Oakland Athletics 2021 Top MLB Prospects Chat

Image credit: A.J. Puk (Photo by Cody Glenn/Getty Images)

Tim (SLC):

     Does Soderstrom ranking ahead of Puk mean he is likely a top 100 guy too? Or has Puk had one too many injuries that he’s fallen off that list.

Mark Chiarelli: Hi all! We have a ton of questions in the queue so I’ll get started a few minutes early. I do want to thank you all for your support of BA — Our prospect chats are subscriber exclusive. Our subscribers are the backbone of everything we do. Let’s start with Soderstrom vs. Puk since it’s on the minds of many…

Mark Chiarelli: The short answer (and I’m not trying to be coy) is that both are still possibilities at this point. We had a lengthy debate about Soderstrom vs. Puk at 1. To illustrate how close they were, we even had Puk in the No. 1 spot at one point. But Soderstrom’s offensive potential and rave reviews from a limited 2020 professional showing, coupled with the clouded nature of Puk’s future following another significant surgery, gave Soderstrom the upper hand. Both are in the mix at the back end of the the Top 100 right now. I’m not as involved with the Top 100 selection process as other members of our staff. It’s safe to say Puk will drop, but I do think it’s possible both make the list once it’s finalized in the coming days.

W. O’Donnell (Over There):

     Do you still see A.J. Puk making it as a high-end starter or will his recent injuries force him to be a lights-out reliever?

Mark Chiarelli: The A’s are cautiously optimistic Puk will be ready for spring training after undergoing shoulder surgery in the fall, and so far it appears like he’ll be given the opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation. Obviously two significant surgeries in three years (Tommy John in 2018) and the fact he’s thrown less than 200 innings since he was drafted in 2016 adds a healthy amount of skepticism to the profile. If he finds a way to stay healthy I think the arsenal is too good to not at least try him in the rotation. But, as we saw in limited doses in 2019, the idea of Puk as a multi-inning gem out of the bullpen is awfully enticing.

F. McCloud (Over Here):

     A lot of the Top 10 prospects for the A’s look to be on the older side compared to other clubs. Can we expect the A’s to have a flood of call-ups this year? How good are the players behind the 10?

Mark Chiarelli: It’s a good observation, and it extends into their Top 30 as well with guys like Jordan Weems and Seth Brown still prospect eligible. I could see Puk (if he’s healthy), Jefferies, Heim and potentially Kaprielian all finding roles in Oakland relatively early in 2021. Barrera was knocking on the door last year and Sheldon Neuse, who is just outside the Top 10, figures to compete for a role as well. As far as the talent beyond the Top 10, I’d expect the A’s to rank near the bottom of our organization talent rankings, but they’ve always been good at unearthing and developing talent in the past.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     First rounder Austin Beck was on last years top ten prospect list, but has dropped off the list this year. Can you comment on the prognosis for Austin in years to come?

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Karl. Of course, no player benefitted from a lack of minor league development time in 2020, but Beck has to rank up there among A’s farmhands impacted the most by a lost season. He was not invited to the Alternate Site and was a bit rusty at the start of instructs, although he picked up steam a bit with two weeks to go in camp. The A’s still believe a lot of what made Beck appealing as a draft prospect is true — he blends loud tools with a chance to stick in CF. He needs to string together more competitive ABs consistently. He also tried to chase more power early as a pro and made changes to his swing geared toward launch angle that didn’t work. The A’s are hopeful he’s made the requisite adjustments to get his barrel back in the zone to make enough contact. No doubt 2021 is a huge year for Beck.

John A. (San Francisco):

     What is the likelihood of Austin Beck being an impactful offensive player in the majors? Or will his glove be his carrying card. Is he Manny Margot?

Mark Chiarelli: Another Beck question. I would say the likelihood of Beck living up to his draft status has decreased, but there is still a shot at the bat being impactful if he can reel in the swing and miss. Beck has been consistently young for his level so far as a pro and was raw even coming out of high school. Sometimes it just takes a bit longer to click.

