A career reliever, Garrett Acton was on the fast track to the major leagues as he went through four levels in just three years, culminating in his big-league debut this past summer. A power-righty, Acton was arguably the University of Illinois’ best closer in school history, even setting the single-season saves record for not only his school, but in the entire Big 10 conference. In addition he remains to this day the school’s career saves leader in just two seasons.
Acton has been a member of the organization since signing with them as an undrafted free agent in 2020. The expectation was that Acton would have been a late-teens draft pick but instead got to pick where he ended up, and he chose the Athletics.
What were the expectations?
Acton has been considered a sort of sleeper relief prospect since he’s always been able to rack up strikeouts at a nice rate. The problem has been his walk rate. As he’s climbed the minor league ranks his strikeout rate dropped while his walk has remained the same. Acton made it all the way to Triple-A last year and began the season with the Aviators, and was a prime candidate to make his MLB debut at some point this season.
Acton spent the first month and change in Las Vegas before a mid-May promotion to the big-league club. Unfortunately it didn’t last long as Acton only made it into six games. His career started well enough as he pitched 1 ⅔ scoreless innings in his very first game action against the World Series Champion Texas Rangers. Acton only allowed one run over his first 4 ⅔ innings but things fell apart in his final two outings. In his final two games for the Athletics, Acton allowed seven runs over two appearances while only retiring three batters. Those two appearances were enough for the club to demote him back to Triple-A. And two weeks after that he went on the minor-league IL with an unknown injury, which ultimately ended his season.
What went right? What went wrong?
Not a whole went right for Acton in 2023. On the bright side of things, he got off to a solid start in his first four outings for the club. He showed that his stuff can play in the majors and it can strike people out as he collected his first five strikeouts of his career.
On the downside, Acton’s control problems followed him up to the A’s and was obviously an issue as he also walked five batters. Two rough performances was enough to demote him from an historically bad bullpen, which can’t be good for a young player’s psyche. Add in a season-ending injury and being released, and 2023 will end up as a bitter-sweet season for the power-throwing righty.
Since his release Acton has yet to latch on with another club. The expectation should be that Acton looks for a change of scenery and another opportunity provided he is healthy, next spring.