Tides ebb and flow, the sun rises and the sun sets, and Oakland competes in the playoffs for a couple of years before selling everyone off. All because of ownership’s frugality. This iteration of fire sale was particularly painful due to the remaining years of team control many players still had. Granted those years netted more in trade return but let’s be honest, ownership was unwilling to pay even market rate arbitration figures.
The sell off is now complete and many, well, names came back in the flurry of moves. Oakland clearly continued its philosophy of targeting quantity over quality as most of the trade returns were underwhelming. On the bright side, the system is now chock full of that quantity, particularly in the arms department. From this time a year ago the Oakland farm is better than it was but it remains middle tier. The long term success of this organization depends on the development of those acquired pitchers.
This teardown was painful but a certain level of trust in the front office is warranted. They have done this quite a few times now and rebuilt the Athletics into playoff contenders. As the stadium saga is soul sucking and ownership drags fans through the mud, fans must look to the farm for bright spots in this battered franchise.
Oakland recently had two infusions from the international ranks. Shintaro Fujinami, a 28-year-old, 6’6″ right hander from Japan, should contribute right away to the big league club and most likely in the rotation. Luis Morales, a 20-year-old, 6’3″ right hander from Cuba, is among the top January 15 signees. Both Fujinami and Morales carry promise and could project in the Tier 3-4 range. I also want to mention that as of this column going to press, Darell Hernaiz was just acquired from the Orioles in a trade for Cole Irvin. Hernaiz was ranked 15th (in Tier 3) on Baltimore’s Top 50 that dropped earlier this month, and he’d likely slot into the same area on this list.
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above-average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have a high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players of interest, worth keeping an eye on, who have an outside chance of making their team’s 40-man roster
Levels listed for each player are the highest levels player reached in 2022
1. Tyler Soderstrom, C/1B, 21, Triple-A
Soderstrom effectively ended a string of A’s first round whiffs when he was taken in 2020, starring in his intro into pro-ball for Low-A Stockton in 2021. Particularly impressive last season was the 20 homers he clubbed for High-A Lansing through frigid temperatures before advancing to Double-A. The California prep product seems poised to anchor a lineup with his plus hit tool and plus power. He figures to open in Triple-A Vegas with a chance to debut with the big club in 2023, his debut would be a bright spot for a club in dire need of light.
TYLER SODERSTROM JUST HIT HIS FIRST TRIPLE-A HOME RUN pic.twitter.com/85vgD5OZtu
— Las Vegas Aviators (@AviatorsLV) September 23, 2022
2. Zack Gelof, 2B/3B, 23, Triple-A/AFL
Gelof has earned Triple-A at bats in each of his first two seasons in pro ball, lending credence to his ability to hit. I saw him in Single-A Stockton in 2021 and I walked away very impressed, he plays like a winning player. The Virginia product has shown power, the ability to get on base, and the ability to put the bat on the ball. He’s set to join Nick Allen somewhere on the infield in Oakland in 2023.
3. Daniel Susac, C, 21, Single-A
Susac, taken 19th overall in 2022, came to the A’s as a premier college bat after starring for Arizona. He was decent in his pro debut for Single-A Stockton slashing .286/.346/.388 but lacked much power output in the small 107 plate appearance sample. That lack of power doesn’t figure to last for long for the 6’4” catching prospect, he should rise quickly through Oakland’s ranks.
4. Ken Waldichuk, LHP, 25, MLB
Acquired from the Yankees in the Frankie Montas trade, Oakland has high hopes for the lefty hurler. Armed with a plus fastball and changeup combo, the big lefties’ major league debut wasn’t great as he was hit hard over 34.2 IP, posting a 4.93 ERA. Waldichuk will look to get back to his bat missing ways, he posted some absurd K/9 numbers in the Yankees system, as he competes for big league innings this spring.
First MLB strikeout for @Athletics No. 3 prospect Ken Waldichuk! pic.twitter.com/wAP3Y9nzuK
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 1, 2022
5. Kyle Muller, LHP, 25, MLB
The former second round pick who was acquired in the Sean Murphy deal, Muller has little left to prove in the minors. Across his last two seasons in Triple-A over about 210 frames, Muller has produced a mid 10’s K/9 and mid 3’s ERA. Proving it in the big leagues will be next for the 6’7” right hander and Muller will certainly get a chance to do just that this spring.
6. Esteury Ruiz, OF, 23, MLB
Ruiz is about as polarizing a prospect as they come. His elite speed isn’t in question but 2022 was an outlier in terms of his offensive production. Ruiz posted an OBP north of .400 across 2 orgs and 2 levels. Oakland is banking on something similar as the 23 year old outfielder was a co-headliner of the Sean Murphy trade. He’s slated to take the CF job from Cristian Pache this spring, hopefully proving his 2022 breakout was legit.
