This A's power arm has raised his profile in '24

May 4th, 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.

When the time came for the A’s to decide whether to protect from the Rule 5 Draft this winter, there was plenty of reason for them to decide against it.

Despite his tantalizing power arm, Salinas -- acquired from the Braves in December 2022 as part of the Sean Murphy deal -- disappointed the A’s with his conditioning entering his first season with his new organization. Salinas went on to have an injury-riddled '23 campaign. When he was healthy enough to pitch for Double-A Midland, the right-hander posted a 5.48 ERA in 18 games (16 starts) with 89 strikeouts and 31 walks in 67 1/3 innings, leading to an assignment to the Arizona Fall League for extra work.

November rolled around, and the A’s ultimately added Salinas to their 40-man roster, preventing other clubs from potentially poaching him in December’s Rule 5 Draft. A month into the season, that decision is looking like a wise choice.

Salinas, ranked Oakland’s No. 15 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has hit the ground running in his second go-round with Midland. Through five starts, he holds a 2.59 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 14 walks in 24 1/3 innings.

“It’s been impressive watching Royber this season,” said A’s assistant general manager and director of player personnel Billy Owens. “He’s definitely raised his profile and we’re looking forward to see him push forward.”

Salinas showed up to Arizona this February for his first big league Spring Training in much better condition. His slimmed-down 6-foot-3 frame caught the attention of the A’s coaching staff and front office, something they requested he work on following the 2023 season.

These days, Salinas is pumping his sinking fastball up to 98 mph. He also brings a power slider that generates plenty of swing-and-miss, and rounds out his pitch mix with a crisp curveball and improving changeup.

Like most power arms, refining command is the last step for the 23-year-old Salinas. That remains a work in progress, though the early consistent high strike totals in his first five starts are encouraging and could lead to a promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas in the near future.

“This kid’s got electric stuff,” said A’s director of player development Ed Sprague. “He was a little bit out of shape last year. Came in and had a few injuries here and there. … Electric sinker and slider. It’s pretty fun to watch.”

Here’s a roundup of some other notable performances throughout the A’s system:

Triple-A Las Vegas
Tyler Soderstrom leads the Aviators with seven home runs and has posted a .914 OPS through 24 games. The 22-year-old catcher has also logged five games at first base. Formerly Oakland’s No. 1 overall prospect, Soderstrom should find his way back to the big leagues at some point this season if his early success at the plate can continue.

High-A Lansing
After getting a late start to spring due to injury, A’s top pitching prospect Luis Morales made his 2024 debut on Tuesday against South Bend. Working 4 1/3 innings, the right-hander allowed three runs on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts as he reached his pitch limit of 70. The A’s will continue ramping him up by increasing his workload over his next few starts for the Lugnuts.

Single-A Stockton
It was a big day for A’s No. 6 prospect Steven Echavarria on Thursday. After sticking around Arizona for a few weeks post-Spring Training to work closely with A’s Minor League pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, the 18-year-old right-hander made his pro debut. Facing Visalia, Echavarria allowed two unearned runs on five hits and three walks with three strikeouts across 3 2/3 innings for the Ports.

Echavarria carries a ton of buzz within the A’s front office, which was thrilled to land him as a third-round pick in the 2023 MLB Draft and was able to lure him away from a commitment to the University of Florida by signing him well above slot value.