A's rebuild on fast track with influx of prospects

March 28th, 2022

MESA, Ariz. -- When the Athletics traded All-Stars Chris Bassitt, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman in a five-day span earlier this month, they received 10 prospects in return. Defensive stalwarts Shea Langeliers and Cristian Pache were the biggest names, but their arrival overshadowed the fact that Oakland added three arms who became its best pitching prospects.

Right-handers Gunnar Hoglund, J.T. Ginn and Ryan Cusick rank seventh, eighth and ninth on MLB Pipeline's new A's Top 30 list. Hoglund and Cusick were first-round picks in the 2021 Draft, while Ginn dropped to the second round in 2020 only because he had Tommy John surgery that spring. Hoglund also had his elbow reconstructed last May, though that didn't dissuade the Blue Jays from selecting him 19th overall.

Beyond that trio, Oakland also picked up three more potential starters in righties Joey Estes and Adam Oller plus lefty Zach Logue, as well as a southpaw reliever in Kirby Snead.

"We didn't have a lot of top pitching prospects before the trades," A's farm director Ed Sprague said. "Whether we have a new ballpark or not, we were in a window where we had three guys with great value and it was going to be time to move them either way. We're impressed with the players we got in return."

Hoglund likely would have been a top-10-overall pick last July if he hadn't gotten hurt at Mississippi. He has advanced command of a solid four-pitch mix. He's back to throwing on the side and Sprague said he'll probably be ready to make his pro debut in June.

"We're trying to keep Hoglund's effort level down so he doesn't try to impress his new organization by overthrowing," Sprague said. "But you can tell that his big lower half will produce a lot of power down the road."

Oakland also is exercising caution with Ginn, who has a mild lat strain. If he's not ready for Opening Day, he should join an affiliate soon thereafter. The Mississippi State product had reached 97 mph with his fastball earlier in the spring and his mid-80s slider can be a wipeout pitch at times.

Cusick was one of the hardest throwers in his college class, sitting in the mid-90s throughout his starts and topping out at 102 mph with Wake Forest. He also can flash a plus curveball and has a harder slider, though his changeup lags behind the rest of his arsenal.

"Cusick is a big body who can get it up to 100 mph," Sprague said. "He doesn't really have a changeup, so we're going to try to get him one so we can keep him on the starter track."

Estes stands out the most among the rest of the pitching acquisitions. Signed by the Braves for a well over-slot $497,500 as a 16th-rounder out of a California high school in 2019, he won Low-A East pitcher of the year honors last year after leading the circuit in ERA (2.91), strikeouts (127 in 99 innings), opponent average (.184) and WHIP (0.96). He sits at 92-95 mph with a four-seam fastball that features good carry up in the zone and locates his secondary pitches well.

Camp standout: Zach Gelof
Gelof had an up-and-down junior season at Virginia in 2021 before finishing strong and signing with the Oakland as a second-round pick. The third baseman has been on a roll ever since, batting .333/.422/.565 in his pro debut -- including a 7-for-12 stint in Triple-A -- and has carried that momentum into Minor League Spring Training.

"We think Gelof is more hit than power but the power will come," Sprague said. "He's a sneaky-good runner who can play in center field now and we'll try him at second base. He reminds me of D.J. LeMahieu. He'll probably be a fast mover and we'll start him in Double-A.""We think Gelof is more hit than power but the power will come," Sprague said. "He's a sneaky-good runner who can play in center field now and we'll try him at second base. He reminds me of D.J. LeMahieu. He'll probably be a fast mover and we'll start him in Double-A."

Breakout potential: Denzel Clarke
Clarke comes from an athletic family that includes his mother, Donna Clarke, a heptathlete at the 1984 Summer Olympics, and cousins Bo and Josh Naylor, former first-rounders now in the Guardians organization. A fourth-round pick out of Cal State Northridge last year, he's a 6-foot-5, 220-pounder who combines plus raw power and speed with quality center-field defense. His seven-game pro debut last summer only gave a brief glimpse of what he can do.

"Clarke reminds me of Ramon Laureano when we first got him," Sprague said. "He can really run for a big guy and he's a good outfielder with a strong arm. He's not always synced up at the plate but he can mishit balls over the wall. We'll have to make a few tweaks here and there."

Something to prove: Logan Davidson
Davidson went 29th overall in the 2019 Draft out of Clemson because he showed the potential for four solid or better tools, though he came with concerns about his bat. He didn't do anything to dissuade them when he hit .212/.307/.313 with 155 strikeouts in 119 Double-A games in 2021, his first full pro season.

"Davidson made some improvements in the Arizona Fall League and has maintained them," Sprague said. "He plays a good shortstop but he probably winds up at third base. He made a great turn the other day at second base in a big league game. He has looked really good."