Prospect Report: Athletics 2023 Imminent Big Leaguers

© Nick King/Lansing State Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Below is an evaluation of the prospects in the Oakland Athletics farm system who readers should consider “imminent big leaguers,” players who might reasonably be expected to play in the majors at some point this year. This includes all prospects on the 40-man roster as well as those who have already established themselves in the upper levels of the minors but aren’t yet rostered. I tend to be more inclusive with pitchers and players at premium positions since their timelines are usually the ones accelerated by injuries and scarcity. Any Top 100 prospects, regardless of their ETA, are also included on this list. Reports, tool grades, and scouting information for all of the prospects below can also be found on The Board.

This is not a top-to-bottom evaluation of the A’s farm system. We like to include what’s happening in minor league and extended spring training in our reports as much as possible, since scouting high concentrations of players there allows us to incorporate real-time, first-person information into the org lists. However, this approach has led to some situations where outdated analysis (or no analysis at all) was all that existed for players who had already debuted in the majors. Skimming the imminent big leaguers off the top of a farm system will allow this time-sensitive information to make its way onto the site more quickly, better preparing readers for the upcoming season, helping fantasy players, and building site literature on relevant prospects to facilitate transaction analysis in the event that trades or injuries foist these players into major league roles. There will still be an A’s prospect list that includes Gunnar Hoglund, Max Muncy, Daniel Susac and all of the other prospects in the system who appear to be at least another season away. As such, today’s list includes no ordinal rankings. Readers are instead encouraged to focus on the players’ Future Value (FV) grades.

Let’s revisit what FV means before I offer some specific thoughts on this org. Future Value (FV) is a subjective valuation metric derived from the traditional 20-80 scouting scale (where 50 is average and each integer of 10 away from 50 represents one standard deviation) that uses WAR production to set the scale. For instance, an average regular (meaning the 15th-best guy at a given position, give or take) generally produces about 2 WAR annually, so a 50 FV prospect projects as an everyday player who will generate about that much annual WAR during his pre-free agency big league seasons.

Why not just use projected WAR as the valuation metric, then? For one, it creates a false sense of precision. This isn’t a model. While a lot of data goes into my decision-making process, a lot of subjectivity does too, in the form of my own visual evaluations, as well as other information related to the players’ careers and baseball backgrounds. A player can have a strong evaluation (emphasis on the “e”) but might be a great distance from the big leagues, or could be injury prone, or a superlative athlete, and context like that might cause one to augment the player’s valuation (no “e”). Using something more subjective like Future Value allows me to dial up and down how I’m interpreting that context.

There are also many valuable part-time players who can only generate so much WAR due to their lack of playing time. As such, FV grades below 50 tend to describe a role more than they do a particular WAR output; you can glean the projected roles from the players’ reports. In short, anyone who is a 40+ FV player or above projects as an integral big league role player or better.

Now some A’s thoughts. The A’s have bid farewell to most of their more recognizable top performers over the last year, most recently with the designation of Cristian Pache for assignment at the end of spring training (Pache, who was himself acquired as part of the Matt Olson swap, has since been picked up by the Phillies). The resulting vacuum created by that mass exodus has hoovered up several prospects, vaulting them to the bigs earlier than they might have been were they members of a less needy org. This sets up a sink-or-swim scenario, whereby even the guys who are still a bit too raw to thrive on a major league diamond (let alone navigate the unique quirks of the Oakland Coliseum) and may otherwise sink could be tasked with finding a way to stay afloat without the benefit of further minor league development. Some of them are more likely to be successful than others, with water wings provided by stunning basepath speed in the case of Esteury Ruiz, or the triple-digit tendencies of Luis Medina. In most other cases though, it’s safer to expect some dog-paddling out there while they continue to seek out a defensive home or come down from PCL-juiced slash lines.

