“I can’t go to get popcorn right now — Aledmys Diaz is on deck!” explained no fan ever. So ok, the 2023 Oakland A’s are not going to be utterly fascinating in every way, and most likely we will not see an outbreak of green and gold Jace Peterson jerseys.
However, following a dismal 2022 in which the A’s set a record for different players on the roster, rookies on the roster, and yawns in the stands (a remarkable feat given the tiny crowds), I am here to tell you that 2023 has excitement to offer beginning with spring training.
Storylines worth following with players worth getting excited about seeing...
Spring is about hope, and what if the A’s had good reason to flip an All-Star catcher for a single prospect named Esteury? The ceiling is pretty high here, folks, as Ruiz can run like the wind and is coming off of a spectacular 2022 MiLB season.
It’s intriguing to hear that the A’s believe Ruiz can be a “plus CFer” because that alone creates a high floor to build on. And then sure, it followed 3 rather pedestrian minor league seasons but you can’t scoff at a 23 year old’s slash line of .332/.447/.526, with 85 SB, across 114 AA and AAA games.
A few things would have to fall into place for this to happen, but is it so far fetched to think — or at least hope or dream — that Ruiz might wind up taking the first A’s at bat in a new stadium? I can’t wait to see him play.
Lots of attention has gone to various prospects acquired when the A’s dealt star after star in the past year. But hidden gems are so A’s and here is my quickie analysis of Noda...
...If Mark Canha and Brandon Moss had a love child (admittedly unlikely to actually happen), would it be Ryan Noda?
Noda is a rule 5 pick blessed with strong plate discipline and easy power. He is also a LH hitting 1Bman whose path to the big leagues was delayed because he was blocked and denied opportunity.
A’s fans will be thrilled if Noda turns out to be as good as either Canha or Moss, each of whom were instrumental in runs of success in Oakland. In 2023, Opening Day comes on Noda’s 27th birthday but don’t be fooled by his age. Noda was arguably ready in 2021 when he hit .250/.383/.521 at AA but was never promoted, and he was ready in 2022 when he mashed .259/.395/.474 in AAA.
It’s not like the Dodgers don’t think Noda is any good. They just happen to have Freddie Freeman starring at 1B and under contract through 2027. So they exposed Noda to the Rule 5 draft and their loss could be Oakland’s gain. (Side note: you know how the A’s were hosed in the draft lottery? They still got to pick 2nd in the rule 5 draft and it may pay off in spades.)
Just because he wasn’t linked to Matt Olson, Frankie Montas or Sean Murphy, just because he isn’t a household name, doesn’t mean he won’t be really good. He’s another guy I’m excited to see as the A’s try to develop their next “contending heart of the order”.
Tyler Soderstrom/Zack Gelof
For all the deals they have made over the last 12 months, a lot of the A’s success with the rebuild will sit on the shoulders of two key draftees, Soderstrom and Gelof.
Each may be better than they seem on paper because it’s easy to forget that Soderstrom is coming off of just his age 20 season, and Gelof was drafted in 2021. It means Soderstrom has been very young for his leagues and Gelof has gotten just 132 professional games under his belt.
Both have a chance to arrive in Oakland sometime in 2023 and both have a shot at being legitimate impact players. Soderstrom can really hit, with easy power to all fields, and while his BB rates have come under some scrutiny perhaps concerns have been a bit overblown. After all his BB rate was a solid 10.6% in A ball at the age of 19. Then 7.8% in A+ at age 20 followed by 6.8% upon promotion to AA.
Certainly, “patience” would be a good focus for Soderstrom at AAA in order to complete the rounding of his game, but from all reports this guy can flat out mash and it’s been a while since the A’s have had a prospect who fit that narrative.
As for Gelof, prior to his fluke injury he was mashing and racing up the ladder. In a recent post, I likened his skill set and potential to comp with Ian Kinsler and that’s high praise. I know these two won’t open the season in Oakland, but how can you not be jazzed to see them in spring training, to follow their progress at AAA, and await their arrival?
MLB ready trade acquisitions
Some of the players the A’s have acquired recently in trades have a chance to break camp with Oakland in 2023. Ruiz is one who I felt deserved his own section, but there are others worth watching as potential “core pieces” for a team on the rise.
Kyle Muller will vie for a spot in the rotation out of camp and is touted as having mid-rotation potential, especially if the improved control he showed in 2022 proves to be for real.
Ken Waldichuk may have #2 SP upside, which he flashed in his 7 A’s starts last August and September. J.P. Sears appeared to run out of gas a bit at the end, but showed glimpses of why he consistently put up great numbers throughout the minors and into his big league debuts with the Yankees and A’s.
Shea Langeliers already seems to have two important aspects of the big league game down: an accurate bazooka for a throwing arm and big time power. His MLB debut featured far too many strikeouts, but the tools are there for Langeliers to be anything from “Sean Murphy lite” to, well, “Sean Murphy-ish,” and his emergence would go a long way to solidifying the rebuild.
I’m just saying there’s a lot to anticipate, follow, and watch with interest, because while there are no guarantees there is in fact quite a bit of talent and potential on the horizon. And if you go to spring training, you can see a lot more with a wave of “2024-25 candidates” whose upside is considerable. That group would include outfielders Lawrence Butler and Denzel Clarke, starting pitchers Mason Miller and Gunnar Hoglund.
So ok, you might need to watch the A’s with one eye and the Las Vegas Aviators with the other, and you would be well advised not to focus too closely on the standings. But spring training is only 7 weeks away and I’m excited. So you should be too!