Don’t tell anyone I said this: I like this system for our game. It features pieces of all shapes and sizes, most of them cheap for us. The ones who should be rostered in dynasty leagues mostly aren’t, while several players who probably shouldn’t be rostered are. It’s an odd assortment of talent, and I had a lot of trouble trimming this list down to ten, balancing the old-for-level, close-to-the-majors types with the distant-upside teeny boppers. In line with my typical play style, I erred toward the near term partly because opportunity should abound in Oakland over the next couple seasons.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2022 | Highest level played | ETA
1. C Tyler Soderstrom | 20 | A | 2023
The clear-cut top prospect in the system, Soderstrom is a smooth-swinging, left-handed hitting catcher at 6’2” 200 lbs. A first-round pick in 2020 (26th overall), Soderstrom’s debut season could not have gone much better. If he hadn’t wound up injured in August, he was on track to finish up in High-A at 19. In 57 games at Low-A, he slashed .306/.390/.568 with 12 HR and 2 SB and struck out 24 percent of the time. It’s all sunshine and rainbows on offense, but defense is a question mark. I can’t see much reason for the club to let him remain behind the plate, especially with a back issue already at 19, so that sets him up to learn some other spots while the bat carries the profile, and that’s a risky proposition as you don’t want him to focus so much on defense that his offense stops progressing. For now, he’ll probably stay at catcher because the team likes him there, and the industry values that position, but the clock is ticking on that, and I think he’d be better off freeing up his body by switching to left field.
2. 3B Zack Gelof | AAA | 22 | 2023
A right-handed hitter with an all-fields approach, Gelof is a plus athlete at 6’3” 205 lbs whose best tool is his feel to hit and barrel control, which helped him coast through his debut season at Low-A with a .298/.393/.548 slash line, 7 HR and 11 SB in just 32 games. A 2nd round pick in 2021, Gelof finished the season hot after jumping two levels to AAA, picking up seven hits in 13 plate appearances across three games. That’s mostly irrelevant of course, but it’s a neat peak at the hit tool helping him adapt instantly to a new, much tougher level. Where he’ll begin 2022 is an open question, but High-A is a safe bet, and a quick promotion to AA is well within the realm of possibilities.
3. 1B/OF Lawrence Butler | 21 | A+ | 2023
Lawrence of Arabia changed film forever with wide-angle, long-tracking shots that showed the scope of the desert. If we apply a wide-angle, long-tracking shot to Butler, we can catch a glimpse of Oakland’s future. A chiseled 6’3” 210 lb left-handed hitter, Butler was a 6th round pick in 2018 and did not hit in his first two seasons, slugging .330 in rookie ball in his draft season and .286 across 55 games at Low-A in 2019. Something shifted during the 2020 shutdown, and Butler caught up to his competition, popping 17 home runs and swiping 26 bases in 88 games at Low-A before spending his final 14 games at High-A where he cut his K-rate by five percentage points and slashed .340/.389/.540 with 2 HR and 3 SB. I’ve also seen him make some great plays at first base. The slightly shrinking strikeout rate is no fluke; Butler tightened up his swing and decision-making throughout the season. The speed is real, too. If he can keep the K-rate lower than 30 percent, Butler’s got the tools to carve out a roster spot in any size fantasy league.
4. OF Cody Thomas | 27 | AAA | 2022
If a hitter from this list is going to pop for redraft leagues in 2022, it’s probably Thomas, who is probably available in your leagues. The former Dodger had a monster year in 2021 after a swing change, but his stats don’t matter a whole lot for our purposes because the A’s AAA team plays in Las Vegas, where the warm, dry air provides lift off for guys like Thomas to blast 18 home runs in just 59 games and slug .665. He struck out at a 31.8 percent clip, but walked 10.2 percent of the time and carried a .363 OBP. A high-end college football prospect who played Quarterback at Oklahoma, Thomas offers some lack-of-reps topside that’s obscured by his age on the page.