Tim (SLC):

     On a podcast recently, Kyle Glaser made reference to the A’s having a bottom 3 farm system (along with Houston and Washington). Is that how most in the industry see it? It certainly isn’t a top half after graduations of Luzardo and Murphy, but it seems like they have enough depth to keep it further from the floor.

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Tim. While the exact order could still change a bit depending on Jan. 15 international signings, I would expect the A’s are closer to the bottom five or so.

Ken (Lakewood CA):

     Am I wrong to think Jonah Heim has the ability to be a starting MLB catcher but is completely blocked by Murphy? As such, might the A’s be able to trade him for something else they need? Thanks.

Mark Chiarelli: I don’t think you’re wrong, Ken. There are people within the A’s organization who think Heim could be a second-division regular type in a different situation. That said, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy you’d look to move. He’s made notable improvements over the last two years or so and has a shot to settle in as Murphy’s backup in 2021.

GangGreen23 (Tracy, CA):

     Do you see Greg Deichmann getting a chance at platooning in Left Field with Mark Canha? He appears really close to being major league ready. Got to like the Power potential in his swing.

Mark Chiarelli: Deichmann is interesting. He’ll turn 26 in May and Oakland added him to the 40-man, so you have to imagine he’ll get a shot in relatively short order. But he still only has 300 or so ABs at Double-A or above coupled with an impressive showing at the AFL last year, so it’s not quite the body of work you’d expect. He may be more of a candidate to help in the second half of 2021. He can handle both corner outfield positions.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Luis Barrera made quite a jump from #23 last year to #7 this year. Can you give us more insight on him? Which other A’s outfield prospects will move up in the Top 30 rankings?

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Mike. Let’s talk about another outfielder in the mix for 2021. As you noted, Barrera made a big leap, which is a tad unusual this year considering a lack of minor league games in 2020. But Barrera was arguably the most impressive hitter at Oakland’s alternate site in 2020 and one of the players folks within the org were most excited about this summer. Barrera is a dynamic player and takes an aggressive approach at the plate. Makes a lot of contact, which is something the A’s could both use and are intrigued by. The aggressiveness can hurt him at times but he showed a much more refined eye at the alt site. I think he’s knocking on the door. An outfielder to keep an eye on lower in the A’s 30 is 2020 draft pick Michael Guldberg. He really impressed at instructs.

Ken (Lakewood CA):

     Watching Laureano play CF is a joy. Will his production at the plate ever come close to his defensive abilities? Or should those expectations be tempered somewhat?

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Ken. He is a blast to watch. As far as offensive expectations: We ranked Laureano as Oakland’s 29th prospect entering 2019 and had concerns about swing-and-miss limiting his overall offensive potential. I’m not sure there was ever an expectation the bat would catch the glove. But I don’t think it’s misguided to hope and expect a 2021 season somewhere in between what he showed in 2019 (126wRC+) and last year’s results in a bizarre season.

Nathan (California):

     Which of Puk/Jefferies/Kaprielian are more likely to make the 2021 starting rotation? Long term, what are their likely roles in Oakland?

Mark Chiarelli: Obviously so much hinges on Puk’s health. Assuming he’s ready, I think the order you posted makes sense.

Tim (SLC):

     If the A’s decide to go with an in-house candidate to replace Grossman as the LHH outfielder, who would that be between Seth Brown, Luis Barrera, Ka’ai Tom, Dustin Fowler, Greg Deichmann or Skye Bolt?

Mark Chiarelli: So many to choose from! Seth Brown and Barrera make the most sense to me as far as getting first dibs on a spot. Brown hasn’t showed it much in two brief cameos, but the power is legit and he’s worked hard to make himself a playable left fielder.

Tim (SLC):

     Interesting that Buelvas was left off the top 10 after tearing up the AZL in 2019. What’s the outlook on him going forward?

