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Oakland A’s 2021 Community Prospect List #2: Tyler Soderstrom has impact bat, high ceiling

The lefty returns to the top spot after two years in second place

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

Our 2021 Community Prospect List now has members, plural, as last year’s 1st-round draft pick Tyler Soderstrom earns the second spot. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. A.J. Puk, LHP (+42%)
  2. Tyler Soderstrom, C (+16%)

The Oakland A’s didn’t pick until No. 26 in the 1st round of the draft last summer, but they made the most of their low position. Other teams didn’t think they could sign the Northern California high schooler so he fell to the A’s, and for them he went pro.

What they got was one of the best bats their system has seen in recent memory. Baseball America gives him 60-grades for his Hit and Power tools, and says it’s “easy to envision 30-home run potential with loads of walks and a high OBP. Hardly an all-or-nothing slugger, Soderstrom has a polished lefthanded swing and projects to be a plus hitter.” MLB Pipeline agrees with the 60-grade Hit tool and the polished label.

On defense he’s billed as a catcher, and maybe he’ll stick there all the way to the majors. But even if he doesn’t, his bat would profile well at any position, and with a plus arm and decent athleticism it shouldn’t be hard to find another spot for him.

Soderstrom drew rave reviews for his hitting over the summer and fall since joining the organization, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him reach High-A sometime this year, at age 19. He got the attention of one national Top 100 prospect list, with Baseball America ranking him No. 92, and if he has a strong debut this summer he could rocket up those charts next year.

With A.J. Puk likely to graduate quickly in April, Soderstrom is already realistically the A’s top prospect at this point. The question is whether he can finish the year as one of the top prospects in the whole sport.

The voting process is explained below. Please take a moment to read this before participating:

  • Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of “Vote: Player Name” for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official “Vote” comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group.
  • Choose your ONE favorite by Rec’ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one. The player who receives the most Rec’s earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee.
  • In the comments, below the official voting, the community will nominate players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a response to my comment. The format for your comment should be “Nomination: Player Name”.
  • After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec’ing his comment. The player with the most Rec’s earns the nomination for the next ballot.
  • If a prospect is traded, his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space. If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should rank.

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The new nominee is Logan Davidson. He was the A’s 1st-round pick the previous year, in 2019, out of college at No. 29 overall. He doesn’t offer the same lofty ceiling as Soderstrom, but there’s still a lot to like in a switch-hitting shortstop with power, speed, a good arm, and strong enough defense to stick at the position. His primary drawback is a below-average Hit tool, and he’ll look to overcome that this year in his first crack at full-season ball.

Hitter rates (poor/avg/great):

  • wRC+ (75/100/135)
  • BB% (5.0%/8.5%/12.0%)
  • K% (14%/22%/30%)

Nominees on the current ballot:

Logan Davison, SS

Expected level: High-A | Age 23

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at alternate site camp)
2019 stats (A-): 238 PAs, 112 wRC+, 4 HR, 13.0% BB, 23.1% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50

A switch-hitting infielder, Davidson has wiry strength and a lot of raw power, with more in-game pop to come as he fills out that 6-foot-3 frame. With some length to his arms, there’s swing and miss and he does have trouble being on time at the plate. If he’s going to get to average game power, there are going to be strikeouts as well, though he does offset that with an ability to work counts and draw walks. An above-average runner who does produce plus run times occasionally, Davidson is a good baserunner able to steal a base now and again.

Though he’s a bit tall for shortstop, that speed, his overall athleticism and his strong arm should be enough to let him stay at the premium position long term. The A’s do like to move infielders around, and he could see time on both sides of second base, and even some action at the hot corner, as he begins his climb up the A’s ladder.

* * *

Nick Allen, SS

Expected level: Double-A | Age 22

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at alternate site camp)
2019 stats (A+): 328 PAs, 122 wRC+, 3 HR, 8.5% BB, 15.9% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 30 | Run: 60 | Arm: 60 | Field: 65 | Overall: 50

No matter how much Allen improves at the plate, there’s no question he’ll always be a defensive-minded player. He makes every play at shortstop, with plus range, hands, footwork and a plus arm that allows him to make throws from every angle and on the run. All of it plays up even more because of his outstanding instincts that give him Gold Glove potential. He also showed he can handle second base easily, sharing time at both spots with fellow prospect Jeremy Eierman, though there is no question which of the two is a full-time shortstop long term.