The trio of Top 100 standouts atop this list should provide much needed support during Oakland’s ongoing rebuilding period. That said, with ever-tightening purse strings and the ongoing butting of heads between the team and the city of Oakland regarding a much-needed new ballpark, it’s hard to be optimistic about how ownership is approaching this phase of the team’s history. It’s one thing to rebuild, but it’s another to do so while your construction materials are being withheld, making it unclear if the task at hand is raising the barn or razing it in favor of greener pastures (or whatever the Las Vegas desert’s equivalent of a pasture is). As is often the case with Oakland rebuilds, the more hopeful outlook is the long-term one that sees the continued growth of the brightest spots on a relatively hazy horizon.

Athletics Imminent Big Leaguers and Top 100 Prospects
Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
Tyler Soderstrom 21.4 AAA 1B 2025 55
Ken Waldichuk 25.3 MLB SP 2023 50
Mason Miller 24.6 AAA SIRP 2025 50
Zack Gelof 23.5 AAA 3B 2025 45+
Kyle Muller 25.5 MLB SP 2023 45+
Lawrence Butler 22.8 AA 1B 2024 45
Esteury Ruiz 24.2 MLB CF 2023 45
Luis Medina 23.9 AAA SIRP 2023 40+
Jordan Diaz 22.7 MLB 3B 2023 40+
Freddy Tarnok 24.4 MLB SP 2023 40
Shintaro Fujinami 29.0 MLB MIRP 2023 40
Garrett Acton 24.8 AAA SIRP 2023 40
Logan Davidson 25.3 AA SS 2023 40
Ryan Noda 27.0 MLB 1B 2023 40
Conner Capel 25.9 MLB OF 2023 40
Cal Stevenson 26.6 MLB OF 2023 35+
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55 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2020 from Turlock HS (CA) (OAK)
Age 21.4 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr L / R FV 55
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 60/70 60/70 40/30 30/40 45

2022 was the first season in which Soderstrom’s time at first base surpassed his time behind the dish. It’s long been seen as a possibility, maybe even an obvious move, due both to Soderstrom’s below-average defense as a backstop, and as a way of protecting his offensive performance from the dings and scratches that are part and parcel with everyday catching. The flaws in his catching defense were apparent throughout spring training, in particular his blocking. His crouch is quite upright at times, with a pretty significant five hole, and he isn’t particularly keen on throwing his body in front of short hops in front of him, opting instead to pick them with his glove. That resulted in a significant number of passed balls and a wide radius for odd-angled caroms off his catching gear, some of which occurred on strike three and allowed runners to reach base despite the would-be punch out. This was less of a concern during the minor league season last year, during which he improved on his passed ball metrics, so it could be an indication of the watered-down competitive nature of the spring or Soderstrom being particularly careful of getting a fluke injury before the season starts.

His Trackman data makes clear why his offense is so worthy of this protective line of development. More than 51% of his contact came off his bat at 95 mph or higher in 2022 and 21.1% of that was hit at a launch angle within the sweet spot range for power production. Soderstrom has widened and opened up his stance since the start of his professional career. Instead of a short stride toward the mound, his step is toward the plate, maintaining the width as he closes his stance with quick lower-body rotation as he muscles the barrel through the zone. His bat looked quicker this spring; he slugged .500 in 17 games, with nine hits, including a home run, three doubles and a triple, while striking out just five times.

Soderstrom spent the bulk of the 2022 season at High-A, where he slugged .513 with 20 home runs and 19 doubles, earning him an early August bump up to Double-A, where his slugging remained roughly the same while he brought his strikeout rate down a couple ticks. When the Double-A season came to a close, he was promoted again to close out Stockton’s Triple-A season. His semi-aggressive approach may lead him to have a merely average hit tool, but he has 70 power and might end up hitting 50 annual doubles at his peak. He’s going to be a middle-of-the-order anchor in Oakland fairly soon.

