Early 2023 Returns From the A’s Farm

Max Muncy, Stockton Ports. Photo credit Gail Verderico, @baseball_gail on Instagram.

The Oakland Athletics’ affiliates have all begun play to kick off the 2023 campaign and there are many reasons for optimism. While the big league club has been taking its lumps, there is at least some sun peaking out from behind the clouds down on the farm.

Let’s take a look at some of the positives, in the very early going, from the A’s system.

Aviator Bash Brothers

The headliner in the first week and change of minor league play for the A’s farm can be no other than top prospect Tyler Soderstrom. He’s cooled a bit from his torrid start, however, through 9 games he’s slugged 2 homers with 7 RBI to go along with a .263/.310/.553 slash. We know the power is legitimate but the 21 year old’s hit tool continues to impress. Soderstrom has shown the ability to use the whole field while cutting his K rate in the early going. The catching prospect is currently striking out at a 19% clip, a 15% reduction from the rate he posted last season in AAA, which was also in a 9 game sample. Defensively, Soderstrom has suited up behind the plate for 6 games while playing first for 3. This is exactly what you want to see from your first rounder. He’s a premier bat. This season figures to be his last in the minors.

Fellow Aviator bash brother JJ Bleday has also been hot in Vegas. Through 10 games, his power has proven to be no match for the PCL. He’s popped 3 homers while posting identical walk and strikeout rates of 11.4%. The 25 year old graduated from prospect status last season while with Miami and he looks hungry to become a regular in the big’s soon.

Kevin Smith already received his call to Oakland and for good reason. The 26 year old looks to be taking a more aggressive approach in the box this season and it worked in AAA. Smith homered 5 times in 7 games to start the year, picking up the power stroke in Vegas where he left it 2022. Time will tell if Smith’s new plan at the plate will work in the majors. He’s been playing short for Oakland in his first two games.

Good First Starts

One thing has been made very clear for the 2023 big league A’s: this system needs to produce some pitching, and quickly. Fortunately, there have been a few bright spots in that department in the early going. None have shined brighter than Mason Miller. Bringing his bulldog mentality to the mound, Miller overpowered the Northwest Arkansas Naturals lineup on Friday night, striking out 8 of the 17 batters he retired. The 6’5” righty was pumping his high octane fastball and flashing his plus slider in what was his AA debut. Aside from 2 home runs allowed, it was a dominant performance. Miller was called up to Vegas on Tuesday.

Another positive, and frankly less expected, showing on the rubber was from right hander Luis Medina. The 23 year old is stating his case to remain a starter and he showed well in his Las Vegas Aviators debut. Medina, standing lean on the mound, struck out 7 while navigating 6 1/3 innings. Walks will always be the biggest thing to watch for the former Yankee farmhand though. He limited the free passes to 3 in his first start, which is a positive. Medina has to figure to get a look in Oakland at some point this season.

Jack Perkins, the A’s 5th round pick out of Indiana in the 2022 draft, also had a solid first outing. He breezed through 5 shutout innings for the Lansing Lugnuts while striking out 6. Following Perkins’ performance for the Lugnuts was 23 year old right hander Christian Fernandez. Acquired from the Rays for Christian Bethancourt, Fernandez showed a hammer curveball on his way to striking out 6 in 4 1/3 . The righthander held a talented West Michigan Whitecap lineup scoreless in his season debut. Fernandez threw 28 innings at the level last season after spending 5 seasons in the now defunct rookie league in the Tampa system.

Ports in the Outfield

The Stockton Ports have had a difficult time keeping Cal League offenses in check to start the year, however, some of their former college hitters have been showing out. Outfielder Colby Thomas is off to a sizzling start batting .353 with a homer through 4 games. The A’s have to be pleased with what they’ve seen, considering Thomas was recovering from a torn labrum when they drafted him in the 3rd round in ‘23. The injury ended his final season at Mercer early before being selected, however, the 22 year old should see Lansing soon.

Fellow Ports outfielder Clark Elliott has been as advertised since being chosen in the second round of the ‘23 draft. Good speed, power, and plate discipline are Elliot’s calling cards and the Michigan product has not disappointed. He’s batting .333 with a .474 OBP thus far with a stolen base. Elliot has yet to homer through 4 games. Brennan Milone was the A’s 6th rounder in the same draft and he’s had no trouble reaching base either. A .571 OBP is undeniably a good way to start. The Oregon product has yet to punch out in 14 plate appearances.

Quick Hits

Darell Hernaiz doesn’t have the stat line to show for it yet, but he can really hit. The 21-year-old, who was acquired for Cole Irvin in the offseason, really impacted Midland’s opener last Thursday. He hit .305 in 60 games in High-A last season.

I got to see the Ports in person on Saturday night, and I was pleased to see a very high profile name looking a whole lot better. Robert Puason looks to have gained about 10lbs of good weight. He also homered out to left center in my live look. Through 12 plate appearances, the infield prospect has K’d only twice. It’s early, however, all are steps in the right direction for Puason who is still just 20 years old.

20-year-old Max Muncy is getting stronger as well. 3 of his 7 hits have gone for extra bases as he gets his season underway for High-A Lansing. He’s still striking out a bit too much at a rate of nearly 28% but is batting .438 with an OBP of .500. The A’s first round pick in ‘21 has shown some trouble recognizing spin but he’s trending in the right direction.

Nick covers the Florida State League for Prospects1500. Born and raised in the Bay Area he fell in love with the Oakland A’s at an early age. The A’s have never loved him back but that’s never stopped him from obsessing over all things baseball, especially prospects, the minor leagues, and dynasty baseball. Find him on Twitter @Leobaseball3.

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