Oakland Athletics 2022 Top 10 MLB Prospects Chat

Image credit: Nick Allen (Photo by Eddie Kelly)

Following today’s updated Athletics ranking, Mark Chiarelli answered your questions below. 

Wyatt (Oakland):

     When you look at Pedro Pineda and Tyler soderstrom the guys that I’m most bullish on in their system where do you project them and how quick do you think they will move up this light system with not much star power

Mark Chiarelli: Hi everyone. Thanks for those who submitted questions and are following along. We’ll start with Wyatt and two of the most exciting prospects in Oakland’s system, Tyler Soderstrom and Pedro Pineda. I can see why you’d be bullish on both for different reasons. Soderstrom ended the year ranked among the game’s 25 best prospects and was one of the best overall hitters in the low minors. Everyone I talked to thinks he’ll hit, and hit plenty. His ascension through Oakland’s system will likely hinge on what they want to do defensively. If they believe in the gains he made in 2021 defensively and want to continue to see those skills marinate, it may be a slower burn, but his bat is ready for a challenging assignment. With Pineda, he’s a really toolsy player in need of consistent reps. He’s a long way away and I would expect him to return to the complex league to begin 2022.

Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):

     At last! A top prospect from tiny Delaware. On Zack Gelof – his scouting tools are all 50, with power being 55. Sounds like a 5 tool player – yes? And noting your comments about his arm and his projected 2025 position of left field, are you sticking to your 50 tool arm grade?

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Karl. You’re smart to hone in on Gelof. He got a ton of positive reviews internally upon making his professional debut, and briefly reached Triple-A to end the season. Gelof is certainly a well-rounded player. I’m not sure I’d call him a five-tool player. To me, that’s someone like Bobby Witt Jr., who has a legitimate argument for five plus tools across the board and is one of baseball’s best prospects. That’s certainly higher than Gelof’s ceiling. As far as his arm and defensive position, I wouldn’t read too much into the 2025 projected lineup, which I can touch on more in a bit. Gelof developed some mechanical issues with the arm in college, which tend to show up more right now when he sets his feet for throws as opposed to making them on the run. For what it’s worth, multiple people I talked to within the A’s org think those issues were overblown and he can stick at the position.

Brad (NJ):

     Oakland’s farm is terrible, even with the recent draft adds doing well, it is still horrible. They are likely to sell Olson, chapman and Manaea and maybe Bassitt, but I dont see them getting any HUGE spects back, so clearly it seems like Oakland has a long road back to contention? Do you agree or am I missing something?

Mark Chiarelli: Thanks, Brad. The system is certainly light right now, although you’re right to point out the recent draft adds are interesting. I liked their 2021 draft in particular. It seems like sellers are having a harder time prying away Top 100 type prospects in deals. A year ago, I would’ve said Chapman gave you the best chance to do so, but his 2021 season was a mixed bag. Oakland’s situation is so messy — Payroll mandates, an unclear ballpark situation, etc, and it makes it difficult to ever really know what the future holds for them, but Billy Beane and co. typically haven’t shown an appetite for full-scale rebuilds, though, like you’re seeing in Pittsburgh or Baltimore. The A’s front office has penchant for creativity.

Norm (Connecticut):

     Thanks for the chat. What do you have on CF prospect Angel Arevalo? His profile reads 5’0″ 160 lbs. That can’t be right, can it?

Mark Chiarelli: Thanks for catching that, Norm. I had him at 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, and have since updated it in our system. As far as Arevalo goes, I won’t spoil the Handbook/Top 30 too much, but he’s in there and he’s a player I’d have my eye on in this system as a potential riser in 2022 as a fun up-the-middle defender with intriguing hitting characteristics.

Zac (NYC):

     Cody Thomas was quite good before going down with injury in 2021. How do you feel about him? What are his chances of slotting in as a starting outfielder in the future?

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Zac. Thomas did have a nice year with Triple-A Las Vegas, although I’d caution a little bit against overreading into stat lines at that level. The A’s added him to their 40-man roster in November, so that should give you a sign he’s at least on their radar as a potential option at some point in 2022. He reminds me a bit of Greg Deichmann, another lefthanded power bat who came up in Oakland’s system. There’s clearly power, but there’s also clear swing-and-miss issues and some length in the swing that pitchers can exploit. I think the most likely outcome for Thomas might be more of a bench or platoon role.

Mike (Honolulu):

     The A’s have not been often been involved in the Rule 5 draft (which I assume won’t happen this year with the lockout). Given how light (bad) the farm system is, would you have speculated they would have participated if a draft did occur? What would have they tried to draft?

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Mike — They certainly have room on the 40-man roster to do it. It’s not the most exciting position group, but considering the turnover in Oakland’s bullpen over the last two season and their payroll limitations, a Rule 5 bullpen piece would make a lot of sense to me.

