The Oakland A’s are perennial playoff contenders recently. They have made the postseason six of the last nine seasons and are currently only two games behind the Boston Red Sox for the second Wild Card spot this year. While their regular-season success is impressive considering the low payroll they operate with, they haven’t won an ALCS game since 1992.
The pipeline of prospects is important to a team like the A’s and they have a few guys who can make an impact. A couple of these mentioned are a bit older than your typical players in the minors. Nevertheless, Oakland’s main guys could make their mark on the big league team by next season. Let’s take a look at who they have.
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Tyler Soderstrom C
Drafted last year in the first round, Soderstrom has athletic ability and an advanced bat. He has shown that this year at Single-A Stockton slashing .306/.390/.568 with 12 home runs. He also has very good pitch recognition for a 19-year-old striking out at less than a 25 percent rate. The left-handed hitter is an average runner but is much faster than most traditional catchers. That speed could help him if he transitions to another position.
The question is whether he will stick behind the plate. The A’s seem to think he can grow into the position and be at least average. Soderstrom has a good arm, but his mechanics as a backstop need work. Although the California native has improved defensively, his work with the glove is well behind his work at the plate. If he can improve enough to not be a liability calling games, he should see the majors by next year.
Max Muncy SS
Oakland’s first-round pick from this year is a solid player across the board. His defensive prowess could allow him to stay at shortstop. Muncy has soft hands, good range, and a solid, accurate arm. He has shown some power to all fields and he can barrel up balls when he doesn’t sell out for power. The 19-year-old should fill in his 6-foot-1 frame and get to his power naturally. With an improved approach and a more compact swing, Muncy’s bat will catch up to his defense and he will be a very good major league player.
A.J. Puk LHP
Despite being drafted sixth overall in 2016 out of the University of Florida, Puk has yet to make a true impact at the major league level at 26 years old. The 6-foot-7 pitcher’s clock is ticking. Puk certainly has the tools to succeed for the Athletics, but injuries have kept him away time and time again. In 2018, Puk suffered an elbow injury and had Tommy John Surgery in spring training, Puk was able to return in 2019 and pitch 11 innings for the Athletics. In 2020, Puk faced more shoulder problems that forced him away from the field that eventually led to yet another shoulder surgery.
His fastball sits 93-97 and plays up due to his long stride and extension. He couples that with a low-90s slider that has great bite. His offspeed stuff plays at average or above as his curve has gotten better and his change has had more fade and sink recently. If Puk can defeat the injury bug for an extended period of time, he could be an ace within the next year or so.
Nick Allen SS
Allen was selected 81st overall by the Athletics in the 2017 MLB Draft. At 22 years old, Allen’s defense is MLB-caliber and his most valuable tool right now. He has great range and can make the throw to first from anywhere. The righty has the defensive ability to be Oakland’s starting shortstop for many years to come. Allen has his hitting on track as he slashed .319/.374/.471 at Double-A before a recent promotion. IF his bat even plays as adequate, his defense will keep him at shortstop in the big leagues for a while.
Daulton Jefferies RHP
Jefferies is in a similar situation to Puk. as he was drafted the same year 31 picks later. He’s another 25-year-old who has seen playing time cut short due to Tommy John Surgery missing almost two full seasons after being drafted. He throws strikes and can get some swings and misses. Overall at Triple-A this season though he has allowed 90 hits in 77 innings and 13 of them went over the fence. Jefferies has showcased an elite level of control (68/11 K/BB rate) to go with his low-velocity fastball as well as a solid changeup. If Jefferies can develop his supporting pitches, he will be an integral addition to Oakland’s rotation as soon as this upcoming season.
What Does the Future Hold?
The A’s also have a 17-year-old who has been making some noise named Pedro Pineda. He has played all three outfield spots and has a shot to stick in centerfield. With proper development, the kid from the Dominican Republic could be a solid all-around player. Another player that the A’s have is Zach Gelof who they selected this year in the second round. He has done well in his first taste of pro ball and has an excellent approach at the plate.
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