A's stay local, draft catcher Soderstrom first

Fellow A's prospect, longtime throwing partner: 'I can’t wait to throw to him for years to come'

June 11th, 2020

OAKLAND -- The A’s didn’t have to travel far to find their first-round selection in the 2020 MLB Draft, going about 90 miles east of the Oakland Coliseum to select catcher Tyler Soderstrom of Turlock High School.

Drafting Soderstrom with the No. 26 pick marked the first time the A’s have used a first-round pick on a catcher since drafting Landon Powell at No. 24 in the 2004 Draft. If the newbie's last name sounds familiar to those in the Bay Area, it's because Soderstrom’s father, Steve, was a first-round selection by the Giants in 1993. The two are now just the 10th father-son duo in MLB history to be drafted in the first round.

“It’s helped me a lot,” Soderstrom said of the relationship with his father. “We’ve talked about game management and pitch calling. He’s a big help in that part of my game and I’m super blessed to have him.”

A’s scouting director Eric Kubota believes the club found a steal in Soderstrom, who was named the 2020 Gatorade California Baseball Player of the Year for 2019-20 and rated the No. 19 overall draft prospect by MLB Pipeline.

“If you had asked me going into it whether this would happen, I would have been surprised,” Kubota said of the selection. “But things seemed to align for us and we were fortunate.

“We think he’s one of the premier high school bats in this Draft and has a chance to impact the game defensively behind the plate.”

According to MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo, Soderstrom is an advanced hitter who is considered “one of the better left-handed pure bats in this Draft.” Mayo and fellow Draft guru Jim Callis had Soderstrom going No. 13 in their last mock Draft (to the Giants, no less).

While Soderstrom is a UCLA commit, Kubota does not have concerns about whether the club will be able to sign the catcher.

“I think we’re comfortable we can make something happen,” Kubota said.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Soderstrom’s future at catcher was in question entering the Draft. Mayo noted that while Soderstrom does possess a strong arm behind the dish, other areas of his defensive game are still a work in progress and could lead to an eventual move to a corner outfield spot or third base. Though when asked about Soderstrom’s long-term status at catcher, Kubota had zero doubts.

“I think every scout for the Oakland A’s thinks he’s a catcher,” Kubota said. “He has a strong desire to catch, and that’s more than half the battle. He’s got an advanced knowledge about the position for his age. We think all the ingredients are there to be a very good catcher.”

The batting skills alone are certainly intriguing. Soderstrom played for the U.S. 18U National Team in the summer of 2019, starting all nine games in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup. He hit .364 for Team USA, including a two-run double in a win over Chinese Taipei on Aug. 30 and an RBI double in a win over Spain on Sept. 2.

Soderstrom will have at least one familiar face once in the organization with right-hander Daulton Jefferies, the A’s No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline, who grew up in Merced, about a half hour from Soderstrom’s hometown in Turlock. Having worked out every offseason with Tyler at Steve Soderstrom’s Backyard Sports Academy for about four years now, Jefferies can provide a pretty strong scouting report on the A’s newest Draftee.

“Offensively, I see him day in and day out working on his craft. He has a big bat and he’s a big, physical guy with so much more room to grow,” Jefferies told MLB.com. “Definitely beyond his years from a work ethic standpoint.”

As far as the defense goes, “I’ve been throwing to him since he was a freshman in high school and he’s very interactive,” Jefferies said. “He asks questions, gives feedback, wants to learn. Every time I throw a bullpen, he wants to be the one catching it. You don’t see a lot of high school kids who are as attentive and detail-oriented as he is, but that’s what got him to this position. He’s a humble, hard-working kid that is a perfect fit for Oakland, and I can’t wait to throw to him for years to come.”

The player comparisons for Soderstrom are wide-ranging. Former Rockies general manager and current MLB Network analyst Dan O’Dowd threw out former All-Star as a comp. Soderstrom hasn’t looked into these too much, but he said he likes to model his swing after current left-handed stars and .

“Those are two guys I idolize,” Soderstrom said. “My bat is my biggest asset. That along with my athleticism and arm strength will take me far in this game.”

The Draft continues today with Rounds 2-5. The MLB Network preview show begins at 1 p.m. PT, with live coverage on MLB Network and ESPN2 beginning at 2 p.m. PT. Go to MLB.com/Draft for complete coverage, including every pick on the Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.