Mike (Chicago):

     How high do you see Jordan Diaz rising in the system?

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Mike. Diaz will settle into the teens when the Top 30 is released. He continues to show some of the best bat-to-ball skills of any hitter in the system and the power continues to tick up. I’m just having a hard time envisioning where he plays defensively in the long run. He needs to show more consistency at third base. If he doesn’t, he likely ends up at first base (Oakland dabbled with Diaz in LF but I’m not sold) which puts even more strain on his bat.

Michael (Raleigh):

     Denzel Clarke. You list Clarke as the best athlete yet he did not make the top 10 in a weak system. He clearly has developmental challenges or he would be ranked higher. How much weight should be given to best athlete status when it comes to the likelihood of succeeding in MLB. Thanks.

Mark Chiarelli: It certainly gives him more opportunities to impact the game. I’m a big fan of Clarke and he wasn’t that far away from the Top 10. He’s an easy plus runner, draws strong reviews in CF and already has some of the best raw power in Oakland’s system. That’s a ton of fun! Now Clarke needs to prove the swing changes he made in college can stick as a professional and he can hit enough to access that power. If he does? You’re looking at a potential breakout A’s prospect in 2022.

Bill (CA):

     What’s up with the 2025 lineup? Do you really think Chapman and Olson will be here still?

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Bill — The future lineups are definitely inexact and serve more as a thought exercise. Is it likely all of Chapman, Olson, Montas, Bassit, etc are in Oakland in 2025? Probably not. The lineup I turned in initially omitted Chapman/Olson, considering both Oakland’s trade prospects and their free agency status, but we ultimately wanted to leave at least the possibility some of their veterans remained in the fold, even if I find it to be unlikely.

Ben (CA):

     Thanks for taking time to chat, it’s always appreciated. What kind of return do you think the A’s could get for Olson and Chapman since the seem poised to trade them?

Mark Chiarelli: We’ll stay on the Olson/Chapman train here. When the A’s have traded big names in the past (Donaldson, Gray, etc) they’ve usually brought back at least one near-ready piece as well as a well-known prospect at the lower levels in an effort to layer in talent at multiple levels. I could also see Oakland getting a bit creative — are there teams ready to win now willing to part with a post-hype type or a younger pre-arb player that we wouldn’t consider to be available? I’d imagine the A’s are valuing Olson extremely high right now, but I’d be curious the extent other teams are willing to go for a first base-only type.

Michael (Raleigh):

     The pitching pipeline in Oakland looks excruciatingly thin. Is there anyone in the system not in the top 10 A’s fans can hope on? Thanks.

Mark Chiarelli: Piggybacking off the last question, adding more pitching does seem like an obvious place to start as Oakland sifts through potential trade packages. Oakland has five arms among its 15 best prospects and you can find lengthy injury history with several of them, notably AJ Puk, Brent Honeywell and Daulton Jefferies. They need more impact arms in the system. As far as pitchers outside the Top 10, keep an eye on RHP Mason Miller, who they drafted last year. His fastball velocity continues to trend up and was touching 99-100 in instructs. He could be a relatively quick mover.

Nick Bruce (Castro Valley, CA):

     How close was Jeff Criswell to making the list? What are the chances you think he can stick as a starter?

Mark Chiarelli: Very close. Is it a cop-out to say 50-50? 40-60? Criswell’s stuff is still crisp, especially the fastball-changeup combination. But there were legitimate concerns about his delivery and health as soon as Oakland drafted him and so far they haven’t gone away.

Michael (Raleigh):

     I tend to be critical of the A’s overall drafting choices, maybe unfairly so. In 2019 the A’s took Logan Davidson with the 29th pick. Picking next the Yankees took Anthony Volpe. That looks like a terrible decision now. Was selecting Davidson over Volpe also a poor decision in 2019? Thanks

Mark Chiarelli: I wouldn’t necessarily view it that way. Volpe is a New Jersey native who signed for $300,000 more than Davidson and was considered a relatively difficult sign to get out of his Vanderbilt commitment. We don’t know what his demands were for other teams — maybe it would’ve taken even more for the A’s to sign him. That said, it’s fair to zoom out and look skeptically at Oakland’s recent run in the first round. They went A.J. Puk (2016), Austin Beck (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018) three consecutive years in the top 10 and it just hasn’t panned out so far.

Warren (New London):

     Robert Puason is still very young. Are his problems fixable? How was his defense this year? Is he still in the 30?

