Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.
After failing to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2017, the Oakland Athletics’ roster and coaching staff will look a bit different in 2022.
Manager Bob Melvin, who won the second-most games in franchise history during his 11-year tenure, was hired by San Diego. Outfielders Starling Marte and Mark Canha signed with the Mets. If the team commits to a total rebuild, Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea could be dealt for a haul of prospects to bolster the 28th-ranked farm system in MLB Pipeline’s midseason rankings.
Oakland has one Top 100 prospect -- catcher Tyler Soderstrom (No. 42) -- but several players in the top three levels of the organization stood out as intriguing pieces who could usher in the next wave of talent at the Major League level.
Athletics Organization All-Stars
Catcher -- Tyler Soderstrom, Low-A Stockton (57 games)
The A’s selected Soderstrom with the 26th overall pick in the 2020 Draft for his advanced bat from the left side. In his debut season, Soderstrom was limited by an oblique injury but proved why he’s ranked as Oakland’s top prospect, posting a slash line of .306/.390/.568 with a .957 OPS and a 145 WRC+ in 57 Low-A games. The California native tallied 33 extra-base hits, 12 home runs and 49 RBIs over 254 plate appearances.
After being drafted, the 20-year-old spent time at Oakland’s alternate site and impressed with his bat right away, drawing rave reviews from the scouting and player development staff. Soderstrom’s biggest question mark is his defense, but the A’s believe he has the tools to stick at catcher long-term as he gains more experience.
“He made a lot of strides defensively behind the plate,” said Ed Sprague, Oakland’s director of player development. “He was trending in the right direction in all aspects of the game. He can really hit -- he’s got an advanced bat for his age -- so we’re looking forward to getting a full season out of him next year.”
First baseman -- Lawrence Butler, Stockton (88 games), High-A Lansing (14 games)
It was a banner year for Butler, a sixth-round selection in the 2018 Draft, who set career highs in every offensive category. The 21-year-old totaled 47 extra-base hits with 24 doubles and 19 home runs, tallied 75 RBIs, scored 76 runs and swiped 29 bases, all while posting an .871 OPS over 450 plate appearances. While Butler's patient approach led to 59 walks and a 13.1 percent walk rate, he also showed a ton of swing-and-miss, fanning 146 times for a strikeout rate of 32.4 percent.
“A breakout year. He’s always been that raw, toolsy high school kid that you’re banking on the tools to come,” said Sprague. “He’s got some sneaky speed. He’s always had the power; it was just a matter of cutting down the swing-and-miss and letting him get to that power.”
The A’s No. 23 prospect was originally drafted as an outfielder but spent the majority of 2021 at first base, totaling 441 2/3 innings there. He tallied 380 innings across all three outfield positions with five outfield assists and two errors.
Second baseman -- Max Schuemann, Lansing (54 games), Double-A Midland (57 games), Triple-A Las Vegas (8 games)
The 24-year-old broke out in his fourth year with Oakland, leading the organization’s Minor Leaguers in hits (121), doubles (25), runs scored (83) and stolen bases (52) while posting a .271/,372/.388 slash line with a .760 OPS in 119 games. Schuemann was one of six players in the Minors to swipe more than 50 bags in 2021.
While splitting most of his season between Lansing and Midland, Schuemann boosted his offensive performance after his promotion to Double-A. The middle infielder batted .320 and reached base at a .398 clip in 57 games, racking up 70 hits with 16 going for extras bases.
Schuemann also showed his defensive versatility in 2021. He made 51 appearances at shortstop for Lansing before becoming Midland’s primary second baseman. He made 18 appearances in the outfield and has manned first base and third base in previous seasons, drawing Sprague's comparison to A’s utilityman Chad Pinder.
Shortstop -- Nick Allen, Lansing (50 games), Las Vegas (39 games)
The 2021 season took Oakland’s No. 3 prospect from the upper ranks of the Minors to the international stage of the Olympics, where he won a silver medal with Team USA and was named the top defensive player in the Tokyo Games. Defense has always been Allen's standout tool and he backed that up while splitting time between second base and shortstop this season, committing 11 errors over 377 total chances while helping turn 52 double plays.
Offensively, Allen is still finding his identity. The 23-year-old collected 98 hits in 89 games, roping six homers, two triples and 17 doubles while posting a .288/.346/.403 slash line. Allen began his year strong with an .845 OPS and 17 extra-base hits in 50 Double-A games but cooled down following his promotion to Triple-A with eight extra-base hits and a .604 OPS in 39 games.
