do like Tyler Soderstrom and see him as a Top 100 prospect with a chance to be an impact offensive player.  Max Muncy, yeah, there’s another one, has potential, but he’s young with a raw hit tool. Brayan Buelvas and Pedro Pineda both have significant upside but are still teenagers with a long way to go.  After that, there’s not a lot.  Well, AJ Puk is still kicking around and if he can only stay healthy, there could be something there.

Having said that, I could re-read my A’s write-up from years past and see something similar.  Yet, they find a way to develop prospects and remain competitive.  Even with a down system, I would not count the team out.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Tyler Soderstrom
  • Biggest Mover: Brayan Buelvas
  • Emerging Prospect: Pedro Pineda

1. Tyler Soderstrom (C)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 Catcher
  • Tools Summary: If he can stay at catcher, has the offensive upside to be a Top 10 catcher if not more

Tyler Soderstrom was one of my favorite players in the 2020 draft.  He can flat-out hit with great bat speed.  The only concern was would he stay at catcher.  Offensively, he did not disappoint in his professional debut.  In 57 games in Low-A last year, he slashed .306/.390/.568 with 12 home runs.  He also had a great approach at the plate, walking 11% of the time while striking out 28% of the time.  He did miss the last six weeks of the season with first a collarbone bruise and then a back issue.  He’s expected to be back ready to go in Spring Training.  He primarily played behind the plate and played ok, but the industry is still split if he stays there long-term.

2. Max Muncy (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Complex League ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Athletic and toolsy but with a hit tool that is extremely raw and underdeveloped

Yeah, not the same guy.  But, the original Max Muncy was drafted by the A’s in 2012 and then, believe it or not, released by the A’s in 2017.   He was then signed by the Dodgers and well…it ended well for him.  There had to be some trepidation by long-term A’s front office guys when they drafted the new Max Muncy last June.  Oh no, he has skills but the failure in keeping the original Muncy, must have stung.

Anyway, the comparison can end with the name.  The two Muncy’s are much different players.  The new Max Muncy is much more athletic with plus speed but with a raw approach.  It was only 11 games in the Complex League, but he showed both his athleticism and hit tool challenges when he hit .129 with a 35% strikeout rate.  He’s an intriguing bet in Dynasty League for managers who are willing to be patient.  The upside is a dynamic leadoff bat with a lot of stolen bases to go with enough power to hit double-digit home runs. However, there’s also a ton of risk.

3. Brayan Buelvas (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: Surprise performance in Low-A where he showed an intriguing combination of speed and power with a feel to hit

Brayan Buelvas was one of the youngest players in the Low-A-West League and more than held his own.  He slashed .219/.306/.412 with 16 home runs and 17 stolen bases.  He showed a semblance of an approach and struck out a reasonable 24% of the time.  He did post a .253 BABIP which kept his batting average low.  He was not a highly touted international signee, but after his season, the stock is on the rise.  He’s gotten stronger and most importantly, he’s showing a feel to hit. 

4. Pedro Pineda (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Complex League ETA: 2025+ Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 OF with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: He’s only 17, but the tools are plentiful and if he can develop a decent hit tool, he could be an impact player

The A’s signed Pedro Pineda last January and at the ripe age of 17, they’ve already moved him stateside.  He’s got plenty of tools, including excellent bat speed.  If he can develop his hit tool, he has a chance to develop into an impact player.  I’m not too worried about the high strikeout rate he posted last season given his age, but it does show the work that is ahead of him.  He’s the definition of a high-risk, high-reward player and one I’m bullish on.

5. Nick Allen (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Middle Infielder
  • Tools Summary: A good defender with a solid approach.  He’s a good runner but lacks the power to be an impact player

Nick Allen got off to a strong start in Double-A last season.  He slashed .319/.374/.471.  He’s always been able to hit, but he didn’t drive the ball and was more of a singles hitter.  Therefore, the .471 SLG and 6 home runs were encouraging. However, after a midseason promotion to Triple-A, the power regressed.  He has gotten stronger but at 5-foot-8, he’s just not a big guy, so I’m not sure if he’ll ever be more than a light-hitting middle infielder.  But, he can hit and he can play defense with a little bit of speed.  It feels like a middle infielder in a fantasy league – one that will not hurt you.

6. AJ Puk (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP or Reliever
  • Tools Summary: Has never been able to stay healthy.  Stuff is not what it use to be, but is still plenty good enough to get guys out

It was another struggle for AJ Puk in 2021.  Most of the problems have centered around his inability to stay healthy and to that end, the A’s have moved him to the bullpen.  He still throws hard, but not as hard as he did in 2019 with solid spin on his fastball.  His slider has lost some bite with his change-up looking like the better pitch.  If he can stay healthy, I still think he can be a number three starter.  If a move to the bullpen is the plan, then he has the upside of a high-leveraged reliever.

