Major League Baseball’s offseason is in full swing, and that means everyone is thinking about the future. In most cities, that means next season; in some, though, it means the bigger picture, the next three to five years. You’re either selling wins or you’re selling hope, the old saying goes. We here at CBS Sports like to provide as much hope as we can around this time of the winter by evaluating each team’s farm system.
Of course, that doesn’t mean every team has an equally good farm system — some, as you’ll find out throughout this process, are lacking in that respect. It does mean, nevertheless, that CBS Sports will be spending the next few weeks examining the top three prospects in each organization. We define “prospects” as retaining their rookie eligibility for the 2023 season, so if a young player is missing that’s likely why.
These lists and evaluations are formed following conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development types. There’s also firsthand evaluation and bias thrown into the mix. Keep in mind that player evaluation is a hard task, and it’s fine if you disagree with the rankings. These are opinions, and they have no real bearing on the future..
With that in mind, let’s get to it by dissecting the Oakland Athletics.
1. Tyler Soderstrom, 1B/C (2023 seasonal age: 21)
Scouts have been high on Soderstrom’s bat since he was drafted with the 26th pick in 2020. Some evaluators were even proponents of moving him out from behind the plate immediately, allowing him the opportunity to max out his offensive potential. The Athletics clearly didn’t share that opinion. They’ve continued to play Soderstrom at catcher, albeit while crosstraining him over at first base. However the A’s divvy up Soderstrom’s defensive responsibilities heading forward (and the presence of Shea Langeliers on the depth chart would suggest it’s not as a most-days catcher), the draw here is his offense. He has a chance to be a plus hitter who contributes both average and slugging alike. Soderstrom should begin the season in Triple-A. He may end it in the majors.
2. Ken Waldichuk, LHP (2023 seasonal age: 25)
Part of the return on Frankie Montas, Waldichuk nearly threw as many innings down the stretch for the Athletics as Montas did for the Yankees. He appeared in seven games, compiling a 4.93 ERA mark over 34 innings while punching out around 23 percent of the batters he faced. Waldichuk has a long, Bassittian arm action, but that hasn’t prevented him from throwing strikes throughout his career. His best pitches are a mid-90s fastball and a sweeping slider, both of which racked up whiffs in an admittedly small sample. He also throws a promising changeup and a curveball to keep batters off balance. Together, that looks like a No. 3 or 4 starter. Waldichuk should open the year in the A’s rotation.
3. Zack Gelof, 3B (2023 seasonal age: 23)
Gelof, Oakland’s second rounder in 2021, reached Triple-A in his first full professional season after batting .271/.356/.438 with 13 home runs in 87 Double-A contests. The sales pitch here is that he has a wide collection of solid to solid-average tools and a patient approach that lets him draw walks. The drawbacks with Gelof’s game are that he may not have a plus tool other than his speed, and that his eagerness to constantly work deep into counts resulted in a 27 percent strikeout rate. Add in how Gelof’s arm could play on the light side, and there’s probably more downside here than meets the eye.