Mark Chiarelli: He didn’t miss by much and was in the mix for the back end of the Top 10. Buelvas had a ton of momentum entering 2020 after hitting .300/.392/.899 in 160 ABs in the AZL in 2019, and was one of three teenage prospects invited to the Alternate Site. 2020 was tougher on Buelvas — he was overmatched at times against much older pitching and looked a bit tired at instructs — but that’s to be expected. I’m excited to see what he can do in 2021 if and when minor league games return, and he’s a guy who could rise up this list relatively quickly if he continues to perform.

Dylan (Hawaii):

     Aloha! Is Tyler Soderstrom projected to be a regular starter/ all star? Will he be on the BA top 100? Also, any updates on AJ Puk? Is he a top 100 prospect? Any other Athletics who could be in the top 100 consideration? Pauson? Thanks for you time.

Mark Chiarelli: Aloha! There are folks within the organization who dream on Soderstrom’s bat to the point where you envision a future all-star. Similar to the answer above, both Soderstrom and Puk are in the conversation at the back of the Top 100. Those are the only two from the A’s organization.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Thanks for the chat! With Sean Murphy as the clear #1 catcher, it seems like Jonah Heims is the main backup. Where does that leave Austin Allen (AAA forever barring injuries?)? Can you go over any other catcher depth in the system?

Mark Chiarelli: The A’s system doesn’t have a ton of depth, but catching depth is a bright spot. Outside of the names you already mentioned, both Kyle McCann and Drew Millas also received positive reviews from the people I talked with. As far as Austin Allen goes, he’s a tough one. I think it was telling that Oakland turned to Heim down the stretch. There are longstanding concerns about Allen’s glove behind the plate. The profile is mostly the same from his time in San Diego: Prodigious power, but no real home defensively, which makes it tough to envision a scenario where he’s getting consistent ABs. I imagine he’ll compete with Seth Brown as a lefty bat off the bench with power.

Dennis Jenders (Twitter):

     Love that swing from Tyler Soderstrom, but where does he fit on the diamond? Do the A’s see him at catcher or long-term move elsewhere?

Mark Chiarelli: I agree, Dennis, the swing is pretty. Everyone I’ve talked to with the A’s said they’ll give Soderstrom every chance to stick at catcher and believe he can do it. But the glove is way, way behind the bat, so it may become a test in patience. He’s athletic enough where either LF or 1B seem feasible, and there were even some evaluators on the amateur circuit who wondered whether he could play 3B prior to the draft.

Bertram (Taiwan):

     What about Davidson has lessened the concerns about the bat? It seems like a move off SS is inevitable unless the bat is that much better than Allen’s given Allen’s glove? If he ends up hitting 250/330/450 does he have the glove to still help?

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Bertram. The A’s were impressed with the gains Davidson made in terms of strike zone awareness. There is length in the swing, no doubt, but he also showcased selectivity against some older arms at the alt site. Oakland had three impressive SS prospects — Davidson, Allen and Puason — in San Jose, and all three rotated in at multiple infield positions. While Davidson isn’t the defender Allen is, he worked hard to clean up his actions and the A’s think he can stick at SS. I’m not ready to say a move is inevitable.

Puzzled (Sacramento, CA):

     Why did the A’s pick up Outfielder Ka’ai Tom in the Rule 5 Draft when they already have a multitude of internal Lefty-Batting candidates waiting for an opportunity? Specifically speaking about Seth Brown, Dustin Fowler, Skye Bolt, Luis Barrera, Buddy Reed and Greg Deichmann. I mean shouldn’t we give our own players a chance at filling that Role first?

Mark Chiarelli: A couple of Ka’ai Tom questions. Admittedly, it surprised me a bit too. As you mentioned there are a number of internal candidates. But more competition isn’t necessarily a bad thing — ultimately someone will win the job. Brown, Fowler and Bolt have all had varying levels of opportunity and none really emerged. I could see Barrera and Tom battling for the same role in spring training. Deichmann may not be ready quite yet, and while Buddy Reed does have a tantalizing toolset, he hasn’t pieced it all together.

Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN Studios, CT):

     If this Chat was held two weeks from now, and assuming the A’s are able to finally sign Dominican Outfielder Pedro Pineda on January 15th, where would he slot in on the A’s prospect List? Top 5? Top 10? Is there a player Comp for him?

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Mel. I’ll only tell you if you can help me sift through the QBs in this year’s draft class. Just kidding. But I asked Ben Badler, out international expert, for a brief report on Pineda. He noted Pineda is an impressive power/speed threat but there’s a reasonable degree of uncertainty considering the restrictions on scouting and lack of development because of the pandemic. I imagine he’d be in the mix somewhere in 10-15.

Avery (Columbia, SC):

     Could Clemson alum Logan Davidson theoretically replace Marcus Semien as the A’s every day Shortstop, if Marcus Semien leaves via Free Agency? I heard he was impressive at the A’s alternate camp in San Jose.

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Avery. You’re right, he was impressive. But he also has 205 professional ABs to his name and posted a .239/.345/.332 line at short-season Vermont in 2019. In a normal offseason, the A’s seem like a prime candidate to bring in a one-year bridge type vet to replace Semien. Obviously this isn’t a normal offseason and it’s unclear how much flexibility Oakland has to add players. So I’d say Nick Allen is first up if they had to replace internally.

T.K. (NJ):

     I am just curious as to why BA has Nick Allen as the A’s SS in 2024 over higher ranked prospect, Robert Puason? Is that because you don’t feel Puason will be in the big leagues by then or is it because you think he’ll move off the SS position? I assume because he’s just too far off given his 60 grade for fielding and 70 grade arm. Thanks for the input!

Mark Chiarelli: Hi T.K. The 2024 lineups are a staff-wide exercise, and I actually did have Puason in there initially before we decided to go with a different iteration. Your hunch is accurate — Puason still hasn’t made his pro debut and doesn’t fit the bill as someone who could fast track their way through the minors.

Nathan (California):

     Is Nick Allen trending towards being a starting SS in the Show by 2022?

Mark Chiarelli: The glove play right now. The jury is still out on whether there’s enough impact in the bat to hold down a starting role long-term. The A’s may be able to platoon their way through 2021 without finding a true starting shortstop, but I do think Allen will get a shot at some point.

Matt (OAK):

     I read that Robert Puason looked pretty bad. I know it was expected for him to be overmatched getting sent to the alternate site rather than an age appropriate rookie league but is he now no longer seen as a potential fast track guy like some industry experts thought before? Are there any concerns of a Lazarito part two?

Mark Chiarelli: I can’t speak for what you may have read elsewhere, but I’m not sure we ever tabbed Puason as a fast-track type. He’s still quite raw. So I’m not sure he looked “bad.” There were plenty of times where he looked like a teenager trying to keep up with veterans at Oakland’s alternate site. But all the same tools that made Puason one of the more anticipated 2019 international signings are in tact.

Andy (Bay Area):

     In a redraft, would Tyler Soderstrom now be seen as the best prep bat? The only other catcher I can think of with a 60 hit/power currently in the minors is Adley Rutschman. Does Sodersteom have best catching prospect in baseball after Adley graduates potential? Based on what you’ve heard, do the As try to develop him behind the plate knowing itll take an extra 2+ years or more him off C soon to get him acclimated at a new position and let his bat move through the system faster?

Mark Chiarelli: I think it’s far too early to say for sure considering there were no games in 2020. For what it’s worth, Zac Veen, Austin Hendrick, Robert Hassell and PCA were the only prep bats we had ranked ahead of Soderstrom in the 2020 draft class, and the first three were Top 100 prospects. As far as his position, the A’s have given every indication they want to give Soderstrom a chance to stick behind the plate before they entertain moving him.

