2023 Oakland Athletics Top 10 Prospects Chat

Mark Chiarelli hosted a mailbag to answer questions about the A’s system. You can read the transcript here.

Tyler Soderstrom (Top 20 Prospect?):

     Thanks for chatting with us Mark! Did I cement myself in 2022 as one of the top 5 or 10 best hitters in all of the minors? Do you think a 60 hit/60 power actually might be light if I were to move off of the rigors of catching? Lastly, why haven’t the A’s tried playing me at 3rd if I have the athleticism and arm? My bat will beeven more valuable at a higher defensive value position.

Mark Chiarelli: Hi all. Thanks for taking the time to submit your questions. We have a loaded queue, so I’ll get right into it starting with Tyler Soderstrom, who remains Oakland’s No. 1 prospect for the third consecutive winter. There’s merit to the idea that moving off catcher enhances Soderstrom’s hitting ability, if for no other reason than reducing the risk of wear and tear/injury and simply remaining in the lineup more often. That wouldn’t materially affect the hit/power grades, though. Now, if Soderstrom continues to tighten his approach, perhaps that’s a different story. To your second point, Soderstrom’s bat is already a separator at a premium defensive position. That’s why you’ve seen the A’s continue to at least allow for the chance he develops into a serviceable defensive catcher.

Zac (NYC):

     Hi there, I’m curious about your thoughts on Brett Harris. How close was he to being in the top ten and what does he need to do to get there?

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Zac. The A’s player development staff is really high on Harris. He has a lot of useful skills, albeit without a clear carrying tool. He feels like a guy who gets to the big leagues on the strength of his strike-zone knowledge, bat-to-ball skills and defensive ability. He’s likely more of a multi-positional super utility type than a regular 3B unless the power takes another step. He should settle in near the back of the Top 20 when the full list is released.

Frederick (Boston):

     Hi Mark, thank you for the chat today! I was wondering what you read on Joey Estes was? He had kind of a disappointing season in 2022, is there still hope there that he can develop into something?

Mark Chiarelli: Sure thing, Frederick. It’s important to remember Estes’ age when contextualizing his performance in 2022. He was still just 20 years old at High-A. He still has the potential to be a back-of-the-rotation guy. The A’s think he struggled with rushing his delivery at times in 2022 and it led to inconsistent fastball command.

dave (Grayson, Ga):

     How far did Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes’ stock drop after their 2022 performances?

Mark Chiarelli: Cusick’s performance was more concerning, at least for me, than Estes. His velo was a tick or two down, he tinkered with the grip of his fastball and he still hasn’t really locked in a consistent secondary. There’s some reason to believe the rib injury he dealt with tossed everything out of whack, but there’s pretty considerable reliever risk here.

Nathan (Folsom, CA):

     Since Kyle Muller is 4 outs away from losing prospect status… who is next up to make the Top 10?

Mark Chiarelli: Denzel Clarke, Luis Medina and Jordan Diaz were among the names squeezed out of the list after the Sean Murphy trade.

Scott (Boston):

     How far has Euribiel Angeles fallen? What does he need to show in 2023 to jump back on the map?

Mark Chiarelli: He’s somewhere in the 20s. He has elite hand-eye coordination and makes a ton of contact. It’s just minimal impact right now and his over-aggressiveness leads to too much weak contact. There’s not much power potential here, either. I’d like to see him become more selective in his approach.

Nathan (Folsom, CA):

     Does Denzel Clarke start the 2023 season in AA?

Mark Chiarelli: It’s not a slam dunk, but he held his own in the fall league. I’ll say yes.

Bill B (Glen Allen, VA):

     Ruiz has been traded a few times already. Looks like a keeper given his recent results. seems like Oakland is a great landing spot for him. If he plays – do you think he gets 450 at bats – with the new bases in 2023, is he a legit 75sb guy who could lead the AL in SBs? Thanks

Mark Chiarelli: I’ll try to tackle a couple of Ruiz questions in this answer. He needs to be a keeper in order for the Murphy trade to look like less of a head-scratcher. Ruiz undoubtedly has dynamic speed and will benefit from the rule changes. There’s plenty of skepticism around the rest of the league about the impact potential of his bat, though. To your point, it does sound like the A’s hope Ruiz wins the starting CF job out of spring training, which isn’t a great sign for…

Rafael M. (Austin, TX):

     Esteury Ruiz seems to make Cristian Pache obsolete, No? Kind of sad to see so many Propects acquired before last season to already become irrelevant just one year later. Zach Logue is already gone. Adam Oller is looking like a 4A Pitcher, and now Pache is looking like a backup at best. Don’t the A’s need to stress Quality over Quantity in these Trades?