Mark Chiarelli: Puason is still in the 30. He’s such a tough one. The feedback we got is that he generally looked overmatched at Low-A, which is somewhat understandable considering it was his pro debut at 18 years old. He did spend 2020 at Oakland’s alternate site, but I wonder if hindsight they regret moving him as quickly as they did. His defensive tools in particular are quite impressive. He can make defensive plays that other shortstop simply aren’t capable of making. But he also makes a ton of mistakes, and he swings and misses a ton right now. Most evaluators I talked to felt better about his defense than his offense. Considering the circumstances, I’d suggest perhaps more patience than usual with Puason, but it was a rough season.

Bertram (Taiwan):

     Is there any reason why Nick Allen is not the full time SS in 2022? There is no way he could be any worse than Andrus and the team is in rebuild mode so why not play the kid? He should have played over Elvis in 2021 and at the very least should have been given a cup of coffee over Machin and Kozma after the Elvis injury. How does he compare to Oakland tan favorite Mike Bordick as a player?

Mark Chiarelli: It took Allen a little bit of time to adjust to Triple-A last year (39 games), so that’s one plausible reason. It does seem like he’ll get a shot at some point in 2022. I can’t give you much on the Bordick front, but the A’s internally seem to often use David Fletcher as a best-case scenario for Allen.

Frederick (Boston):

     Hi Mark, thank you for the chat today! With currently 50-55 grades across the board, do you see Brayan Buelvas developing any plus tool as he becomes more experienced and physically mature? What would you say a realistic ceiling is for him in the big leagues?

Mark Chiarelli: You got it, Frederick. I’m not sure there’s an obvious plus tool with Buelvas. He needs to determine what kind of hitter he wants to be. He has feel for the barrel, but also more pop than you might expect. I like Buelvas and think there’s the upside of a low-end regular corner outfielder.

Kevin (Indy):

     Is Stevie Emanuels anything more than org depth? How would is stuff play up in the bullpen?

Mark Chiarelli: Oakland drafted Emanuels in the fifth round of 2020 and his underlying data is actually pretty interesting, so he’s still very much a prospect. He just needs to stay healthy. I think the A’s still view him as a potential starter.

Tim (Proctorville, Ohio):

     Grant Holman has advanced stuff, albeit with control issues, for someone with so little experience on the mound. Did the A’s get a steal with him in the sixth round?

Mark Chiarelli: We had Holman ranked 117th and he went No. 188, so it was solid value. I actually think Mason Miller could end up being more of the “steal” of the college arms they took early in the 2021 draft. Holman needs to stay healthy and the A’s want to see him simplify his pitch mix a bit, but they’re intrigued with the potential of his curveball. Their system needs more starter types, so he’s certainly a name to watch.

Rolf M-L (Fairfax Virginia):

     I’ve still got Robert Puason in the top 10. Low level prospects have had a really rough go of it since the pandemic began. No 2020 minors, then a jump to low A with no rookie league at bats, in Puason’s case. How do you take this into account as a prospect evaluator? I could cite similar cases like Jasson Dominguez or Austin Hendrick who were in over their heads because of circumstances they confronted, not talent. In another year, ok, but for now, I give them a talent alibi and won’t drop them on my prospect rankings.

Mark Chiarelli: It certainly factors into how we evaluate them. I’d say Puason got more benefit of the doubt than in a typical year, sure. My approach (and this is for all prospects, not just Puason) is to rely on the reporting/feedback we get from evaluators who see these players, both within the A’s organization and outside of it.

Bertram (Tawian):

     Big fan of Jefferies. The A’s seem to have a nice pipeline of success from Berkeley. The walks are impressive, but will the stuff play in the show? Could he be a solid 3/4 in that park?

Mark Chiarelli: No. 3 seems a bit rich for me, but Jefferies could settle into the back of a rotation. He doesn’t miss a ton of bats, but he also just needs to prove he can stay healthy. It’s a common theme among some of Oakland’s top pitching prospects.

Fred (Illinois):

     Austin Allen is out of options. Is he ready to hold down a spot on the 26-man roster?

Mark Chiarelli: In theory, he should be, but the A’s haven’t seemed overly impressed with his defense or game-calling behind the plate. It’s a tough profile.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Give us a couple of under the radar prospects, not necessarily in the Top 30. Thanks!

Mark Chiarelli: Hi Mike. I’ll give you two who just missed Oakland’s Top 30: Catcher Carlos Amaya and reliever Garrett Acton.

Danny V (Glastonbury, CT):

     Hi Mark! Where does Junior Perez fit into the A’s OF prospect picture after an unimpressive line at A ball?

Mark Chiarelli: Hey Danny. It was a rough year for Perez. There’s plenty of power, but a combination of mechanical issues and overaggressive approach keeps him from accessing it regularly. He’s still in the back of the list entering the season, but not by much.

Bertram (Tawian):

     Is there a less impressive list of top prospects over the last decade? Russell, Robertson and Barreto are busts. Puk can’t stay healthy. Luzardo looks like he has a lot to figure out. How much can we trust the development of Soderstram based on recent history?