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 5th Round, 2019 from St. Mary’s (NYY)
Age 25.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 220 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/55 55/60 45/45 60/60 45/50 90-94 / 95

Waldichuk came to Oakland as part of the return for Frankie Montas, bringing with him a nicely shaped four-seamer and an intimidating, sweepy slider with tons of horizontal movement. A big-league ready, mid-rotation starter, Waldichuk’s arsenal also includes a changeup that he finishes with remarkable precision, but which he reserves almost exclusively for right-handed opponents (he’s only thrown two changeups to a big league lefty). He rounds out his four-pitch mix with a mid-70s curveball that he threw just 6% of the time at Triple-A, but which has accounted for 18% of his 0-0 offerings in his nine big league starts, outranked in usage only by his fastball. He’s shown the ability to induce significant swing-and-miss across all four offerings, both in and out of the zone, aided largely by his funky arm action. The area in which it will be most important for Waldichuk to develop will be his fastball command. He can land his breaking balls for strikes but, after hitters have seen them once or twice, they’re sitting on them and can ambush them when Waldi’s trying to get ahead via his breakers. Commanding his fastball better than he has so far will help make him more unpredictable early in counts. His delivery is freaky loose, particularly in his upper back and shoulders, which portends better future command than he’s shown so far in Oakland.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2021 from Gardner-Webb (OAK)
Age 24.6 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 211 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
70/70 55/60 55/60 30/40 97-99 / 101

After sustaining a right scapula strain during spring training, Miller spent most of 2022 rehabbing. When he returned to the mound in August, he leapfrogged his way up the minor league ladder. He pitched a couple of innings on the complex, skipped Low-A, threw seven High-A innings, skipped Double-A, then closed the season out with two appearances in Las Vegas and a stint in the Fall League. He blew triple-digits at the top of the zone past batters at every stop, with his fastball averaging 99 mph at Triple-A, and maintained that upper-90s range at the Fall League and in spring training. Miller pairs the heater with a sharp, mid-80s slider and locates both with consistency, good for a combined 50% strikeout rate, while issuing just three walks across 14 innings in 2022. His changeup flashed plus in the Fall League, where he carried that good health and momentum and posted a 10.8 K/9. Though he’s mostly started so far and has three nasty pitches, Miller’s delivery is very violent and his injury history suggests he may only have so many bullets, so we expect Oakland will put him on the big league roster in fairly short order, perhaps in a relief role.

45+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2021 from Virginia (OAK)
Age 23.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 209 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/60 50/50 45/50 50/50 35/50 40

Gelof’s swing depends more on his raw strength than on nuanced mechanics, with almost no load, a flat path with a back-smacking finish more often associated with a softball swing. But the strength his upper body applies to it means that he is able to use his atypical swing to generate a ton of raw power, with above-average exit velocities and power-friendly launch angles. Coming into last season, his home runs were hit almost exclusively to his pull side, but in 2022, 13 of his 15 dingers were sent over the opposite field fence, including all five of the ones he hit in his nine games at Triple-A. His improved ability to apply his power to all fields is a step forward in an already-impressive offensive profile.

He’s performed above the league average throughout his entire minor league career, often by a wide margin, even when he leapt from Low-A all the way to Triple-A in 2021 while being several years younger than most of the other players on the field. He’s spent time at both second and third base, and while the latter seems like a better fit for his arm, his infield utility bolsters his ability to help Oakland at the big league level. Given his defensive range and arm limitations, Gelof may in fact be the Yin to Jordan Diaz’s Yang, with the former representing a defensive second baseman with a corner bat and the latter the complementary opposite of that, which pairs them nicely in a given lineup. He’s starting this season at Triple-A, but his fast track has thus far seemed appropriate and may lead him to the bigs sooner than expected.