Canadian Cardinals Fan (Canada):

     How good is Luzardo really? Frontline ace or more of a Robin than a Batman?

Mark Chiarelli: I think all of the ingredients that made Luzardo a top-of-the-rotation type prospect are still there.

Maurice (Galveston, TX):

     The A’s signed a trio of International ball players that are Sons of Famous fathers – Danny Bautista Jr., George Bell Jr., Kevin Richards and Luis Carrasco. How are they progressing through the system? We have not heard much about them in a few years. Thanks.

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Maurice! Bautista and Richards were names that came up during the process of building out the 30, and it’s notable that Bautista earned an invitation to instructs this fall, although neither of them made the Top 30. Richards is still tooled up, but needs to improve his pitch recognition to do more damage regularly. He made some improvements throughout the course of 2019 in Vermont. Bautista earned positive reviews for his makeup and the bat, although he’s probably destined for a corner.

Old Timer (Raleigh NC):

     Gus Varland and Brayan Buelvas. Anything there to pique the interest of an A’s fan? Thanks.

Mark Chiarelli: 100%. I touched on Buelvas a bit earlier, so I’ll focus on Varland here, who returned from Tommy John surgery to throw 8 innings at instructs this fall and was up to 94-95 and showed a feel for his breaking ball. The A’s tabbed Varland as a potential breakout candidate in 2018 prior to his surgery. The delivery is still a bit effortful but it isn’t disqualifying. He’s a pitcher to watch in this system in 2021.

Bob Watson (New York – NY):

     With Grossman heading to Detroit, what’s the status of the OF system? Will Bolt &/or Reed have a shot to break through?

Mark Chiarelli: I touched on some of the other corner guys earlier, so I’ll focus on Bolt here. He is on the 40-man roster and is probably closer to contributing to Reed, but the general feeling around Bolt is that he’s been passed by others in the system.

Tracy (El Sobrante, CA):

     I have concerns about our 3rd Round draft pick Michael Guldberg, the Outfielder from Georgia Tech. He appears to lack a home on Defense and physicality on Offense. If he couldn’t hit for power with an Aluminum bat, it will be even worse hitting with a Wood bat. I think he’s an overdraft. His Hit Tool is his lone Tool. Please tell me I’m wrong.

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Tracy. Guldberg was actually one of the pleasant surprises at instructs, showing a bit more pop than perhaps the A’s initially expected. You’re right — he’s not overly physical and power will never be part of his game. But the speed certainly plays and the hit tool is solid. The A’s believe Guldberg can stick in CF, although it’s possible he gets some reps at 2B down the line, too.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Is Lazaro Armenteros still in the #10-#20 rank range? Is his alarming K rate a giant red flag that will prevent him from being a MLB contributor?

Mark Chiarelli: ‘Lazarito’ will slot in near the end of Oakland’s Top 30 when the Handbook is released. The K rate is alarming, as was his omission from both the alternate site and instructs. I mentioned earlier that Austin Beck was among the players most hurt by a lost season, and Armenteros is another prospect in that conversation. The tools — namely the power/speed combination — are still loud enough to take notice. He’s a nuisance for opposing teams on the bases. But he simply doesn’t get on base enough, as you can see based off his 42% strikeout rate in 2019. He’s been doomed by a combination of breaking ball recognition issues and his bat not staying in the zone long enough. The A’s seem mostly stumped by Armenteros right now, but he is only 21 years old, so there’s still time to piece it together.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Where are the biggest holes in the A’s minor league system?

Mark Chiarelli: I’d say pitching upside. They only have four pitchers among their Top 15 prospects. Three of them: Puk, Jefferies, Kaprielian have all dealt with injuries. The fourth, Jeff Criswell, is fighting a healthy amount of reliever risk. The A’s need some arms to break through in 2021.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Is Miguel Romero a likely or just possible bullpen arm from the 2021 A’s? Was he at the alternate site?

