After going through what most outsiders viewed as a down period, the A’s farm system is forming a notable crop of young prospects who should make an impact at the big league level in the near future.
Beyond Soderstrom exists some other intriguing prospects who appear on the cusp of a regular big league spot in 2022. Others, including players just drafted to the club in July, catapulted themselves up the system rankings with impressive showings as Minor League play returned in 2021 after a one-year hiatus.
For a view of the future, here’s a closer look at the A’s Minor League system:
3 players who forced their way onto the radar in 2021
3B Zack Gelof
Upon being drafted, Gelof said he’s probably watched more highlight videos of current A’s third baseman Matt Chapman than any other player in MLB. Based on Gelof’s early start to his professional career, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go on a Chapman-like ascension through the organization.
Gelof, the A’s second-round pick of the 2021 MLB Draft, joined the Low-A Stockton Ports and immediately showed why he was considered one of the top college hitters in the Draft by slashing .298/.393/.548 with seven home runs, eight doubles, 22 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 32 games. Rewarded with a big jump to Triple-A to end the year, Gelof continued to rake, going 7-for-12 with six RBIs in three games with the Las Vegas Aviators.
Gelof was going to be on the radar regardless of how he performed in his debut season. But given the strong first impression in an organization that is not afraid to quickly accelerate prospects to higher levels, this 22-year-old third baseman -- who is ranked Oakland’s No. 7 prospect -- could find himself knocking on the door of a big league callup by the final month of next season.
RHP Colin Peluse
Of A’s pitching prospects who reached 100 innings in 2021, Peluse was the most impressive. Beginning the year at High-A Lansing and finishing with Double-A Midland, he combined for a 3.39 ERA with 109 strikeouts against just 26 walks over 101 innings in 21 games (18 starts). This followed up on the buzz he already had created for himself within the organization’s scouting department after he returned from the pandemic showcasing improved velocity with a fastball that reached as high as 98 mph and sat between 93-95 mph.
1B/OF Lawrence Butler
There might not have been a prospect in the A’s system with a more dramatic increase in production than Butler. After batting just .177 in the New York Penn League in 2019, the 21-year-old first baseman/outfielder looked like a completely different player this year as he combined to hit .273 with 19 home runs and 75 RBIs while also adding 29 stolen bases in 102 games for Low-A Stockton and High-A Lansing.
In addition to the power and speed element, Butler’s improved plate discipline also stood out to the A’s scouting department. He now finds himself ranked Oakland’s No. 22 prospect and appears set to take a big step next season.
2 possible breakout players to watch in 2022
SS Nick Allen
Few prospects in baseball enjoyed a better 2021 campaign than Nick Allen. It began at Double-A Midland, where the supremely gifted defender seemed to silence critics with impressive numbers at the plate. Then came a trip to the Tokyo Olympics, where he was a key contributor to Team USA’s run to a silver medal. Finally, Allen returned from Tokyo and was rewarded with a callup to Triple-A Las Vegas, where he finished the season.
Ranked Oakland’s No. 3 prospect, Allen is likely to reach the big leagues at some point next year.
Jefferies got a nice taste of big league action this season as a starter and a reliever and impressed in both roles. Expected to be fully recovered by Spring Training from an elbow issue that caused him to miss the final two weeks of the regular season, Oakland’s No. 5 prospect will enter 2022 a candidate to begin the year in the starting rotation.
One big question for next season: Will Puk finally turn into a major contributor?
It’s hard to believe A.J. Puk is still considered a prospect. He’s been on the brink of looking like he was ready to flourish at the big league level on multiple occasions, only to have those instances derailed by injury. Now 26, it’s feeling like 2022 might be a make-or-break year for the 2016 first-rounder. Whether it’s as a starter or reliever, the A’s need to find out if Puk will ever be able to put it all together in the Majors.