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Jesuit Prep HS (TX) (ATL)
Age 25.5 Height 6′ 7″ Weight 250 Bat / Thr R / L FV 45+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
50/50 60/60 55/55 45/45 45/50 95-96 / 98

Part of the Braves’ surplus of pitching and seemingly more likely to wind up in their bullpen as his options dwindled, Muller was Oakland’s Opening Day starter, which speaks volumes about the state of both orgs. The A’s acquired Muller as part of the three-team trade that sent Sean Murphy to Atlanta, and heading into his Opening Day start, he was just four outs away from graduating from prospect eligibility. A towering southpaw, he had brief big league stints in both 2021 and 2022, spending the majority of both seasons at Triple-A. In 2022, his strike throwing ability was markedly improved across all four pitches in his arsenal. In his time at Triple-A in 2021, he only threw his fastball for strikes about 63% of the time. In contrast, 71% of the heaters he threw at Triple-A in 2022 were strikes, an obvious, marked improvement that helped set up his secondary stuff for chase later in counts. Both his slider (thrown 25% of the time) and a two-plane, mid-80s curveball (18% usage) garner whiff- and chase-rates well above the big league average. While his changeup is still the least-thrown of his four-pitch mix, as the 2022 season rolled along, it saw an uptick in usage, almost exclusively against righties. From April to June, he threw it at a 5% clip, but in the last two months of the season, its usage more than doubled to 12%. His changeup usage returned to the single digits this spring, and his stat line was somewhat unimpressive, allowing 30 hits in 18 innings of work while issuing just 15 strikeouts. That said, he was able to carry his improved strike-throwing ability into 2023, issuing just four free passes all spring. He’ll get every opportunity to start in Oakland and he stands a good chance to stick as a no. 4/5 starter.

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 6th Round, 2018 from Westlake HS (GA) (OAK)
Age 22.8 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr L / L FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/35 60/70 45/60 50/45 35/40 50

Butler has a penchant for hitting the ball very hard and quite often at an ideal launch angle, but tons of in-zone swing-and-miss have clouded his outlook and he still isn’t a very good outfielder. He missed time in 2022 due to injury and when he returned in late August, he showed a more mature approach, bringing down what had historically been an inflated strikeout rate. He continued that during a very promising showing in the AFL, where he struck out at just a 20% clip and matched that rate in walks. Then, in his 12 spring training games, he struck out just four times and walked just as often while going 11-for-23 with four doubles, a triple, and a homer, good for a .478/.556/.870 slash line. It’s hard to say just how many small samples it takes to constitute sustained confidence in these improvements at the plate, but if Butler stays healthy for all of 2023, and his flirtation with a better approach blossoms into full-blown romance, it will be a major difference-maker.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (KCR)
Age 24.2 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 169 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/35 50/50 40/40 70/70 40/45 40

Ruiz began his pro career with the Royals and was traded to the Padres in 2017 as part of a six-player swap that included Travis Wood and Matt Strahm. After a few years toiling away in San Diego’s org while struggling with chase, Ruiz had a 2022 stat line that will give you a strong urge to check for typos. He slashed .332/.447/.526 and, absurd as it may seem, Ruiz stole 85 bases last year. He started the season at the Padres’ Double-A affiliate, where he swiped 37 bags in 49 games, then moved up to Triple-A and increased that clip to 23 bags in 28 games. He was then dealt to the Brewers as part of the Josh Hader trade and added another 25 steals in his 37 games with Triple-A Nashville. He was traded yet again during the offseason as part of the Sean Murphy three-team swap and is poised to be Oakland’s regular center fielder in 2023.

Having played second base up until 2019, Ruiz moved to the outfield when play resumed in 2021 after the lost pandemic season and has stayed there ever since, primarily in center with a smattering of innings in either corner. His speed is a natural fit in the outfield, and those wheels help make up for slightly below-average instincts and a second baseman’s arm. The progress he’s made as a defender in center field is the most important component of his profile.