7. Daulton Jefferies (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP
  • Tools Summary: His arsenal does not have a true plus pitch and he relies on command and control to be successful

Jefferies spent most of last season pitching in Triple-A but also logged 15 innings with the A’s.  According to Statcast data, he threw a lot more sinkers than he did four-seamers.  It’s probably a better pitch for him, particularly given his size and lack of sticky substances usage. The arsenal is fine but he doesn’t have any plus pitches in his quiver and has always relied on command and control. The same occurred last season and he looks like a number four pitcher.  He did pitch in relief at the end of the season, but I see him as a starter.

8. Jeff Criswell (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary: Solid pitch mix but spent most of the season on the IL with an arm injury

The A’s selected Criswell in the second round of the 2020 draft.  Unfortunately, he was hurt most of the season and only pitched 12 innings in High-A.  He has a solid three-pitch mix with a fastball that will touch the mid-90s with his slider being his best pitch.  At 6-foot-4, he has the size to log starter innings and consequently, will be developed as a starter.  Assuming he’s healthy, there is a number three starter upside.

9. Zack Gelof (3B)

  • Highest Level:  Triple-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B or Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: Solid all-around tools with plus raw power

Zack Gelof was the A’s second-round pick last June after a nice career at the University of Virginia.  He’s a good runner with solid power potential.  In 32 games in Low-A, he slashed .298/.393/.548 striking out 25% of the time while walking 13% of the time.  The performance got him a late-season call to Triple-A where he played well.  UVA hitters can be hit and miss, but I like the overall skills of Gelof.  If it all comes together, he could be a 15-15 type of player. 

10. Robert Pauson (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS or Top 15 3B with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary: Was overwhelmed with his aggressive assignment to Low-A.  He struck out 43% of the time and therefore didn’t hit enough to get to his power

The A’s aggressively assigned Robert Pauson to Low-A to begin the 2021 season and it didn’t go well.  Sure, they spent over $5 million to sign him, but it was his first exposure to professional baseball and he was overmatched.  He slashed .215/.282/.291 and struck out 43% of the time.  He did play nearly the entire season as an 18-year-old.  So, there are a lot of excuses and they are valid. His problems stemmed from chasing too many out of the strike zone.  This was the concern the industry had when the A’s signed him.  If you’re looking for hope – he did strike out in half his plate appearances to begin the season and was only striking out a third by the end of the season.  Progress?  Anyway, if he can control the strike zone better, there’s huge power potential as the bat speed is elite and he should be able to steal a few bases at least early in his career.

11. Luis Barrera (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Majors ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 75 OF with some upside
  • Tools Summary: Runs well with a solid hit tool, but otherwise, not a ton of tools

The A’s signed Luis Barrera in 2012 and after nine years in their system, he made his Major League debut in 2021.  The tools are not very loud but he makes solid contact, plays sound defense, and has above-average speed.  He’s likely a fourth outfielder in the Major Leagues but has enough skills to be a second division outfielder if given the chance with another team.

12. Jordan Diaz (3B)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 20 1B
  • Tools Summary: Makes excellent contact with solid raw power

Jordan Diaz can hit.  In 90 games in High-A, he only struck out 16% of the time.  Since he made his debut in 2017 as a 16-year-old, he’s always made great contact.  He is aggressive at the plate but when you make that level of contact, you can be.  He has solid raw power, slugging .483 and hitting 13 home runs in those same 90 games.  He has a thick lower-half and won’t steal many bases and will likely have to move to first, but I think the upside is a 20 home run bat who can hit .270+.

13. Lawrence Butler (OF)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 OF, but if he cuts down on K’s – UP
  • Tools Summary: Intriguing power-speed combination but he struck out a third of the time in Low-A

The A’s drafted Lawrence Butler in the 6th round in 2018 as a talented but raw athlete. Last season, their patience started to be rewarded.  In Low-A, he slashed .263/.364/.499 with 17 home runs and 26 stolen bases. Unfortunately, he also struck out a third of the time.  He’s a big guy with a big strike zone, but he’ll need to cut down on the strikeouts to continue to develop.  As we’ve stated before, players who strike out over 30% of the time in Low-A, usually don’t make it.  If you’re looking for encouragement, he did get a promotion to High-A at the end of the season and in 14 games, he did cut down his strikeout rate.

14. Devin Foyle (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 75 OF
  • Tools Summary: Intriguing power-speed combination but he struck out a third of the time in Low-A

Foyle is already 25 and only in Double-A, but he showed an ability to control the strike zone with a little bit of speed and pop.  His ceiling is likely an extra bat, but if he can add additional loft to his swing, there’s a chance he adds more power and with that, could come more playing time.

15. Charles Hall (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 60 SP but needs a chance
  • Tools Summary: At 27, he’s not your typical prospect, but he can pitch

I doubt you’ll see a profile of Charles Hall on many platforms on the Internet.  He was a senior sign (round 33) out of a Division II school in 2019.  He’s gotten lost in the system due to the combination of Covid and the reduction of leagues and found himself in High-A all season as a 26-year-old.  Here’s the thing.  The guy can pitch.  He doesn’t have a great fastball (91 to 93) but throws a variety of secondary pitches that miss plenty of bats.  Plus, he throws strikes.  He excelled in college, once striking out 22 batters in a game and he shoved it in High-A last season.  He needs a chance. 

Remember the name.

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