Soderstrom seeks 'good impression' with A's

February 27th, 2021

MESA, Ariz. -- Most young players tend to be seen but not heard when going through their first big league camp.

is not like most young players.

For a 19-year-old who was just drafted last year, Soderstrom, ranked as the A's No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline, appears to be relaxed and loose in his early interactions with the Major League roster as a non-roster invite. The left-handed-hitting catcher selected 26th overall out of Turlock High School by Oakland in the 2020 MLB Draft blends right in, whether it be chatting up the older players in the clubhouse or putting on a show during batting practice at team workouts.

“When I was 18 years old, I was afraid to talk to anybody on a big league roster,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He seems to be really comfortable. He’s comfortable when he talks to me. I guess when you’re good, you have some confidence in being around the guys.

“Very rarely do you see a guy that young that seems to be that much comfortable around these guys right now, and he certainly is confident any time he steps in the box.”

The pedigree of Soderstrom might suggest that he knew what to expect coming into his first big league camp. His father, Steve, was selected sixth overall by the Giants in the 1993 MLB Draft. His brother, Tate, is currently playing college ball at UC San Diego as a redshirt junior.

In joining the A’s organization, Soderstrom has come full circle with fellow top prospect Daulton Jefferies. The 25-year-old right-hander began to utilitze Soderstrom’s father as a pitching coach at the age of 9. At the time, Jefferies recalled a young Tyler hanging around during pitching sessions. As the catcher got older, the two became offseason throwing partners when Jefferies was drafted by the A’s in 2016.

“I remember seeing Tyler as this little runt of a kid with super blonde hair just running around with his brother,” Jefferies said. “He caught my bullpens when he was in high school and now he has the same uniform on as me. I think it’s really awesome.”

A’s officials quickly noticed Soderstrom’s supreme strike zone recognition and raw power while he got some work in with some of the club’s top Minor Leaguers at the A’s alternate training site in San Jose last year. Through the early part of Spring Training, those tools continue to stand out.

But something else stands out about Soderstrom, perhaps even more than the pop in his bat. The young catcher is thirsty for knowledge, constantly asking questions as he seeks new ways to improve his game.

“He constantly wants to learn, which, especially as a catcher, is great to see at a young age,” Jefferies said. “I’ve interacted with college guys that aren’t as mature as him. I think that speaks a lot to his family and his upbringing.”

There are few flaws that come with a prospect with such impressive credentials like Soderstrom, who was named the 2020 Gatorade California Baseball Player of the Year for 2019-20 and was considered by most draft experts as the top prep catcher in the 2020 MLB Draft. But there was one knock on him going in, as scouts questioned whether he would remain a catcher as a professional due to concerns about his defense behind the plate.

While it is clear that Soderstrom’s bat is ahead of his glove, the backstop has worked extensively with A’s bullpen coach Marcus Jensen to change that narrative this spring. Soderstrom admitted his blocking needed some work upon being drafted. However, after making strides both at the alternate site last year and early on this spring, he now feels confident in that aspect of his game.

“Right now, I feel super good. I feel like I can hang with anyone right now,” Soderstrom said of his defensive improvement. “My defense has definitely taken a big step and I’m excited to show everyone, because I know I’ve gotten some knocks there.”

Expected to get some playing time in the upcoming Cactus League schedule -- which opens on Sunday against the Dodgers at Hohokam Stadium -- Soderstrom aims to leave his mark by the time the A’s head back to Oakland.

“I just want to learn as much as I can, both defensively and offensively,” Soderstrom said. “I also want to leave a good impression on these guys and show them what I’m all about.”