Mark Chiarelli: Romero was at the alternate site in 2020, where he displayed a changeup he taught himself how to throw by watching YouTube videos. I do think he gets a chance to contribute at some point in 2021.

Rocco (Da’ Village, NY):

     Does RHP James Kaprelian make the 2021 team in a Bullpen role? Seems like there are more Openings in the Bullpen as opposed to the Rotation.

Mark Chiarelli: I wouldn’t close the door on Kaprielian in either a starter or bulk innings type role, but you’re right, there are more questions in the bullpen with Hendriks, Petit and Soria all departing in FA.

Old Timer (Raleigh NC):

     If the 2020 draft were rerun today, how much higher would Tyler Soderstrom be selected? Thanks.

Mark Chiarelli: Interesting question, although I don’t think enough time has gone by for other teams to admit they may have missed :). It was surprising to see Soderstrom fall to No. 26, although it sounded like there was a legit possibility he made it to school at UCLA. There were certain teams his camp felt more comfortable with and the A’s, being from Northern California and familiar with some people within the organization already, were one of them. It’s worth reiterating, too, that he signed the second-largest bonus ever for a prep catcher behind Joe Mauer.

Mike (Honolulu):

     With SS prospects at the 4-5-6 slots, can you describe their paths to the big leagues, taking into account their various development levels?

Mark Chiarelli: Allen is closest. Davidson made the some of the most strides of any prospect at the alternate site. Puason will take some time, but has the highest ceiling.

Bertram (Taiwan):

     Thanks for the chat, love the list! Pleasantly surprised to see Jefferies so high on the list. The A’s love their Berkeley boys! The K:BB ratio is amazing. Is that more of a testament of stuff, command or a combination of both? Far often we see guys dominate at a lower level with lesser stuff but great command that doesn’t translate at higher levels.

Mark Chiarelli: We actually had an interesting conversation among the staff the other day. It seems like pitchers with high marks for their command seem to also have great feel for a changeup, which is true in Jefferies case. It’s not as if Jefferies’ stuff is overly vanilla. He can run his fastball up to 96-97, pairs it with a plus change, and even his average cutter/slider play up a bit because of the strike-throwing you mentioned. I’m excited to see him compete for a spot in Oakland’s rotation.

Mike (Honolulu):

     What do the A’s think of Dustin Fowler these days? He’s out of options. Big club or DFA?

Mark Chiarelli: Fowler’s name didn’t come up much in this process. There is an opportunity for a bench/4th OF role in Oakland this year, but I’m not sure he’s first in line to take it right now.

Buford (Norcross, GA):

     Question about Georgia Tech catcher Kyle McCann. Does he project as a “ 3-True Outcomes Hitter “ ( Walk, Strikeout, or Home Run )?

Mark Chiarelli: He does profile like a traditional three-outcome hitter, yes. McCann showed immense power at the alternate site. There’s still big time swing-and-miss and he can get pull-happy at times, but the A’s were impressed with his improvement and focus in 2020 compared to 2019. He was one of their big alt-site risers and showed more of a willingness to refine his catching, especially blocking + framing. Being around older players was a useful experience for him and the A’s hope it translates into 2021. He at least has a shot to stick at catcher. I don’t know that was always the case.

Cleetus (Bentonville):

     Are pitching prospects Wyatt Marks, Dalton Sawyer, and Alex Pantuso still in the A’s system? I heard they may have Retired recently.

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Cleetus. Marks and Pantuso have retired. I believe Sawyer is still in the system.

Victor (Fresno, CA):

     I’m loving the Jeff Criswell draft pick. Big strong pitcher from Michigan with physicality. How long until he reaches the Big leagues? He has Plus stuff.