In his breakout 2022 season, Ruiz maintained a strikeout rate under 18% and a slugging percentage above .450 at each of his three stops, for a combined wRC+ of 156. His patience at the plate also seemed to improve, as he posted a chase rate well below the big league average and walked 12.2% of the time (up from 7.9% in 2021). That said, his BABIP never dipped below .375, which is unlikely to be sustainable and wasn’t replicated in his cups of coffee with either big league squad. He struggled to make meaningful contact against major league arms, and a peek under the hood reveals underlying metrics that leave much to be desired. While he produces average launch angles that could portend power, he doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to actualize that thump; less than 30% of his contact left his bat at 95 mph or higher. That’s significantly lower than the 38.4% average notched in that column by big league center fielders and an indication that much of Ruiz’s power production came from the PCL hitting environment. His pull-heavy swing looks grooved and Ruiz continues to chase a lot of sliders. If you buy that his 2022 offensive improvement is real, then Ruiz will be an everyday center fielder. We’re inclined to take the under and think he’s more likely to be a nine-hole hitting speedster with a solid glove and very little bat, basically a fifth outfielder on a contender.

40+ FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2015 from Dominican Republic (NYY)
Age 23.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/70 60/70 45/55 30/40 96-99 / 101

Part of the Frankie Montas trade, Medina’s long minor league career has been characterized by an ongoing inability to assign either a starter or reliever role to him. He mixed in his upper-80s changeup at a higher rate in 2022, and its usage saw an additional uptick upon his arrival with the A’s organization – perhaps an indication of their efforts to improve his viability as a starter. He favors it particularly against left-handed hitters while relying more heavily on his low-80s curveball against righties, which has the potential to be a plus-plus offering, but neither secondary is very consistent. His fastball averaged 96 mph in 2022, but his command has always been a concern for the righty and it took a turn for the worse upon his arrival in Double-A Midland, where he issued 22 walks in just 20.2 innings to close out the season. His fastball averaged just a tick below 98 mph and touched triple-digits several times in his first start for Triple-A Las Vegas, with the heater accounting for 80% of the 40 pitches he tossed, but he only lasted 2.1 innings and once again struggled with command, walking three against just one strikeout. Given the org’s neediness at the big league level, Medina seems a likely addition to the Oakland bullpen as a high-leverage, flame-throwing reliever in 2023.

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2016 from Colombia (OAK)
Age 22.7 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 45/50 35/40 30/30 35/55 55

Diaz has swing-and-miss metrics on par with big league infielders in terms of both whiff and chase, but his 54.4% swing rate would rank amongst the most swing-happy players in 2022. Still, he’s maintained a mid-teens (or lower) strikeout rate at every stop in the minors, which he combines with an impressive ability to make contact throughout the zone to offset his miniscule walk rate. He also hit for more power in 2022, which is a welcome addition to his offense, especially if he ends up as a corner infielder. He’s historically been hard to place defensively. He’s got the arm strength for third but not the range; he’s on the small side for a first baseman; and he lacks sufficient outfield speed. As a result, the bulk of his big league innings in 2022 were spent at second base, where he’d spent virtually no time in the minors, but which seemed a better fit for his defensive skill set. While this move to the keystone could shift his profile from a corner bench player to an everyday roster presence thanks to his proven bat-to-ball skills, the introduction of the shift ban may mean that the range concerns that pushed him away from third base follow him to the middle infield and diminish his viability there as well. This may push Diaz back to the hot corner, where his arm can be optimized, which makes it more important for him to continue to improve his in-game power if he wants to slot in as an everyday third baseman.

40 FV Prospects

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Riverview HS (FL) (ATL)
Age 24.4 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops
55/60 40/45 50/50 50/55 45/50 93-95 / 98

