3 A's prospects impressing in Fall League

November 18th, 2021

Whether a prospect looking to make up for lost time or seeking to make adjustments ahead of the upcoming season, the Arizona Fall League provides that opportunity, one the A’s are taking full advantage of this year.

Nine A’s prospects are featured on the Mesa Solar Sox, who will be playing in Saturday’s AFL Championship Game at 5 p.m. MST on MLB Network. The five pitchers from Oakland’s farm system on Mesa’s roster are left-hander Hogan Harris and right-handers Jeff Criswell, Bryce Conley, Pedro Santos and Brock Whittlesey. The position player side for Mesa includes infielders Jonah Bride, Logan Davidson and Jeremy Eierman, as well as outfielder Austin Beck.

Here’s a closer look at a few prospects who have stood out during their time in the AFL:

RHP Jeff Criswell
AFL stats: Six games pitched, 2-1 record, 6.75 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 12 walks in 22 2/3 innings pitched
MLB Pipeline A’s Top 30 Prospects ranking: No. 14
Age: 22

A’s assistant general manager Billy Owens, who has kept a close eye on the club’s prospects down in Arizona, described Criswell as “Bassitt-ish” in reference to Oakland ace Chris Bassitt and the similarity in the athletic build of both pitchers. That’s quite the comparison, but one Criswell probably merits as he entered Thursday leading the Fall League in strikeouts.

Shortly after being drafted by the A’s in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft, there was talk of Criswell possibly transitioning into a bullpen role, which would allow his power fastball to play up even more. However, showing the ability to pump his heater in the zone for strikes at around 93-97 mph this Fall after injuries limited him to just 12 innings pitched for High-A Lansing during the regular season, Criswell might just have the arsenal to stick in a starter’s role for the long term.

“His changeup is a lane changer with fade and swing and miss possibilities,” Owens said. “Couple that with a power slider and tight curve, Jeff has the artillery to eventually be a Major League starting pitcher.”

INF Jonah Bride AFL stats: 12-for-50 (.240), .865 OPS through 16 games played, two home runs, two doubles, seven RBIs, 12 strikeouts, 15 walks
MLB Pipeline A’s Top 30 Prospects ranking: N/A
Age: 25

Bride left a few members of the A’s scouting department viewing him as a sleeper prospect who could soon reach the mainstream Top 30 Prospects radar after his continued development over the past year at Double-A Midland. In addition to improved offense, Bride has added to his versatility by receiving playing time at catcher in the AFL. Though it’s a position he’d never played before at the professional or college level, Bride jumped at the opportunity that was actually suggested by Owens after the end of the regular season.

“Jonah has a knack for the barrel and good eye at the plate,” said Owens. “He’s always been a very productive player in our system. We used the Instructional League and Fall League to introduce him to the catcher position and he looks natural behind the plate.”

SS Logan Davidson AFL stats: 20-for-68 (.294), .841 OPS through 18 games played, two home runs, four doubles, 11 RBIs, 31 strikeouts, 15 walks, one stolen base
MLB Pipeline A’s Top 30 Prospects ranking: No. 12
Age: 23

Davidson held up well following the absence of a 2020 Minor League season by playing in 119 games for Double-A Midland this season. Continuing to make strides on the defensive end by working closely with Midland manager Bobby Crosby, a former A’s shortstop and 2004 AL Rookie of the Year, the A’s were looking for a good showing at the plate from Davidson in the Fall League. He’s done just that, performing as one of Mesa’s top hitters and earning a spot in the Fall Stars Game.

Continually refining his swing, the switch-hitting Davidson has developed more power to the opposite field from the left side. The muscle he added to his 6-foot-3 frame last winter has also helped both in the power department and with his durability.

“The Fall League gave him more runway to sharpen his approach,” Owens said of Davidson. “It’s exciting to see his progress and how he is finishing strong. Overall, he fits our style of play -- strong defense at shortstop with the ability to be versatile. He’s got significant power and supreme patience at the plate.”