MESA, Ariz. -- Zack Gelof knows what might be coming his way.
Playing his first full season of professional baseball in 2022, the A’s No. 3 prospect began the year with Double-A Midland and only needed 87 games before earning a promotion to Triple-A Las Vegas at the end of the season. This came despite Gelof having to miss six weeks in the middle of the season due to a freak injury which resulted in a torn labrum in his left shoulder after diving for a ball up the middle.
Moving through the ranks at such a fast pace, logic says Gelof will get his first call to the Majors at some point in 2023.
“It’s tough to not look ahead and look at the big leagues,” Gelof said. “When I get an opportunity, I know I’m supposed to be there and stay up for a long while.”
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that Gelof finds himself on the precipice of achieving his big league dream this quickly. Rave reviews of his advanced approach at the plate date back to his college days at the University of Virginia, leading to Oakland’s selection of him in the second round of the 2021 MLB Draft. As he’s advanced through each level, Gelof has fortified that high praise by slashing .287/.371/.490 with 54 extra-base hits, including 25 homers, and 96 RBIs in 132 career Minor League games, setting lofty expectations as a big part of Oakland's future.
For Bobby Crosby, a former A’s shortstop and current manager with Double-A Midland, Gelof doesn’t need much more grooming in the Minors from an offensive standpoint.
“We haven’t really tinkered with him too much,” Crosby said of Gelof. “He’s a student of the game. He’s a guy who knows his swing. He knows what he likes to do. So far, it’s played at every level. I know it’ll play at the big league level.”
What stands out about his offensive game?
“He has really good power to the opposite field,” Crosby said. “I know he thinks to go that way, and if they throw something offspeed, he can turn on that and has really good power that way. He thinks like a big leaguer already. That’s the biggest thing for me. He goes into every at-bat and it’s a competition that he’s going to win.”
The only real question surrounding Gelof is what position awaits him in the Major Leagues. Though he was a third baseman throughout college and early into his pro career, the A’s used him primarily at second base last season. With supreme athleticism another of his impressive traits, Gelof adapted well to the new position and appeared more than capable.
“I think his arm slot works a lot better at second,” Crosby said. “He is such a good athlete that I knew he was going to be able to cover the ground that he needed. At third, it’s like he almost moves too good to play there, in a sense.
“The main thing was seeing the throwing motion. He has a strong arm, but it’s more of a sidearm delivery. He handled it great. The turn [at second] was easy. He’s such a good athlete that you can put him wherever and he’ll figure it out.”
Gelof will only be in camp for a handful of Cactus League games before leaving for Florida to play for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic. But he’s already made a strong impression in front of manager Mark Kotsay, who visited with Gelof and other top A’s prospects during the Arizona Fall League.
“I’ve been impressed with his work ethic,” Kotsay said of Gelof. “He’s a very intense individual. Very baseball knowledgeable. You watch his BPs and it just looks like there’s an intent to do damage every time he swings the bat.”
While Gelof looks forward to the Classic, particularly the challenge of being in the same group as powerhouses like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, all of which feature star-studded pitching staffs, he is locked in on utilizing his time in Arizona to show Oakland’s big league staff what he’s all about.
“It’s not often you get to face basically a Hall of Fame team between those other teams in that group,” Gelof said. “But ultimately, the focus is here with the A’s. I’m trying to keep getting better here, be an ultimate professional, and win a spot.”