Mark Chiarelli: …Cristian Pache. He isn’t prospect-eligible so I didn’t spend as much time digging in on Pache as others in Oakland’s system, but his approach remains a significant concern. I’m just not convinced he’ll hit enough to justify a considerable outfield role, even despite the defense. As for the early returns on the haul from Oakland’s teardown? Shea Langeliers graduated as Top 100 prospect. I’m not part of BA’s Top 100 process, but I’d think Kyle Muller could sneak into the very back of the list this year. I’d understand why A’s fans are a little disappointed they haven’t netted more than that, though. The top of the system is still pretty light.

Alex (Bay Area):

     What are the chances Tyler Soderstrom ever catches even 50% of games given the A’s have Shea Langliers on the MLB roster for the forseeable future? Would it be more prudent for the A’s to move Soderstrom off catching in 2023 and try him at 3rd and LF to provide some more defensive versatility? It seems like his bat could handle MLB pitching today.

Mark Chiarelli: I’d put the chances of Soderstrom sticking at catcher at less than 50%, if that’s what you’re asking.

Jack (San Jose):

     The A’s have taken some well deserved heat in the past for their inability to develop raw prospects, succeeding instead usually with low-upside, high-ceiling types. Is there hope that this may change with guys like Lawrence Butler or Junior Perez, or do they continue to lag behind the rest of the league with regards to player dev

Mark Chiarelli: I understand the sentiment, but it cuts both ways. We’re not *that* far removed from an A’s core of Olson/Chapman/Semien/Bassitt/etc that legitimately contended in the AL West. There’s several examples from that core of either homegrown prospects or acquisitions who exceeded expectation after getting into the A’s system. The A’s need to hope that happens again, because the returns on the Chapman, Olson and Murphy trades haven’t been overwhelming. Re: the two names you mentioned, I’m a big fan of Lawrence Butler.

Manny the Cab Driver (Bronx, NY):

     I don’t understand why the Team is pushing Zack Gelof to 2nd Base instead of 3rd Base. Can he not make the Throws accurately from Third Base?

Mark Chiarelli: The A’s think Gelof’s arm fits better at second. His throwing mechanics can be inconsistent at third base, especially when he has to set his feet and throw over the top. I wouldn’t rule out CF for Gelof, either.

Rueben P. (Sacramento, CA.):

     Pitcher Jorge Juan is intriguing, but can’t stay Healthy. Is the Team planning on moving him into a Bullpen role in 2023 or perhaps are keeping him in the Double-A rotation for now?

Mark Chiarelli: Considering Juan’s age and injury history, I think a multi-inning relief role is ultimately a more likely outcome.

Garrett (Phoenix, AZ):

     Is there any Hope left for Bonus Baby shortstop Robert Puason? He’s really struggled with Contact issues with the Bat. Can he at least Fill a platoon-Infielder role at the big league level ?

Mark Chiarelli: It’s not good. Puason really struggles with his approach and breaking ball recognition. He also makes too many mistakes at shortstop and the A’s dabbled with a shift to the outfield after the season. It’s tough to envision any kind of future role in the big leagues considering back-to-back seasons at Low-A with a strikeout rate north of 35%.

Dexter (Flamethrower U.):

     There seems to be an Effort to Draft or Trade for hard- throwing Pitchers in recent years. This is a change in the Team’s M.O. from targeting Strike-throws. – Miller, Cusick, Medina, Juan, Peluse, Watters, etc. Most of them have Reliever Risk. Whom is most likely from tihs group to remain a Starting pitcher ?

Mark Chiarelli: Miller.

Tim (SLC):

     Was there a big difference in the way the A’s evaluated Esteury Ruiz compared to the market?

Mark Chiarelli: I’d certainly say so. I’d encourage you to listen to BA’s breakdown of the deal on its podcast — J.J. Cooper, Carlos Collazo and Geoff Pontes did a great job contextualizing how other teams were surprised with the deal.

Trent (Springfield):

     Any word on the status of Pedro Pineda? It seemed like he was highly touted, so much that he was perhaps rushed a little, and then mysteriously disappeared. I’m wondering if there was an injury or some other issue.

Mark Chiarelli: I’ll tackle a couple of Pineda questions here. He’s closer to the back of Oakland’s list. Similar to Robert Puason, Pineda clearly wasn’t ready for Low-A and struggled with pitch recognition, especially in the strike zone. Most scouts struggled to even evaluate him. The swing-and-miss in the zone was surprising considering his amateur track record. The A’s said Pineda dealt with a shoulder issue, so perhaps that played into it a bit, but I just think he was overmatched. The tools are still there.

Trevor Hale (San Jose, CA.):

     I’m surprised the Matt Chapman trade hasn’t gotten someone in the A’s front offce Fired. That trade is looking worse than the Josh Donaldson trade already. Gunnar Hoglund is damaged goods. Kirby Snead, Kevin Smith and Zach Logue are clearly 4A Players, and no better than the players the A’s already had in their System. Just a horrible trade of Quality for Quantity. And we wonder why we are in Last Place? The whole Return is based on what Hoglund can provide, but still inexcusable.