Mark Chiarelli: It’s roughly the same player development group that worked with the Murphy’s/Chapman’s/Olson’s of the world, too. There are plenty of examples on Oakland’s active roster of players they’ve developed and turned into quite productive big leaguers.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Which A’s farm system players would you expect to make a 2022 MLB debut?

Mark Chiarelli: Nick Allen and Cody Thomas are the first two names that jump out to me.

Steve (Oakland):

     Who is one under the radar prospect I should get excited about this year?

Mark Chiarelli: Lawrence Butler. Really impressive power + speed combination who took a big step forward in 2021. Raised his stock as much as any player in the system.

Tim (SLC):

     What’s your take on Nick Allen? Pre-draft rankings had him as a first rounder (and then he got 1st round money to get drafted in the 3rd round), but it always seems like he gets profiled as some sort of scrappy underdog instead of a where a gold glove defender with an .845 OPS should be ranked (ie somewhere in the top 100)

Mark Chiarelli: I like Nick Allen and there are people within the A’s organization who feel the same way you do — that the narrative and the results don’t really add up. The lack of power limits him a bit for me, but you can hide that on teams with deeper lineups. He’ll get an opportunity at some point to win — and hold onto — the A’s shortstop job.

Neil (Florida):

     Can we talk Collin Peluse. It seems the grades and evaluations do not fully correspond to the reality that it appears he might be the most ready for the MLB team player in the A’s system. Optimistically he seems like a prospect that has quickly risen above prior grades and evals … can you speak to that idea and then comment on where you see him starting this year and what his best case scenario is for this year (& if it involves ability to make the MLB club this year.)

Mark Chiarelli: You’re probably not going to find a bigger Peluse fan than me. I had him pegged as a potential breakout guy even in last year’s Handbook. He needs his changeup to take another step forward, and his command is just fair, but I enjoy how he attacks every at-bat and the fastball-slider combination is legit. I suppose an optimistic outlook could have him reach the big leagues by the end of 2022, but I think 2023 is more accurate.

Jack (San Jose):

     What are the organization’s plans for AJ Puk? It seems as though he’s a bit on the Drew Pomeranz path, where teams are trying to make him a starter when it’s fairly clear the best option to keep him healthy and maximize his stuff is to just kick him to the pen.

Mark Chiarelli: The party line is that the A’s still want to give Puk a chance to start. Pomeranz’s career arc actually came up in one of the conversations I had about Puk for this project and I think it’s a good parallel to draw. Puk just hasn’t stayed healthy. That said, his stuff did start to tick back up at the end of 2021. I still think a relief role is the likely outcome.

Mike (Honolulu):

     Your thoughts on Logan Davidson? Picked #29 overall in 2019, he’s failed to hit in the low minors.

Mark Chiarelli: It’s been an unimpressive start to Davidson’s career, and I’m a little skeptical of his swing. He’s a good enough defender and has the versatility where I think he reaches the majors in some fashion, but he needs to start impacting the ball more regularly.

Jeff (Toledo, OH):

     Realistic expectations for Brett Honeywell. Is he out of options?

Mark Chiarelli: Honeywell is out of options. His stuff hasn’t returned to where it once was, but he still has a deep arsenal and the screwball that misses bats. He should compete for a rotation spot in 2022, and I wonder if the A’s can turn him into an serviceable starter like they did with Cole Irvin in 2021.

Tyler Soderstrom (ETA 2023?):

     Thanks for chatting with us today. Is my bat just too special to wait another 3 years+ on my defense to catch up, especially with Sean Murphy in the MLB team? Wil Myers and Bryce Harper’s bats forced both KC and WSH to move them to the OF. If I get moved to 3rd or a corner OF do you think I can debut by 2023? What is a realistic triple slash if I move off catcher? Is .300/.350/.500 while hitting 25-30 homers a year in the cards?


Soderstrom’s hit/power tools (potentially higher?):

     It’s quite impressive Tyler Soderstrom received 60s on both his hit and power all while playing the most physically demanding position in baseball. If he were to move off of catcher to an easier position on his body like 3rd or LF do you think his hit/power could actually move up? I can see a case being made that his offensively production would be elevated not having to deal with the physical demands of catching.

Mark Chiarelli: I’ll end the chat with a pair of Tyler Soderstrom questions. That’s an interesting question … I don’t think it’d necessarily play up, but there’s a ton of merit to preserving his health and allowing him to maximize his hitting potential. Catching behind the plate every day is a grind, and as alluded to earlier, it’s going to be tough for the A’s to wait on the defense to develop considering how special of a hitter Soderstrom appears to be. I think a line of .280 and 25/30 homers regularly is very fair, and the odds are better it comes at a position other than catcher. Thanks for everyone who participated + asked a question today!

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