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Oakland A’s sign undrafted catchers William Simoneit and Cooper Uhl

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William Simoneit (Wake Forest) and Cooper Uhl (LMU)

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The 2020 MLB draft is in the books, but this year it was much shorter than usual due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of around 1,200 players being drafted over 40 rounds, there were only five rounds featuring 160 picks. That means there are a lot of amateurs left over who would normally have heard their names called in any other summer, and teams can now begin signing them for up to $20,000 each.

Sunday marked the beginning of the undrafted free agent market, and the Oakland A’s got to work right away with two new additions. There could still be more in the coming days, so keep up to date on all the signings around the league with Baseball America’s tracker. For now, the newest A’s:

  • William Simoneit, C/IF, Wake Forest
  • Cooper Uhl, C, Loyola Marymount

Neither player was on any of the major pre-draft boards, not even cracking the Top 500 on Baseball America, so there aren’t any detailed scouting reports on them. But here’s some quick info.

William Simoneit

While he’s listed as an infielder on BA’s tracker, he’s also spent time as a catcher and is primarily identified at that position. He spent three seasons with Cornell in the Ivy League, then played 2020 for Wake Forest in the much stronger ACC, one of the best conferences in college ball. His career stats:

  • 2017 (92 PAs): .317/.391/.610, 5 HR, 7 BB, 14 Ks
  • 2018 (166 PAs): .308/.380/.406, 2 HR, 13 BB, 23 Ks
  • 2019 (156 PAs): .315/.372/.510, 6 HR, 8 BB, 12 Ks
  • 2020 (65 PAs): .377/.462/.642, 3 HR, 7 BB, 14 Ks

Standing 6’4, 235, with a bright red beard, Simoneit has been a consistently productive hitter and didn’t miss a beat upon his (brief) move to tougher competition this year. While his homer totals don’t jump off the page, Melissa Lockard of The Athletic notes his power, and for what it’s worth one observer on Twitter suggests he might have 60-grade Raw Power.

There’s not much out there about his defense, but when it does get mentioned it’s usually favorably or at least neutral, especially at third base. In terms of where he might play, he seems happy to do whatever will get him in the lineup, and overall his coach praised his work ethic.

Here’s some video of Simoneit ripping hits all over the field, including a couple walk-off homers, and also a few of his defensive highlights.

Simoneit was a grad transfer to Wake Forest, so as you might expect he’s on the older side for a new pro. He’s already 23, and he turns 24 in October, so he’ll need to move quickly to make an impact in the minors. But that’s just an obstacle, not a dealbreaker, and anyway his top MLB lookalike is a reminder that there is indeed room in the league for late-bloomers.

Although, perhaps a more apt example of an older pick making good would be Seth Brown, who was drafted by the A’s at age 23 and then made the bigs at 27. The point is, it can be done.

While he didn’t make the cut for the first five rounds, Simoneit appears to be a reasonably intriguing prospect. He’s got a bat worth checking out, and a versatile defensive profile that includes the most difficult position on the diamond. Sounds about like a 6th-10th round senior pick who signs to an underslot deal, which is effectively what he is in this case.

Cooper Uhl

The A’s have gone heavy on catchers in this draft, between 1st-round pick Tyler Soderstrom and then Simoneit, and they added yet another in Uhl. His numbers, from four seasons at Loyola Marymount University in the West Coast Conference:

  • 2017 (143 PAs): .210/.304/.235, 0 HR, 12 BB, 32 Ks
  • 2018 (177 PAs): .263/.396/.307, 0 HR, 26 BB, 22 Ks
  • 2019 (250 PAs): .241/.338/.335, 2 HR, 24 BB, 52 Ks
  • 2020 (78 PAs): .361/.487/.443, 0 HR, 14 BB, 8 Ks

Though Uhl was off to a nice start this year before the season was cut short, his offensive stats aren’t much to look at, especially his lack of power. Instead, defense appears to be the strength of his game, as he was named the WCC Defensive Player of the Year in his sophomore season. One observer on Twitter offered this report in 2018: “His catch and throw skills today are of MLB quality. He throws with no less than a 60 Arm and receives with at a minimum of 60 hands.”

While Uhl didn’t do much damage at the plate in college, he did have his moments. Here’s a crucial clutch hit that drove in the winning runs in the championship game of last year’s WCC Tournament.

Links to a couple more highlights: Go-ahead RBI single against UCLA (for eventual winning run) in 2019 in the College World Series Regional Round, and one of his homers in the 2019 regular season.

When asked how his time at LMU shaped him as an athlete and a person, Uhl responded with this:

My time at LMU has really showed me that work ethic isn’t something that is given, and that if you really want to earn something, you have to go out and work for it. Through this, I learned that there is always something more to do in order to excel at something whether that be with athletics or in life.

Defense-first catching prospects can be difficult to gauge, since the position is so unique in its duties and is yet to be meaningfully quantified by any stats. How good does a catcher have to be behind the plate to make up for not hitting much, and how can we judge which ones meet that threshold? At the very least, being recognized with a conference award is a nice start to a resume.

We’ll surely learn more about Simoneit and Uhl as the A’s front office weighs in on their new prospects, and when the scouts and experts offer their first-hand reports. For now, they’re a couple of interesting names to add to the organization’s thin catching ranks.

Click here for a full rundown of the A’s five picks in the 2020 draft.