7. Jordan Diaz, 2B, 22, MLB
Undersized and unheralded, all Diaz does is hit. After a breakout in 2021, the sub 6 foot Columbian slashed .326/.366/.515 across the minor’s highest levels last season. Since debuting in rookie ball as a 16 year old, Diaz has never registered a K rate north of 16%. He figures to get an extended look in the big leagues in 2023. His power potential in the majors remains in question.
SAVE THAT BALL
The first major league hit for Jordan Díaz! pic.twitter.com/yUyOiN8tRm
— Oakland A’s (@Athletics) September 18, 2022
8. Max Muncy, SS, 20, High-A
The 2021 first round pick is not lacking for tools but the swing and miss in his game is a growing concern. Muncy possesses a strong arm, good speed, and big power. He certainly stood out for his physicality in Stockton during my live looks. As he progresses to the upper levels of the minors this season, he’ll set his sights on lowering the 31.6% K rate he posted at High-A Lansing last season.
9. Denzel Clarke, OF, 22, High-A/AFL
Clarke is one of my favorite prospects in the system I’ve seen in person. Taken in the 4th round out of Cal State Northridge in 2021, Clarke comes from a family of athletes and does not disappoint in the department of physicality. He’ll need to make strides in his approach though as High-A pitching was a challenge after he destroyed Single-A.
What a catch by Denzel Clarke 🤯 pic.twitter.com/96IWZMmtF3
— A’s on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) July 17, 2022
10. Lawrence Butler, 1B/OF, 22 High-A/AFL
Another physical presence, Butler has improved his approach and capped off his 2023 in the AFL. The 22 year old is still in need of polish and the 2023 season figures to be a big one for him as he enters the upper levels of the minors. He could end his year towards the top of this list.
11. Mason Miller, RHP, 24, Triple-A/AFL
Miller’s stock has soared since his showing in the AFL where he was reported to be touching north of 100mph. The 6’5” righty has been severely limited by injury since entering pro ball, throwing only 14 frames across three levels last season before tossing 16 in the AFL. Miller’s plus fastball and slider should play up in relief, though he does have a starters frame. Health permitting, he should see the upper levels in 2023.
12. Gunnar Hoglund, RHP, 23, Single-A
Hoglund starred with Ole Miss before undergoing Tommy John surgery but that didn’t stop Toronto from selecting him in the 1st round. Acquired in the Matt Chapman trade, Hoglund made it back to the mound for 3 appearances in 2022. He’ll look to build on that in 2023, likely starting at High-A Lansing.
13. Freddy Tarnok, RHP, 24, MLB
Another piece in the Sean Murphy trade, Tarnok got a taste of the bigs with the Braves last season recording 2 outs. That was the culminating moment in a campaign where he amassed just over 100 innings across the minor’s highest levels. The 6’3” right hander was a 3rd round selection from the Florida prep ranks in 2017. Like many upper level arms in this system, Tarnok will get a chance to compete for big league innings this spring.
14. Ryan Cusick, RHP, 23, Double-A/AFL
One of the former first round arms acquired in the firesale last spring, Cusick’s time in the Athletics system has not been great. He was limited by injury and hit hard when healthy. The Wake Forest product will look to make his second season in the system better than his first.
15. J.T. Ginn, RHP, 23, Double-A/AFL
Ginn was another arm acquired in the great sell off and he also struggled to stay on the mound with his new org. He threw 42.1 innings across Double-A Midland and Complex ball to the tune of a 5.10 ERA, posting a 10.44 K/ 9 for AA Midland. The 6’2” righty will look to continue utilizing his plus slider, and stay healthy, on his way to Triple-A Vegas in 2023.
16. Henry Bolte, OF, 19, Rookie (ACL)
Bolte is blessed with plus physicality and received an overslot bonus of $2 Million when he was selected in the second round of the 2022 draft. There are some unanswered questions about the level swing and miss in his game. A strong performance this year, presumably beginning in Low-A Stockton, could catapult him up this list.
17. Clark Elliott, OF, 22, Rookie (ACL)
Taken in the second round of the 2022 draft along with Bolte, Elliot brings NCAA polish as the MVP of the Big 10 tournament. Elliot was also the 2021 Cape Cod League batting champ with the Hyannis Harbor Hawks, hitting .344. Opinions are split among scouts on Elliott’s power potential in pro ball but the Michigan product slides into Tier 3 with his athleticism, approach, and bat to ball skills. He figures to debut in A ball with a chance to reach Double-A Midland this season.