Mark Chiarelli: Yeah, this is a rough one so far. The A’s need to get Hoglund healthy. The stuff wasn’t as firm in a *very* brief sample size, but it was three legit pitches and plus command at Ole Miss. Here’s hoping a normal offseason allows him to return healthy in 2023.

Noah (LA):

     What I’ve seen of Susac, he reminds me a lot of a Gary Sanchez (or perhaps Zunino) type, where his value drops significantly if can’t stick at catcher, because his hit tool is solid but not great. Is that a fair assessment? Where would you say he ranks at this stage of his development amongst those two examples?

Mark Chiarelli: You could say that about a lot of catchers. I try to avoid comps. Zunino went No. 3 overall and was a top-20 prospect in baseball. Sanchez ranked in the 30-50 range for quite some time. I’m not sure Susac ever gets that high, but I do think he sticks at catcher.

Andre Dawson (Montreal, Canada):

     Very surprised my Luv Child Denzel Clarke is not Ranked in the Top 10 Prospects Listing. I mean, look at the guy, watch him play. He is an ELITE athlete, even at the Big League level. At worse, he will be a Defensive-minded Outfielder that provides occasional Pop.

Mark Chiarelli: I’ll tell you what — Clarke was in the A’s Top 10 prior to the Sean Murphy trade and, if it were solely up to me, I’d still try to find a home for him in there. Clarke is a ton of fun and an elite defender. The strikeouts are a concern. He needs to settle on a stance/setup — he’s a bit of a tinkerer. But he has one of the highest ceilings of any prospect in the A’s system.

Rob (Alaska):

     This is a bit of a crystal ball question, but given how far Soderstrom’s bat is ahead of his glove, and the presence of Langeliers meaning they don’t need an everyday catcher, do you think Tyler’s future is most likely to be: 1B/DH only, 1B primary and Sunday catcher, or 1B primary and third-on-the-depth-chart catcher you only use in an emergency?

Mark Chiarelli: I’ll go with the latter.

Alex (Bay Area):

     How close was Henry Bolte to the top 10? He was known for having some of the loudest tools of the 2022 draft but was seen as raw. That seemed to be true with Bolte striking out 50% of his plate appearances in his brief taste of the ACL. Is there some worry that his hit tool might be a 30-40 and that he’ll have trouble tapping into his power much like former high first round pick Austin Beck?

Mark Chiarelli: Pretty close. You’re spot on — he’s a toolshed. Dynamic power and outfield defense. I do have concerns about the hitting ability and put a 40 on the hit tool. His swing needs a lot of work and it sounds like the A’s began that process at instructs, toning down his leg kick and trying to get his stance more square to the pitcher.

Jared C. (Alameda, CA.):

     Very surprised to see Kyle Muller ranked ahead of Ken Waldichuk. Waldichuk was on several Top 100 Prospects listings last season while Muller was not. What has changed? Also, will Muller’s addition push A.J. Puk back to a Reliever role? I’ve read the FO wants to give Puk a chance to earn a Rotation role in 2023.

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Jared. I can’t speak to other outlets, but Waldichuk has never cracked the Top 100 at BA. As far as Puk goes, I don’t read it that way. I’m not convinced Puk can handle a starting workload, but I don’t think there’s a lot of harm in building him up this winter.

Jim (In Maine):

     Do you believe Hogan Harris will start some games for Oakland at the major league this season? Thanks.

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Jim. You’re smart to hone in on Harris. The A’s are pretty high on him entering 2023 and added him to the 40-man this winter. He could get to Oakland by the second half of the year. He’ll need to refine his strike-throwing and continue to develop his slider at Triple-A Las Vegas first.

Nathan (Folsom, CA):

     Logan Davidson ran hot and cold during the 2022 season. What’s his projection going forward?

Mark Chiarelli: It’s likely a multi-positional bench role in the big leagues. He’s a solid defender with above-average raw power, he just doesn’t make enough contact.

Bastian Booger (Bishop, VA):

     Jake Watters. What do you think of him as a prospect?

Mark Chiarelli: Someone to keep an eye on. Love the arm talent. Slider is a total hammer. Probably a multi-inning guy at best considering the command wavers. He’s a name in the mix for the “Next 10” portion of the Prospect Handbook.

Nathan (Folsom, CA):

     Why is Ken Waldichuk, with a mid-rotation ceiling and 34+ innings of effective big league experience, ranked behind Kyle Muller, who has a #4 ceiling and 49 innings of big league experience?

