'New Oakland' prospects flash their star power

Catcher-first baseman Soderstrom on fast track to Majors; Butler homers vs. Rockies

February 28th, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- If all goes according to plan, Tyler Soderstrom is going to have a long and fruitful Major League career as a potential star. The elite tools in his bag back that projection for Oakland’s No. 1 prospect and No. 39 overall prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline.

Soderstrom, who was selected 26th overall out of Turlock (Calif.) High School in the 2020 MLB Draft, has forced the A’s to accelerate his trajectory with success at every Minor League level. They can hear his footsteps -- the catcher ended the '22 season at Triple-A Las Vegas -- and they’re utilizing this Spring Training as preparation for his imminent arrival.

Monday was an example of that. In a 7-3 loss to the Rockies at Hohokam Stadium, Soderstrom got the start behind the plate and caught the game’s first five innings. Though the 21-year-old backstop had already played in 16 Cactus League games with the A’s over the past three years, this marked his first inclusion in the starting lineup.

“Big day for Tyler,” manager Mark Kotsay said. “Getting a start behind the plate. What he’s accomplished so far, he’s on track. It’s great to see him have the success and mature the way he’s matured.”

There isn’t much left for Soderstrom to prove from an offensive standpoint. In 191 Minor League games, he’s slashing .279/.344/.521 with 88 extra-base hits, including 41 home runs, and 154 RBIs. The final step in his development might be figuring out his long-term position; he was drafted as a catcher but played the majority of his games at first base last season.

The A’s will prioritize keeping Soderstrom mostly behind the plate for as long as he remains in big league camp this spring so he can acclimate to the faster pace the position demands at the highest level. Should Soderstrom reach Oakland in the next year or so, however, there is already an obvious young and talented incumbent with the A’s in Shea Langeliers.

Whether it be as a catcher or first baseman, Soderstrom appears to be on a fast track, and the A’s are certainly excited about what is soon to come.

“We feel like he accelerated that growth last season,” Kotsay said. “Once you get to Double-A, there’s nothing that says you can’t be in the big leagues, regardless of age. It’s overall performance. I think Tyler understands that.”

Butler goes off

While it was a special day for Soderstrom, fellow prospect Lawrence Butler may have stolen the show with his performance. Butler, ranked as Oakland's No. 17 prospect, went 2-for-2 on Monday, first breaking up a no-hitter in the seventh with a double that was tagged 111 mph off the bat, according to the stadium scoreboard, and later smashing an opposite-field solo homer to left in the ninth.

A sixth-round pick by the A’s in the 2018 MLB Draft out of Westlake High School in Atlanta, Butler enjoyed a strong 2022 campaign with High-A Lansing in which he posted an .825 OPS with 11 homers, 19 doubles, 41 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in 81 games. After he got some extra work in the Arizona Fall League, the A’s rewarded him by placing him on the club’s 40-man roster in the offseason.

“He’s fun,” Kotsay said of Butler. “He’s got the tools. It’s taken him a little while to put it together. Any time you’re a high school guy, it takes a little while to get acclimated. He’s big, physical and mature now. He’s got the tools to play here.”

Butler is one of several top prospects who were invited to A’s camp this spring. Others include Soderstrom, Zack Gelof (No. 3), Denzel Clarke (No. 13), Max Muncy (No. 8) and Daniel Susac (No. 4). Oakland views it as a chance for the young players the club anticipates will make a big impact at the end of the current rebuild to gain valuable experience by interacting with current big league players and coaches. So far, Butler is taking advantage of the opportunity.

“It’s been pretty good just being around the big league guys,” Butler said. “Getting to talk to some of them and pick their brain about things we wonder about in the Minor Leagues all the time. I’m having a lot of fun up here.”