18. Brett Harris, 3B, Double-A
Harris had something of a breakout in 2022 across High-A and Double-A, posting strong slash lines, healthy power numbers, and a steady 17% K rate. Power was not his calling card at Gonzaga so his recent surge is vaulting him up this list. The 3rd baseman should get an opportunity to prove himself with Triple-A Vegas this year.
19. Ryan Noda, 1B/OF, 26, Triple-A
Noda was Oakland’s lone Rule 5 Draft selection, taken 2nd overall in the draft. His lack of opportunity with the Dodges has done a complete 180 as opportunity now abounds in Oakland. The former 15th round pick boasts elite walk rates and solid in-game power. He’ll get plenty of run this spring to carve out a role.
20. Colby Thomas, OF, 21, Rookie (ACL)
Taken in the 3rd round out of Mercer, Thomas’ season ended in May with a shoulder injury. While healthy in 2022, the outfielder popped 17 home runs, walked more than he struck out, and batted .325. Thomas figures to make his debut in 2023 in A ball when healthy.
21. Joey Estes, RHP, 21, High-A
A 16th round pick who popped in Single-A as a 19 year old, Estes was a part of the return in the Matt Olson trade. He pitched exclusively in Lansing in 2022 and was not as good with his new org, throwing 91 frames with a 4.55 ERA. Estes is still just 21 and remains promising with a 3 pitch mix. He’ll look to reach Double-A Midland this year.
22. Royber Salinas, RHP, 21, High-A
23. Luis Medina, RHP, 23, Double-A
24. Brayan Buelvas, OF, 20, High-A
25. Conner Capel, OF, 25, MLB
26. Euribiel Angeles, 2B/SS, 20, High-A
27. Pedro Pineda, OF, 19, Single-A
28. Logan Davidson, SS, 25, Double-A
29. Jacob Watters, RHP, 21, High-A
30. Cooper Bowman, 2B, 22, High-A
31. Colin Peluse, RHP, 24, Triple-A/AFL
32. Junior Perez, OF, 21, Single-A
33. Dermis Garcia, 1B, 24, MLB
34. Max Schuemann, 2B/SS, 25, Triple-A
Medina feels like a reliever. He walked 5 men per 9 in 72 innings for AA Somerset before the trade and then 9.58 per 9 in 20.2 innings for AA Midland after the trade. Buelvas is an interesting power speed outfielder who was limited by injuries after turning heads in Stockton in 2021. Pineda rocked a 45% K rate in Stockton as an 18-year-old. He’s so young but that is not what you want to see, he looked overmatched. Capel should get an extended look this spring, he hit .308 in 22 games with 3 homers in September for Oakland out of nowhere. Davidson remains disappointing as a former first rounder but hopefully he can hit enough to fulfill a utility infield role as soon as this summer. Bowman is interesting. A fourth round pick by the Yankees in 2021 he has elite speed and is very patient at the plate. The hit tool and power output have left a bit to be desired to this point in pro ball though. After 6 seasons in the minors, Garcia finally got big league AB’s last season. He struck out a bunch but the power is light tower. He’ll compete for playing time at 1B this spring.
35. Grant Holman, RHP, 22, High-A
36. Brennan Milone, 2B, 21, High-A
37. Jorge Juan, RHP, 23, High-A
38. Carlos Pacheco, OF, 18, Rookie (ACL)
39. Yeniel Laboy, 3B, 18, Rookie (ACL)
40. Drew Swift, 2B/SS, 23, High-A
41. Kyle McCann, C/1B, 25, Triple- A
42. Chen Zhong-Ao Zhuang, RHP,, 22, Single-A
43. CJ Rodriguez, C, 22, Single-A
44. Caeden Trenkle, OF, 21, Single-A
45. Robert Puason, 2B/SS, 20, Single-A
46. Danny Bautista, OF, 22, Single-A
47. Brady Feigl, RHP, 27, Triple-A
48. Hogan Harris, RHP, 26, Triple-A
49.T.J. Schofield-Sam, 1B/3B, 21, Single-A
50. Devin Foyle, OF, 26, Double-A
Holman was taken in the sixth round after throwing only 46 innings at Cal. He has been limited in pro ball but his stuff has flashed when healthy. Milone was a force at Oregon and hit well in his pro debut for Single-A Stockton. Puason’s book is not entirely written, he just turned 20, but the returns so far have been disastrous. He was sent down from Stockton in 2022 after punching out 35.3% of the time and batting .185. Then at the complex level he struck out 31.2% of the time while hitting .260 with 1 homer over 141 plate appearances. I saw Zhuang in Stockton and he looked good with strong command of his secondaries. The 22-year-old from Taiwan threw 42 innings at the level.
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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