The Oakland Athletics had a clear strategy in the shortened five-round 2020 MLB Draft: go get your guys.
After taking a high school catcher out of Turlock, Calif., in Tyler Soderstrom, the A’s selected four straight college players. Three of the Athletics’ selections were also pitchers, showing an emphasis on arms that has been consistent since the selections of young stars Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk.
Round 1, Pick 26: Tyler Soderstrom
The Athletics started off the draft by selecting Soderstrom with the 26th pick. Soderstrom becomes the 10th son in a father-son duo to be selected in the first round. Tyler’s father, Steve, was selected sixth overall by the San Francisco Giants in the 1993 MLB Draft.
Regional scout Kevin Mello spoke to how good of a prospect Soderstrom is when he said the catcher has “one of the two best bats I have ever scouted in my career.
Mello also praised the athleticism of Soderstrom, saying he has the speed to be an asset on the basepaths and the arm to definitely stay at catcher. Soderstrom is a right-handed thrower and has a lefty power swing that will play well in the Oakland lineup.
The scout went on to compare Soderstrom to recent pick Jarred Kelenic, an outfielder for the New York Mets, explaining that both were two of the best hitting prospects he has seen come out of high school.
Soderstrom starred in high school, performing well at Turlock High School. Tyler hit .373 over four years at the varsity level, compiling a 1.028 OPS.
The Athletics are expected to sign Soderstrom to a deal above slot value in order to pull him away from UCLA, where he was committed.
Round 2, Pick 58: Jeff Criswell
In the second round, the Athletics selected right-handed pitcher Jeff Criswell from Michigan University. The 58th overall pick has dominated the college scene both as a starter and as a reliever.
Although the 21-year-old righty was used mainly as a starter for the Wolverines in the last two seasons, Criswell appeared early and often out of the bullpen as a freshman. In 2018, Criswell had a minimal 2.23 ERA as a reliever, showing his ability to strand runners and handle stressful situations.
In recent years, Criswell has excelled as a starter. He posted an excellent 2.72 ERA in 22 appearances last season as a starter, winning seven of eight decisions.
There have been some concerns with a possible hitch in the delivery of Criswell, but a strong frame and consistent performance in college leave little to worry about for Athletics fans.
Round 3, Pick 98: Michael Guldberg
After selecting a potential future battery, the Athletics drafted college outfielder Michael Guldberg out of Georgia Tech University with the 98th overall pick.
Guldberg had limited plate appearances in his three-year career at Georgia Tech, but the results were promising enough to warrant a third-round selection.
Guldberg hit .373 over three years and had a tremendous .465 on-base percentage, which shows his clear cut ability to get on base and limit strikeouts. With the Athletics lacking a clear leadoff hitter in recent years, Guldberg could fill that slot soon.
Injuries limited Guldberg’s time on the field in 2017 and 2019, causing him to mainly serve as a designated hitter during those two seasons. Because of the limited time the Athletics have seen Michael in the outfield, a corner outfield spot is likely where he will slide into for Oakland.
Round 4, Pick 127: Dane Acker
Returning to their draft modus operandi, the Athletics chose Dane Acker out of Oklahoma University with the 127th pick. Acker’s biggest accomplishment was a dazzling no-hitter which he threw against LSU on March 1 this season before baseball was shut down.
Acker threw the no-no in Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. Although the location probably did not play into the pick, Billy Beane and the Oakland faithful have a clear picture of what their new star can do on that mound.
As for actual statistics, Acker dominated in 2019, striking out 97 in 76 innings as a starter. The former Sooner also held opponents to a minuscule 2.36 ERA, which was a career-low.
There are few concerns about the feasibility of this pick, although some draft experts were concerned about Acker’s size.
Look for Acker to ascend through the ranks quickly and make an impact for the Athletics as soon as possible.
Round 5, Pick 157: Stevie Emanuels
To round out their draft, Oakland took another college pitcher in Washington’s Stevie Emanuels.
The 157th overall pick is a taller prospect, checking in at 6-foot-5. With a tall frame and a lively fastball, Emanuels starred as a reliever and closer his sophomore year for the Bears.
Emanuels clearly caught the eye of the Oakland Athletics during the shortened 2020 season by picking up Collegiate Baseball All-America Third Team Honors. Whether he will come out of the bullpen or be a starter will depend on his development and if he can grow into his lanky frame.
No matter what, the Athletics found a lively arm to add to the farm.