A's prospect Gelof sets up for a big finish in AFL

November 9th, 2022

MESA, Ariz. -- After batting .300 in his first 10 Arizona Fall League games, Zack Gelof fell into a 3-for-31 tailspin. He tried not to overthink his struggles and used a three-day break in the developmental league's schedule to reset himself for the final week.

In his first game back, Gelof responded Tuesday with two hits, including his third homer of the season, to help the Mesa Solar Sox defeat the Salt River Rafters, 9-8.

"We had the chance to get three off days in a row and I didn't touch a bat," said the A's No. 3 prospect, who's hitting .224/.302/.368 in the Fall League. "I showed up today with a pretty open mindset, just got after it in pregame with some of the coaches and trusted in what I do."

Gelof has moved quickly since the Athletics made him a second-round pick out of Virginia in 2021. He made a three-game cameo in Triple-A at the end of that summer and spent most of his first full year as a pro in Double-A.

MLB's No. 94 prospect batted .316/.372/.458 in the first two months of the 2022 season before tearing the labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder diving for a grounder up the middle in late May. He finished the season at .270/.352/.463 with 18 homers in 96 games, including nine contests in Triple-A.

Although he offers some of the best power and is one of the most complete hitters in Oakland's system, Gelof says he knows he still needs to refine his approach at the plate. He shows the ability to work counts and draw walks but can get overly aggressive at times.

Gelof played almost exclusively at third base in college, where he teamed with younger brother Jake to lead the Cavaliers to the 2021 College World Series, and spent his entire pro debut at the hot corner. This year, the A's had him alternate between third and second base before he got hurt, then play mostly at second after he returned from his injury. All 20 of his AFL appearances have come at second base.

While Gelof definitely fits the offensive profile at third base, he'll have even more value if he can handle a more challenging position. He has sure hands and solid arm strength, and he flashes similar quickness.

"I'm attacking it day by day, trying to get better," he said. "I really like it. I feel pretty comfortable right now and I feel like it's getting better."

Mesa starter Mason Miller (the A's No. 20 prospect) reinforced his reputation as the best arm in the Fall League with three strong innings. He worked from 98-101 mph with his fastball and also bullied hitters with an 85-90 mph slider, striking out six and giving up just one run on a homer to 16th-ranked Tigers prospect Parker Meadows. Miller notched four of his whiffs against Top 100 Prospects: MLB No. 23 Zac Veen (Rockies) on a 99-mph fastball, MLB No. 51 Masyn Winn (Cardinals) on a 101-mph heater and an 88-mph slider, and MLB No. 6 Jordan Walker (Cardinals) on an 85-mph slide piece.

Besides Gelof, shortstop Ronny Simon (Rays), third baseman Tyler Hardman (Yankees) and DH Joe Mack (Marlins No. 9) also homered for the Solar Sox. With the victory, Mesa (13-13) pulled into a three-way tie for second place in the AFL. The second- and third-place clubs will meet in a play-in contest on Friday, with the winner facing the regular-season champion Surprise Saguaros in the title game on Saturday.

"We know that there's four teams in the race and we know that we had to win today, and we did that, and now we got to go out and win tomorrow," Gelof said. "We're out here, so we might as well win it."