Gelof's first award shows what he is capable of

September 5th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos’ A’s Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

OAKLAND --  projects for a career filled with plenty of awards based on his incredible start. The first major accolade came on Sunday afternoon.

A lively atmosphere inside the clubhouse following the A's completion of a three-game sweep over the Angels at the Coliseum for just their third series sweep of 2023 was turned up a notch when manager Mark Kotsay addressed the team postgame and revealed that Gelof was named American League Rookie of the Month for August.

“I got to announce it before it hit the internet to the group and the group was fired up,” Kotsay said. “We talked about perseverance and the grit and determination to keep going forward. It’s been a tough season, but there are some bright spots. This is definitely a bright spot for us as a group and as an organization with Zack being drafted by the A’s. To have him come here and really make an impact in his first month is a great sign.”

The 23-year-old second baseman is the first A’s rookie since Ryon Healy in 2016 (September) to win the award. Gelof, whom the A’s called up from Triple-A on July 14, earned it by hitting .286 with a .912 OPS over 27 games in August, leading AL rookies in doubles (eight), extra-base hits (15), total bases (59), home runs (seven) and while ranking second in hits (30) and third in slugging percentage (.562).

“It’s pretty cool,” Gelof said of the award. “Not something I set out to do, but I think it just shows what I’m capable of. It’s baseball, so you have to do it every month. Definitely cool to sit back and recognize what I did. But it’s not just about me. It’s about all the guys in here making me feel comfortable.”

Gelof’s scorching month featured seven multihit games, including two four-hit games against the Nationals (Aug. 13) and Cardinals (Aug. 16) over the span of four days. The four-hit game against the Nationals included two home runs, the first multihomer game of Gelof's career. Another highlight was a six-game hitting streak that spanned from Aug. 16-22 in which he hit .458 (11-for-24) with a 1.202 OPS.

“He’s made a huge impact,” A’s first baseman Ryan Noda said of Gelof. “He’s coming out swinging early, which has been nice. It’s well deserved. We’re all proud of him. He works hard in the cage and on ground balls. He’s not just one-sided, which makes him a key player for us. Hopefully, he wins a couple more of those.”

Not resting on his laurels in the slightest, Gelof came back out for Monday’s series opener against the Blue Jays and notched what was the 13th multihit game through his first 45 Major League games. The two-hit effort included his 10th stolen base, making Gelof just the fifth rookie in A’s franchise history to reach 10 home runs and 10 steals in a season, and the first since Yoenis Céspedes in 2012.

“I think it’s fair to say I’m not overwhelmed anymore,” Gelof said. “At the same time, it’s still very difficult. Every day, no matter how you feel, you have to show up and compete for the club. That’s something I’m learning and want to keep doing for many years.”

Now undergoing a full-on youth movement with several promising rookies getting regular playing time at the big league level, the goal for this rebuilding A’s club over the final month of the season is to build confidence heading into 2024 with a strong finish. Despite falling to Toronto on Monday, Oakland entered Tuesday with a record of 8-6 over its last 14 games.

Headlining that next wave of young talent is Gelof, who appears to have all the makings of a leader for the new generation of A’s baseball.

“It’s so much fun,” Gelof said of his first month and a half in the Majors. “A month from now, I don’t want to stop playing. I wish I could play year-round. The ups and downs of baseball is just something I love. Getting better every day is something I just want to keep doing.”