Five developments from a promising A's camp

March 5th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos’ A’s Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

MESA, Ariz. -- Coming off a second consecutive 100-loss season, the A’s entered Spring Training feeling optimistic that a turnaround was near based on their offseason acquisitions and the amount of young talent that debuted over the second half of 2023.

Of course, spring numbers can often be misleading, so it is important not to overreact to the early success the A’s are enjoying both on the hitting and pitching sides. But at the very least, these spring accomplishments are providing some validation of those feelings the club had coming into camp.

Here are five observations from A’s Spring Training:

1. Miller looks unhittable

The A’s are not ruling out the possibility of one day emerging as the ace of their rotation. But at least for the 2024 season, Miller will pitch solely out of the bullpen as the club looks to limit his workload given his injury history.

Through two spring outings, Miller, ranked as Oakland’s No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has worked two perfect innings with five strikeouts while showing off a blazing fastball that is topping out at 103 mph, along with a wipeout slider. A’s manager Mark Kotsay has shied away from naming Miller the outright closer, though if this type of dominance continues throughout the spring and he keeps making opposing hitters look hopeless, it will be hard to justify any other reliever taking on that role.

2. A harder-hitting Ruiz

After finished near the bottom of the Majors in hard-hit contact and average exit velocity, the A’s sent him into the offseason with adjustments to work on regarding his swing and overall mechanics at the plate.

Early on in Cactus League play, the A’s are encouraged by Ruiz’s more frequent hard contact. His average exit velocity is up, showing signs that he made the necessary changes the club believes will help him become a more consistent hitter in 2024. That, in turn, will lead to a higher on-base percentage and perhaps a chance to improve upon his 67 stolen bases from last season, which set an American League rookie record.

“The exit velos are definitely up,” Kotsay said of Ruiz. “His bat path looks better. I told him he’s taking some great swings. Last year, his helmet was falling off, which means his head position wasn’t in the right place. He’s cleaned the mechanics up a little bit and he looks better.”

3. Hernaiz is a serious contender for third base

, Oakland’s No. 9 prospect, was thought to be on the outside looking in for a roster spot entering camp. Between his hot start and an injury to Aledmys Díaz, however, Hernaiz is doing all he can to force the A’s hand. The 22-year-old infielder is 5-for-16 (.313) through seven spring games.

What Hernaiz is doing on defense is perhaps the more important development in camp. Primarily a shortstop in the Minors, Hernaiz has silenced previous concerns about his arm, leading the A’s to believe he can handle third base, a position which remains without a true established starter.

4. Boyle is separating himself from the pack

has picked up where he left off in 2023. In two spring outings, the 6-foot-7 righty is routinely blowing triple-digit fastballs by hitters and demonstrating good control of all his pitches. The other young starters in contention for the final spot in the A’s rotation -- such as Joey Estes, Mitch Spence and Luis Medina -- are all building a strong case, but it’s Boyle who currently stands out as the leader for that job.

5. Early offensive explosion

Entering Tuesday, Oakland’s 62 runs scored in 10 games were tied for third-most in the Cactus League. More importantly, Ruiz, Zack Gelof, Lawrence Butler, Seth Brown and Ryan Noda are all swinging the bat well, providing hope that the A’s -- who in 2023 ranked last in MLB in runs scored -- could be poised to take a step forward in '24.