Tarnok came to Oakland as part of the return for Sean Murphy. A lanky former two-way player, Tarnok creates an extreme downhill angle with his delivery, which features an over-the-top arm action. His fastball sits in the 93-95 mph range, while his plus, mid-80s changeup is of the screwball variety and garnered a 47% whiff rate in 2022, the best swing-and-miss option of his four-pitch arsenal. His get-me-over curveball outpaced his changeup in usage in 2022 but didn’t induce as much whiff or chase, and he threw it for a strike less than half the time. His slider is seldom used, accounting for just 6% of his 2022 offerings, and he uses it mainly as a sneaky chase pitch against righties. His 15 Double-A appearances were all starts, most of which lasted at least four innings, and he issued strikeouts at a respectable 27% clip, but he walked an uncomfortably high 10% of his opponents. When he was promoted to Triple-A, those numbers stayed roughly the same, each ticking down by about one percentage point, and two of his appearances were in multi-inning relief. He held his own in two-thirds of a big league inning as well, allowing a hit and fanning one without allowing a run. If he’s able to command his arsenal and use it to effectively earn more consistent swing-and-miss, he could find his way to the back of a big league rotation, with the alternate route of a velocity-bump-aided move to the bullpen for middle-inning relief. He suffered a shoulder strain at spring training, but he won’t require surgery and should return at some point in 2023.

Age 29.0 Height 6′ 6″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Splitter Command Sits/Tops
55/55 55/55 55/55 35/35 95-97 / 100

Fujinami was an NPB All-Star three times before he turned 22, but he became like Japan’s Rick Ankiel in his mid-20s and had issues with strike-throwing so severe that he had to be demoted for big chunks throughout the last half decade. While being yo-yo’d back and forth between the minors and the majors (and the bullpen and the rotation) in 2022, Fujinami posted the lowest walk rate of his career (8.2%) while 43% of his pitches were in the strike zone, which is more in line with his career norms. Coinciding with Fujinami’s surface-level improvement in this area was an uptick in his splitter usage and effectiveness, as well as his overall arm strength. He now sits 95-96 mph and has been up to 100 (about a three-tick bump compared to 2021) while more than doubling his splitter usage (52% fastball, 20% slider, 26% split, and the occasional curveball) in his Central League (Japan’s top league) outings. A team that thinks his strike-throwing improvement is for real is more likely to think Fujinami can actually start, but we tend to think he belongs in the bullpen. Parlaying his repertoire depth and the success he had with a variable role in 2022 means deploying him in a multi-inning role.

Undrafted Free Agent, 2020 (OAK)
Age 24.8 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 211 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops
65/65 45/50 45/50 40/40 93-95 / 96

Acton throws with a short arm action and an over-the-top release point, and has impressive arm speed. After posting a strikeout rate above 50% in his 17.1 innings of work at High-A in 2021, he split his time between Double- and Triple-A in 2022, fanning a still-impressive 30% of the batters he faced across both levels. But he’s not the flamethrower that those high strikeout rates might imply, instead relying on the pitch’s shape, though he did see a bit of a velocity bump in 2022, with the fastball sitting in the 96-97 mph range after having previously topped out around 95 (in the early goings of 2023, it’s sitting around 95). The whiff and chase rates he induced with his mid-80s slider in 2022 were better than the big league average, and he threw it for a strike 69% of the time, which is also better than the average major league slider. The downward shape of his breaking ball is also encouraging, as it sets him up with a vertical arsenal that keeps hitters off balance, though he’ll have to maintain the upward trend of his fastball velocity if he wants to sustain that in the A’s big league ‘pen, where he’s likely to find himself in 2023.

Drafted: 1st Round, 2019 from Clemson (OAK)
Age 25.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr S / R FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/35 55/55 30/40 50/50 50/50 60

Davidson played all of 2022 at Double-A and his numbers there were a touch below league average, finishing the season with a 91 wRC+. His strikeout rate came down from a concerning 30% in 2021 to a somewhat more palatable 27%. He hits the ball hard, with 43% of his contact leaving his bat upwards of 95 mph, and he’s yet to finish a season with a walk rate in single digits. But paired with that below-average chase rate was an in-zone whiff rate of 20%, far higher than that of the 12% average posted by big league shortstops. His numbers from the right side of the plate improved in 2022, slashing .255/.356/.451, which is better in terms of both average and slug than his numbers from the left side (though over a significantly smaller sample). Davidson’s power production improved across the board, doubling his home run count as compared to the previous season in fewer games.