Before the injury, Allen was executing his offensive game plan better than he had previously, showing an advanced approach at the plate and using his line-drive swing well, though he never got his timing back when he returned from injury in the AFL. He can get caught buying into the launch angle game a bit too much and that’s never going to be part of his game. At the very least, Allen looks like a No. 8 or 9 hitter as a big league regular. If his offensive gains before he got hurt are real, that plus his defensive profile point to a much larger impact.

* * *

Robert Puason, SS

Expected level: Rookie League | Age 18

2020 stats: DID NOT PLAY (but was at A’s alternate site camp)

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting Grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 45 | Run: 65 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 50

Puason is lean and wiry, with a frame that should add strength, and a body type that reminds some of former All-Star shortstop Tony Fernandez. He has a smooth stroke from both sides of the plate with the ability to barrel up the baseball consistently and spray line drives to all fields. As he matures and grows into his 6-foot-3 frame, there’s sure to be power to come. How much remains to be seen, but a floor of 15 homers annually seems more than reasonable given his long levers and some leverage to his swing.

A plus runner, there’s no question about Puason’s ability to play shortstop. He can really pick it and throw it, with fluid actions, good footwork and plus range to go along with a very strong arm. He’s already displaying solid instincts as well and will get to show off his tools in earnest this summer.

* * *

Daulton Jefferies, RHP

Expected level: MLB | Age 25

2020 stats (MLB): 1 start, 2 ip, 5 runs, 1 K, 2 BB, 2 HR
2019 stats (A+): 2.40 ERA, 15 ip, 21 Ks, 2 BB, 1 HR, 2.13 FIP
2019 stats (AA): 3.66 ERA, 64 ip, 72 Ks, 7 BB, 7 HR, 3.19 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 60 | Control: 60 | Overall: 50

Not only did Jefferies stay healthy in 2019 as the A’s closely monitored his workload, his stuff and command came back, allowing him to post a ridiculous 93/9 K/BB ratio over 79 innings of work. He’s likely going to work with a low-90s fastball, around 91-93 mph, though he can reach back for a 94 now and again and it plays up because of his ability to command it so well. He complements it with a plus changeup that he sells really well with his arm action and good tunneling with excellent fade that drops off the table right at the end.

He’s never had a great breaking ball and he’s experimented with different pitches and grips. He didn’t throw it a lot in 2019 and it was inconsistent, looking like a slider-cutter hybrid more often than not. If he can commit to a breaking ball to give him a third average offering, he has the chance to be a No. 4 type starter in short order, a kind of Kyle Hendricks type with a bit more velocity.

* * *

James Kaprielian, RHP

Expected level: MLB | Age 27

2020 stats: 2 games, 3⅔ ip, 3 runs, 4 Ks, 2 BB, 2 HR
2019 stats (A+): 4.46 ERA, 36⅓ ip, 43 Ks, 8 BB, 6 HR, 4.43 FIP
2019 stats (AA): 1.63 ERA, 27⅔ ip, 26 Ks, 8 BB, 2 HR, 3.60 FIP
2019 stats (AAA): 2.25 ERA, 4 ip, 6 Ks, 0 BB, 0 HR, 0.80 FIP

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (note that the info about his velocity is out of date, and he topped out at 97 mph in the majors in 2020):

Scouting grades: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45

No one has worked harder than Kaprielian to get back on the mound and start moving towards the big leagues. If his 2019 is any indication, he’s not going to be the guy who was pumping mid-90s heat with potentially plus secondary stuff back in college. Instead, he’s learning to pitch at 91-93 mph while occasionally touching 95, commanding the pitch very well. Because of his injury history, Kaprielian was a little tentative in throwing his secondary stuff. He still throws a curve and a slider, with the latter being a bit better, but they do blend into each other at times and neither were better than average last year. He does show a solid changeup with fade at times.

While Kaprielian is a physical pitcher, kind of in the mold of a Kevin Brown type, he’s going to have to be more of a finesse and command type and he did fill up the strike zone consistently in 2019. There’s a chance his stuff snaps back a bit the further removed from injury he gets, but he looks more like a back-end starter than the potential frontline one he projected to be coming out of college.

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Vote in the comments below for your favorite of the five by Rec’ing his “Vote: (Player Name)” comment, and post your nomination(s) as well!

Programming Note: Each CPL vote will run for around 24 hours, so don’t delay making your selections! Next ballot goes up at noon Thursday.