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Victor. The A’s want to give Criswell a chance to start, but even they recognize there is some reliever risk there. Criswell already has some of the loudest stuff in the system. They began to work with him on his delivery at instructs — it’s effortful and they worked with him on getting more consistent with his foot strike. But he’s pretty analytically savvy and receptive to learning . If he eventually moves to the bullpen he could jump on a faster track to Oakland.

Jonathan (Syracuse, NY):

     How close was Jeff Criswell to making the list, and have scouts had a chance to see him pitch after signing?

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Jonathan. Criswell threw 12 innings at instructs and will show up in the mid-teens in the Handbook.

Nathan (California):

     Where do Jordan Diaz and Joshwan Wright rank in the organization?

Mark Chiarelli: Diaz will rank in the back of the teens. Wright didn’t make the 30.

Old Timer (Raleigh NC):

     Do the A’s have any pitching outside the top 10 who are likely to project as a mid-rotation starter? I ask because it looks awfully thin to me. Thanks.

Mark Chiarelli: It is thin. Most of Oakland’s starting pitching prospects outside the Top 10 project more toward the back of a rotation, although there is excitement around both Gus Varland and RHP Colin Peluse, who is an under-the-radar name to watch in their system this year. He arrived at instructs throwing noticeably harder.

Jorge Mateo (San Diego, CA):

     Did the A’s make a mistake keeping Vimael Machin on the team instead of myself? I have Elite speed and more Tools, I could also replace Marcus Semien at Shortstop whereas Machin is strictly a 2nd Baseman?

Mark Chiarelli: I’m not sure I’d call it a mistake — Mateo has yet to really translate his skills to production consistently. I’m also intrigued by OF Junior Perez, who Oakland added at the PTBNL in the Mateo deal in November. He showed considerable raw power in the AZL in 2019 and should join Buelvas as another really fun outfield prospect at the lower levels in 2021.

Steve (CA):

     Who are some sleepers you like outside the top 10?

Mark Chiarelli: Junior Perez is fun. Colin Peluse was running his fastball up to 98 at instructs. Was that because he didn’t pitch for several months? Can he sustain it? We don’t know yet, but he added some muscle to his legs and surprised the A’s this fall. If the velo bump sticks he becomes one of the more intriguing arms outside the Top 10. I’m also a fan of Drew Millas, and I think Wandisson Charles could help the big league bullpen by the end of 2021.

El Gato (Swaps of Florida):

     Any additional insights on Soderstrom’s defensive future? Pre-draft reports were a bat-first spec with questions about ability to stick behind the dish. It sounds like those concerns are still there a year later. Guys with high end offense and poor catching skills should get moved off the position a lot quicker than they often do. Are there many cases where this really works out? I can think of a lot that haven’t. I don’t really get why they would want to waste resources on a bat trying to fake it as a catcher. Surely his progression will be slowed by either his catching struggles or the need to learn a new position. I think this is a good reason to not have him at #1 in the system. It sounds like a slow burn in the best case. I realize that this is not really a question – more of a comment that could prompt discussion.

Mark Chiarelli: This is a fun question to end on. Plenty of evaluators really, really love Soderstrom’s bat. And you’re right, it’s easy to recall examples of prep catchers switching positions and thriving, a la Bryce Harper or a Josh Donaldson. Our own J.J. Cooper would point out it’s becoming more rare for a catcher with shoddy defense to stick on a big league roster. But I’d hardly say they’re “wasting” resources or time developing him at catcher for now. He’s an athletic kid and he wants to catch. If the defense is passable and the bat projects like they hope, you’re looking at an extremely valuable player. And if the defense doesn’t progress? He’s shown enough athleticism + aptitude that I think he could handle a position change. It’s not as if we’re talking about a player who is now pigeon-holed to first base. There’s also the possibility in a couple years, automatic balls and strikes negates the value of pitch-framing. At that point does Soderstrom become even more valuable to you? There’s so much to think about here. Thanks for a great question/comment.

Mark Chiarelli: I’m going to wrap it here. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions and subscribes to BA. We appreciate you.

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