5. 3B Jordan Diaz | 21 | A+ | 2023
A free swinger who makes a lot of contact, Diaz doesn’t seem like the type to tone down his approach, just given the frequency at which he vibrates in the box and how much of his body he gets into each cut. He’s listed at 5’10” 175 lbs but looks closer to 200. I’m a little worried about his ability to make swing decisions in the Maikel Franco sense because he can make contact with a lot of pitches, and his swing starts pretty early. Extraneous movement isn’t the issue. It’s hard to describe exactly, but you can almost feel the need-to-swing seething inside him as the pitch is coming in, and his follow-through can be ferocious. Nonetheless, Diaz rarely strikes out–just 15.9 percent in 90 games at High-A- and 15.3 percent in Low-A in 2019–but his contact rate comes at the expense of his walk rate: 6.8 percent last year. I like him quite a bit as a playing time piece in deep leagues because he looks like a major leaguer. I’m not sure where he fits in this plate-discipline era where third basemen play a lot of second base, but he’d have been a highly regarded prospect for his steady glove and high-average bat in the not-too-distant past.
6. 1B Dalton Kelly | 27 | AAA | 2022
Like Thomas above, Kelly strikes me as a very Billy Beane play: upper minors 40-man runoff from an elite organization, Tampa’s in this case, that could fill a short-term need and provide a big return on investment, given the minuscule cost of acquisition. Kelly had posted pretty good lines before, but his big statistical breakthrough came in 2021 when he hit 27 home runs and stole 17 bases in 110 AAA games, slashing .244/.350/.512 with a 13.4%/28.8% BB/K rate. For context regarding Kelly’s evolving approach, Dalton carried a 17.6%/21% BB/K rate for 49 games at AA in 2019 with a .278/.429/.377 triple slash line. More context, these AAA numbers were with Tampa, so they don’t have to stay in Vegas like numbers that happened in Vegas. Kelly’s traded patience for power and is plainly a body in motion, baseball-wise, so I’m not especially comfortable predicting what kind of player we will ultimately see at the highest level, but I know I’m intrigued.
7. OF Pedro Pineda | 18 | CPX | 2025
Pineda struck out a lot in his debut season, but he was playing against much older guys and still made enough impact on contact to collect an impressive .258/.403/.403 line with 1 HR and 3 SB in 23 games at the complex site. We’re just scratching the surface on the 6’1” 170 lb centerfielder with plus power and speed who signed for $2.5 million in January 2021. Hit tool concerns are the only thing holding him back.
8. SS Nick Allen | 23 | AAA | 2022
He’s listed 5’8” 166 lbs, so his power upside is limited, but he did slug .471 with 6 HR in 50 AA games, so it’s not like he’s a total stranger to the bleacher seats. Still, the fantasy bet here is on Allen’s defense earning him a spot while his bat does just enough to let his speed play in games. He face-planted in 39 games at AAA (.243/.302/.301), but if he can even hold his own at that level, he could be the starting shortstop at some point late in 2022.
9. RHP Brent Honeywell | 26 | MLB | 2021
Honey ain’t been well for a long time, but like Puk, he got back on the mound in 2021 with diminished stuff and started rebuilding himself as a pitcher. He still has the dynamite screwball that made him famous and solid velocity, but he needs to find some other weapons because his once-deep arsenal is a bit shallow now. Ideally he’d rediscover a curveball to pair with the screw a bit better than his cutter does, but perhaps his release prohibits that. Like Thomas and Kelly, Honeywell feels like a very sharp 40-man pluck by Billy Beane and company, and I’m eager to see what he can do with a full off-season to work. Good chance he opens 2022 in Oakland’s rotation.
10. LHP AJ Puk | 26 | MLB | 2019
The 6’7” 248 lb lefty is still throwing upper nineties fastballs, but everything else in his arsenal has suffered from injury and lost reps over the past several seasons. I’m not sure where he belongs here. No idea what the team plans to do with him. It’s easy enough to say he should be a bullpen piece, and his 1.80 WHIP across 13.1 innings last year suggests he’ll need a little luck to hold onto a major league role of any shape. Then again, before 2021, we hadn’t seen Puk healthy since 2017, and it’s reasonable to expect some measure of improvement if he stays healthy and works through the off-season and into next year.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.