Defensively, he has continued to spend most of his time at short, with his time at third decreasing from his 2021 mark, though he also spent at least a few innings at first base this spring, which is where we saw him playing on the back fields. His development has been predictably slow and he’s now on the older side for Double-A, which is where he’ll start this season, but if his whiffing continues its downward trend and he keeps improving his ability to bring his power into games, he could find his way to the big league roster by the end of 2023.

Ryan Noda, 1B

Drafted: 15th Round, 2017 from Cincinati (TOR)
Age 27.0 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 217 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/45 55/55 50/50 30/30 50/50 50

Left vulnerable to the Rule 5 Draft thanks to the Dodgers’ glut of 40-man talent, Noda was selected by the A’s as an obvious upgrade from the team’s big league alternatives at first base. Having far exceeded league average offensive performance at every level of the minor leagues during his career thus far, Noda most recently slashed .259/.395/.474 while walking 16% of the time at Triple-A. His refined approach allows for in-game power. He is keenly aware of which pitches he’ll be able to damage (pitches middle-in) and over the past two minor league seasons, he has launched 54 home runs. He’s very vulnerable to high fastballs and will likely end up with a 40-grade hit tool, so the power and OBP pieces of the profile will have to carry all the water of his big league profile. He’s poised to be Oakland’s everyday first baseman in 2023 and will likely fall toward the bottom third of that group’s performance spectrum.

Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from Seven Lakes (TX) HS (CLE)
Age 25.9 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 185 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/45 50/50 40/45 55/55 45/50 60

Selected out of a Texas high school in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, Capel underwent a swing change that allowed him to slash his groundball rate from 57.7% to just 38.1%. He shined in his first full professional season back in 2017, launching 22 home runs and slugging .478, to the tune of a 121 wRC+ in Low A as a 20-year-old. His home run hitting evaporated the next year when he was promoted to High-A. He recorded just six dingers with Cleveland before being dealt to the Cardinals and hit just one in the 29 games he played with St. Louis’ High-A affiliate after the trade. Since then, his in-game power hasn’t resurfaced for more than a short stint as he steadily worked his way up through the Cardinals system, but he made up for it somewhat with a patient approach, with very few strikeouts and a knack for drawing a walk and taking advantage of his speed on the basepaths. It wasn’t convincing enough for St. Louis, who DFA’d Capel after a lackluster nine-game big league stint, allowing Oakland to scoop him up. He’s a solid outfielder with an above-average arm, but his bat isn’t loud enough to be a convincing corner presence. He started the 2023 season on Oakland’s big league roster and has struggled to keep his strikeouts down in the early going, but has made up for that with an 11% walk rate and impactful basepath speed. He’s a useful bench option for the A’s for now, and that’s likely to be his ceiling barring a convincing return of his in-game power.

35+ FV Prospects

Drafted: 10th Round, 2018 from Arizona (TOR)
Age 26.6 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/60 35/35 30/30 60/60 40/40 45

Stevenson came to Oakland as part of the Christian Bethancourt trade in the middle of the 2022 season. He hits for average and posts a consistently high OBP thanks to a patient approach that teeters toward passive. He swung at just 36.4% of the pitches he saw last season and walked more than he struck out at Triple-A Vegas post-trade. His 16% in-zone swing-and-miss rate was roughly on par with that of big league center fielders, but his chase rate was just over half that of his big league counterparts. He debuted with Oakland at the end of the 2022 season, and his strikeouts spiked in a way that’s predictable given the difference between big league and minor league pitching. He’s starting the season at Triple-A, but his outfield versatility will be a useful addition to the A’s big league squad assuming he can bring down his strikeouts at that level.

Tess is a contributor at FanGraphs. When she's not watching college or professional baseball, she works as a sports video editor, creating highlight reels for high school athletes. She can be found on Twitter at @tesstass.

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Tyler Norton
10 months ago

I know JJ Bleday has technically graduated but he is in AAA right now mashing and I’d love your thoughts on how he fits in this season as well.