Tough sledding ahead for Oakland. Might feel like the worst is behind you at first after your team tears down, but I don’t think that’s the case. The worst part is three seasons later when you still can’t see any daylight and just keep losing every day. I don’t think that’ll be the case for Oakland. Billy Beane is probably not a full-tanking type, and I’m happy for that. Off-season signing Aledmys Diaz, Jace Peterson and Jesus Aguilar have all proven to be major league regulars at times in their careers. Signing these types is often the best use of roster spots during a rebuild in my opinion. You get a better product early in the season, perhaps somebody really pops (Peterson and Diaz are both sound bets imo), perhaps you can only trade one of them for anything at the deadline. The point is you tried. Made sharp plays on interesting angles. They should write a book about that kind of thing.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/23 | Highest Level Played | ETA
1. OF Esteury Ruiz | 24 | MLB | 2022
Will likely be ranked after Soderstrom everywhere else you look, and I’m okay with that. I agree that Soderstrom is a safer bet to hit well enough to lock down a major league lineup spot. But so what? How much will have to hit to make up for the stolen bases Ruiz can provide. In 114 games across three levels last year, Ruiz stole 86 bases and got caught 16 times: elite volume with an elite success rate. Granted he’ll have a tougher time getting on base in the majors and a tougher time stealing, but the shift ban helps a contact hitter like him and the three-throw-over rule helps him. The ballpark in Oakland hurts him, but the open runway for playing time is gold in our game. Ruiz heading into 2023 is the toughest fantasy evaluation I can remember in a long time. A lot of people are pretty vocal about being out or down on him. I am not one of those people. Feels like a real buying opportunity to me. If it doesn’t work out, so it goes. The price is not particularly high in a start-up or redraft scenario.
2. 1B Tyler Soderstrom | 21 | AAA | 2023
That he’s already in Triple-A makes me think the catching path is no longer particularly real for Soderstrom. They might let him keep doing games back there once in a while, but they’ve got Shea Langeliers and just drafted a college catcher (Daniel Susac) with their first-round pick, and they played Soderstrom a lot (59 games) at first base in 2022. Wherever he winds up in the field, Soderstom’s smooth left-handed swing will be holding down the middle of Oakland’s lineup for years to come. At 6’2” 200 lbs, he generates plus power to all fields. In 134 games across three levels, Soderstrom hit 29 home runs, 21 doubles and five triples. The slash lines weren’t idyllic, but .267/.324/.501 across the three stops is extremely impressive given the age-to-level math and especially that Soderstrom bounced back from a rocky start to his season.
3. RHP Gunnar Hoglund | 23 | A | 2024
I don’t buy in on many pitching prospects, but when I do, they’ve got plus command of multiple off-speed pitches in a pitcher-friendly setting. The primary return for Matt Chapman, Hoglund might’ve been a 1.1 pick if not for ye olde elbow injury. He still went 19th overall and pulled an elite major league third baseman in return then threw eight shutout innings across three starts when he returned to the field.
4. 1B 3B Jordan Diaz | 22 | MLB | 2022
A swing-heavy profile and decent-not-great athleticism are the only limiting factors for Diaz, who enjoyed a statistical breakout in 2022, slashing .326/.366/.515 with 19 home runs in 120 games across two levels. Listed at 5’10” 175 lbs, Diaz looks heavier than that to my eye, and although he might be almost maxed out physically, the upside on his kind of bat-to-ball skills (12.5 percent strikeout rate) is always a little hidden coming off the bus.
5. 3B Zack Gelof | 23 | AAA | 2023
Gelof finished strong in Triple-A, smashing five home runs in just nine games. His 105 wRC+ is closer to the kind of player I’d expect at the major league level. He’s 6’3” 205 lbs though and the plus hitter’s hands could always translate to a mid-twenties power spike.
6. LHP Ken Waldichuk | 25 | MLB | 2022
Part of the return from New York for Frankie Montas, Waldichuk has the chance to make that trade look pretty good while Montas is on the sideline early in 2023. He features a unique look as a six-foot-four lefty with elite extension (94th percentile per statcast) from a three-quarters release that expertly disguises his double-plus changeup. Oakland might not win him a lot of games, but I think he’ll be a solid mid-rotation piece for a long time. Wouldn’t surprise me to see him coming screaming out of the gate if he’s in rhythm this year. If he does, I’d be shopping him. No offense to Kenny Dubs. I just think he’ll be streaky and will have to reinvent himself at times to stay ahead of the hitters. Everybody does.
7. LHP Kyle Muller | 25 | MLB | 2021
With AJ Puk and Kyle Muller, the A’s could have two 6’7” lefties in their rotation. Or none. Muller is coming off his second straight solid Triple-A season and came over from Atlanta in the Sean Murphy trade, which might buy him an inside lane on a rotation spot. Like Waldichuk, Muller alone could make his trade look quite a bit different a few months into the season than it does today. His 1.18 WHIP repeating Triple-A isn’t ideal, but he won’t have to be a micro-whip guy to be effective in Oakland, even if that will be the primary factor in determining his ultimate fantasy value. There’s a chance he’ll never repeat well enough to throw enough strikes to remain a starter, but I may go the other way and bet the extra foul ball territory will matter a lot to an area-code-accuracy arm like Muller.
8. RHP Shintaro Fujinami | 28 | NPB | 2023
With Puk, Muller and Fujinami, Oakland could have three pitchers at 6’6” on the major league roster. After having his best season in 2022, Fujinami was posted by the Hanshin Tigers and signed with Oakland for $3.25 million. His contract includes another million in incentives for starts made, but Fujinami was often a reliever and often injured in Japan and could quickly find himself in the bullpen. From the sounds of it, he’s going to open the season in the rotation, and I’m eager to see how it goes. I’m not likely to draft Kodai Senga anywhere but suspect I’ll have some Fujinami in 2023.
9. OF Ryan Noda | 27 | AAA | 2023
I don’t think wRC+ is a clean stat by any means, but sometimes it tells a good story that can get lost in the vagaries of minor league stat lines. Across five levels from the Blue Jays to the Dodgers, Noda’s read 190, 160, 138, 139, 120. The worst he’s been was 20 percent better than league average as a 26-year-old in Triple-A. It’s as easy to see why the Dodgers couldn’t hold him as it is to see why the Athletics took him second in the Rule-5 Draft. At 6’3” 217 lbs with plus patience and power from the left side, Noda’s a solid prospect. He’s athletic enough to handle first or an outfield corner and went 25/20 last season in Triple-A. Interesting no-cost play for 2023.
10. RHP Freddy Tarnock | 24 | MLB | 2022
Another part of the Sean Murphy trade, Tarnock doesn’t yet have the consistent command he’ll need to thrive as a major league starter, but that’s probably okay. Oakland might be going a many-starters route like the Dodgers have used, which only comes to mind because they just signed Tony Gonsolin for an incredible bargain largely because his arbitration number is capped by the time he spent in relief. I’m not saying Tarnok or Muller are great comps for Gonsolin. Just something that’s occurring to me on the fly, and looking at Tampa and Los Angeles and now Oakland’s group for eleven or so starting pitchers, I can’t help but think this is the wave of the future, dude. Or should’ve been a few years ago, maybe.
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