Mark Chiarelli: Well, there’s ceiling and then the likelihood of a player reaching that ceiling. There’s not a ton of separation between the two in my eyes. I’d like to see Waldichuk’s command and ability to repeat his delivery continue to improve.

Buddy (Sacramento, CA):

     I was really hoping that Ryan Cusick would work out but to this point he’s been atrocious. Have you heard anything about how the A’s are developing him and what they think of his future prospects? Did he make the top 30?

Mark Chiarelli: Ryan Cusick and Esteury Ruiz were among the most popular names in today’s mailbag. I’d anticipate the A’s continue to develop Cusick as a starter, but I’m not sure they’re even 100% on whether he returns to Double-A or not. I’m just not sold he can remain a starter if the changeup and/or slider don’t take big strides.

A’s Fan (Oaktown):

     The A’s feel like they are in a rut with trades. Revisiting the Olson and Murphy trades, those trades seem to have been terrible. While I feel like Langeliers could still end up a platoon catcher, how troublesome does the Matt Olson trade look today? Pache looks like an offensive liability and Ryan Cusick also looks like a non-major leaguer thus far. Following that they recently moved Murphy, who at worst is already a legitimate above average starting catcher, they get multiple pieces, but none of which will likely be as good as him. Then on top of that, Murphy signs a good deal with Atlanta that Oakland could have afforded. Seems like they should have evaluated Shea this year to know if they can afford to move Murphy. Do you feel like Billy Beane no longer as the everyday general manager, the Athletics moves have been less effective? His first round picks have been really bad considering what picks were available almost immediately after their picks in ’16 (Quantrill), ’18 (GRodriguez), and ’20 (Volpe) and then they take another catcher this past year with Langeliers/Murphy under contract. Not to mention they gave Luzardo as well for Marte. All that to say, what in the world are the Athletics doing? Are they rebuilding or what?

Mark Chiarelli: It’s funny seeing this question…

Tim (SLC):

     Don’t the A’s deserve more credit that they get from national media for their approach to trades? Everybody swoons poor Oakland when they’re bad, but they’ve gone bad to good to bad to good to bad in the same timeline that Texas Baltimore Detroit Kansas City have all just been bad. They go out and get high floor guys in the upper minors and by the end of this season should have a decently competitive product on the field.

Mark Chiarelli: …and this question back-to-back. I suppose it depends how the criticism is framed, right? Oakland’s front office has operated pretty effectively within the constraints and limitations put in place by the club’s ownership. But it’s a shame ownership doesn’t spend more (every club could) and that’s probably the foundation for a lot of the criticism of Oakland’s entire situation right now. The A’s front office made a series of shrewd trade acquisitions to set up the core that closed out the 2010s. As far as the early returns from the latest teardown, I think it’s fair to question whether Oakland identified enough high-end talent. They’ve traded Sean Murphy, Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt over the last calendar year. They don’t have a single clear-cut Top 100 Prospect to show for it entering 2023. That’s disappointing.

Bobby (NC):

     Do you think Gelof has a chance to be the starting 2b for the A’s in 2023? Or does he fit better somewhere else?

Mark Chiarelli: Unlikely, at least to start the season. He needs more reps at Triple-A.

Bruce (Aberdeen SD):

     Thanks, Mark. If I can have a quick two-fer, I’d appreciate it. (1) What are the prospects for Henry Bolte? and (2) Have the A’s completely given up on Austin Beck?

Mark Chiarelli: Sure thing, Bruce. Bolte’s development feels like one that will be a slow burn. As far as Beck goes, his name rarely comes up anymore in conversations with evaluators. He can’t stay on the field.

Danny (Texas):

     Colin Peluse had a great AFL. Oakland this year in the pen? Your thoughts. Thanks for the chat.

Mark Chiarelli: Peluse has always been a favorite of mine, but he stalled a bit in 2022. The bullpen seems like a more likely outcome, although it’s not a lock he reaches Oakland this year.

Dave M (San Jose, CA):

     Is Luis Medina a starter?

Mark Chiarelli: He’s a bullpen guy for me, and potentially a very good one.

Riley L. (Scottsdale, AZ):

     Mason Miller’s fastball is only Graded at 70 ? What does a Grade 75 or 80 look like ? Aroldis Chapman?

Mark Chiarelli: Let’s end with Mason Miller, one of the darlings of the Arizona Fall League and one of the biggest risers in Oakland’s system. Chapman’s fastball at its best was an example of an 80-grade fastball. BA pretty rarely (if ever) submits 65s or 75s. Velo isn’t the only thing to take into consideration when evaluating a fastball, either. Still, Miller is exciting. He could become even more impactful if he dials in the cutter in 2023. There’s injury risk and he needs to prove he can hold his stuff in a starting role, but he’ll be the best pitching prospect in Oakland’s system once Kyle Muller graduates.

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