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MLB Draft 2020: Oakland A’s select Tyler Soderstrom with No. 26 overall pick

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A bat-first catcher out of Turlock High School in California

2019 PDP League Workout Day Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Oakland A’s selected Tyler Soderstrom in the 1st round of the 2020 MLB Draft on Wednesday, with the No. 26 overall pick. The 18-year-old is a left-handed hitting catcher from Turlock High School in California.

Here’s a scouting report on Soderstrom from MLB Pipeline:

Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 40 | Overall: 50

Back in 1993, Steve Soderstrom was the No. 6 overall pick in the Draft out of Fresno State and pitched in the big leagues. Three years prior, he was a 15th-round pick out of Turlock High School in California. That’s where his son, Tyler, currently plays and while he’s not likely to go as high as his dad did out of college, a solid summer at events like the PDP League and Perfect Game All-American Classic have him firmly on the 2020 Draft map.

Soderstrom is an athletic, left-handed hitting catcher whose bat is ahead of his defense. At the plate, he’s really polished with a solid overall approach and makes the kind of loud contact that makes people sit up and take notice when he’s taking batting practice. He’s a hitter first, but he will get to his power. He might be a tick above average as a runner, especially for a catcher, and has shown he has the athleticism to play third and even the outfield.

That could be important if teams feel he can’t catch long-term. He’s been the backup catcher on his high school team, mostly because the starter is a really good defender. Soderstrom’s hands work and he has a very strong arm, but he is raw in terms of blocking and game management. A team taking him high will be betting that the UCLA recruit’s mobility will be an asset and he can develop into an offensive-minded backstop in the big leagues.

Baseball America offers a similar opinion, praising his polished bat and the power potential in his 6’2, 200-pound frame. The downside is his questionable future behind the plate, although he at least has the arm and the “passion to catch,” but they note he’s got the bat to play at a corner infield or outfield position if necessary. On MLB Network’s broadcast, they offered a comp to Darren Daulton, former Phillies backstop and three-time All-Star.

Regarding Soderstrom’s chance of catching, Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle provides the following quote from A’s Scouting Director Eric Kubota: “I think every scout for the Oakland A’s thinks he’s a catcher. He has a strong desire to catch, and that’s more than half the battle when you’re talking about developing a catcher. He’s athletic, he has good hands and he has an advanced knowledge of the position for his age. ... We think all the ingredients are there to be a very good catcher.”

At the end of May, Melissa Lockard of The Athletic did a profile on Soderstrom, calling him the best high school prospect in Northern California. She offered this quote from a local scout:

“Really quick through the zone. Loft power. 60-future power, 55-future bat (on the 20-80 scouting scale),” Ozella said. “I think he’s probably the best hitter in the state. It’s easy for him. He’s consistently in a good position to hit.”

In a tweet on Wednesday, Lockard says that “Soderstrom reminds me of Matt Olson as a high school prospect. Pretty LH swing, smooth athlete even if he doesn’t have plus speed, big arm.”

Slusser brings us another glowing report from a local scout, who says Soderstrom “is the best amateur bat I’ve seen in my 15-year career. He’s got a chance to be really, really good. Just a special player.”

For whatever high school stats are worth, see Soderstrom’s at MaxPreps. Here’s some video of him in action, courtesy of 2080 Baseball:

A couple more video links:

The A’s were widely expected to take a college player with this pick, especially a pitcher or infielder, but instead they look toward the prep ranks for the first time since choosing high school outfielder Austin Beck in 2017. They certainly didn’t reach for Soderstrom, though, as he ranked well above No. 26 on several mainstream pre-draft boards:

He wound up being the 11th high school player selected this year, but some believe he should have been higher. Kyle Glaser of Baseball America says: “You’ll find scouts who felt Soderstrom belonged in the Robert Hassell [8th pick], Zac Veen [9th], Austin Hendrick [12th], Pete Crow-Armstrong [19th] group of the best high school hitters in the draft. A’s potentially have a steal at the back of the first round if those projections come true.”

As far as signing Soderstrom away from his UCLA commitment, Glaser reports the two sides have a deal worked out for “considerably above slot.” The slot value for this pick is $2,653,400, out of Oakland’s total bonus pool of $5,241,500 for their first five picks combined. Slusser follows up to say the terms aren’t yet finalized, but that “all the A’s folks I’ve spoken to are certain that he will sign.”

Soderstrom comes with a couple cool points of human interest. First, he’s a relatively local pick, coming out of Turlock around 100 miles away from the Coliseum. Second, he’s the son of a former MLB player — Steve Soderstrom was the No. 6 overall draft pick in 1993 by the Giants, and he pitched three games in the majors for San Francisco in ‘96. Now the family name moves over to the right side of the Bay. Here are 10 things to know about Tyler.

This is the seventh time in franchise history that the A’s have drafted a catcher in the 1st round, and the first since 2004, though one of them didn’t sign (in 1974). Here’s the full list of the ones who signed, all of whom came out of college (the ‘74 pick who didn’t sign, Jerry Johnson, was out of high school):

  • 1975: Bruce Robinson
  • 1986: Scott Hemond
  • 1988: Stan Royer
  • 2002: Jeremy Brown
  • 2004: Landon Powell
  • 2020: Tyler Soderstrom

All of those previous five picks reached the majors, and all but Royer played for the A’s. However, only Hemond and Powell saw notable time in Oakland, both as backups, with Powell putting up the biggest highlight by catching Dallas Braden’s perfect game in 2010.

To sum up, the A’s appear to have done well with their 1st-round pick, and as usual they’re gambling on big upside. Soderstrom is widely considered to be a mature, polished bat with lots of potential, who could either try to stick as a catcher or shift to a corner position. All high school draftees are long-term projects, so he has a long minor league journey ahead of him and we won’t see him in the majors anytime soon, but by all accounts he has a chance to be quite good if/when he arrives.

The draft continues on Thursday. The A’s will make four more picks, one in each of Rounds 2-5, at Nos. 58, 98, 127, and 157.