“He’s not going to be a big home run guy. I think he kind of fell into the launch angle a little bit early in his career and thought that was the path for him, but he’s realized that line drives, using the whole field is the way to go,” said Sprague. “He’s going to continue in this offseason to get stronger, get a little bit more bat speed in there, a little bit more leverage with his lower half.”
Third base -- Jordan Diaz, Lansing (90 games)
Diaz signed with the A’s for $275,000 as a 16-year-old out of Colombia in 2016 and has improved at the plate every season. The 21-year-old took another step forward in 2021 with an .820 OPS, 96 hits, 38 extra-base hits, 13 home runs and 56 RBIs, all career bests.
“Jordan, for a long time now, has arguably been our best bat-to-ball skills guy. He uses the middle of the field, really has a knack for hitting, it comes natural,” said Sprague. “I think the power will come a little bit as he continues to mature and gets stronger. His biggest thing now is finding a position to settle into defensively.”
The A’s No. 11 prospect played 52 games at third base, 23 at first and four in left field, but Sprague said Oakland will focus on improving his defensive versatility to maximize his opportunities in the lineup. The bat will carry him through the upper levels of the Minors, and as he fills out his 5-foot-10 frame, Diaz could prove to be a potent power threat.
Carlos Pérez, Las Vegas (97 games)
Slotting Pérez in the outfield may be cheating as he appeared in just 20 games in left, but the veteran slugged 31 home runs and drove in 89 runs -- both career highs -- to lead all players in Oakland’s farm system and warrant a spot on the Organization All-Star team. His 31 long balls were tied for the seventh-most in the Minors this season.
The 31-year-old produced a .269/.337/.572 slash line for the Aviators with a 116 wRC+, surpassing the 100-hit mark for the second time in his 13-year pro career.
Pérez is a four-year Major League veteran, playing in 184 games for the Angels from 2015-17 and splitting time between Atlanta and Texas in 2018. He is primarily a catcher but moved around the diamond for Las Vegas to keep his bat in the lineup. He ended up spending time behind the plate, at first base, left field and designated hitter.
Skye Bolt, Las Vegas (51 games), Oakland (32 games)
Originally Oakland’s fourth-round selection in the 2015 Draft, Bolt started his year with the San Francisco Giants after being picked up off waivers in the offseason. He appeared in two games before being traded back to the A’s on May 5. The 27-year-old was dominant in 51 games for the Aviators, hitting nine home runs, scoring 41 times and posting a .387/.492/.650 slash line with a 1.143 OPS and a 185 wRC+.
“The last couple of years, Skye has been on the verge of putting it together. The biggest thing with him is probably his confidence,” said Sprague. “He’s always had the skill set, (but) he’s had a hard time maintaining strength throughout the year in terms of keeping weight on and his body type.”
Bolt hit his first MLB home run on June 12 but struggled during his time in Oakland, going 5-for-56 at the plate for a .089 batting average. With the free-agency departures of Marte and Canha, the A’s have a lot of outfield production to replace. Bolt’s ability to play all three outfield spots and his offensive potential give him an opportunity to contend for consistent playing time in 2022.
Cody Thomas, Las Vegas (59 games)
The 27-year-old was acquired in February in a deal with the Dodgers and turned out to be a great acquisition for the A’s. Thomas had a slow start, batting .200 with 24 strikeouts in 45 at-bats during May, but ended up totaling 18 home runs, 42 extra-base hits and 52 RBIs in 59 games with a 1.028 OPS and a 143 wRC+.
Oakland’s No. 19 prospect was named the Triple-A West Player of the Month in May and had a combined 1.119 OPS in June and July before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury on July 25. Like Bolt, the former Oklahoma Sooners quarterback is in a prime position to contend for an everyday role in Oakland’s outfield next season after an impressive 2021 campaign.
Right-handed starting pitcher -- Colin Peluse, Lansing (18 appearances, 15 starts), Midland (three starts)
After posting a 2.25 ERA over eight games during his debut season in 2019, Peluse continued to stand out in his first full season. Oakland’s No. 18 prospect struck out 109 batters in 101 innings while walking 26, good for a 4.19 K/BB ratio and a 9.71 K/9.
The 6-foot-3 right-hander added strength in 2020 which led to an uptick in velocity, sitting at 94-95 mph with his fastball. Peluse led all Oakland Minor Leaguers in wins with nine and elevated his performance after receiving the call to Double-A, posting a 1.80 ERA with 17 strikeouts in three starts for Midland.
Left-handed starting pitcher -- Jared Koenig, Midland (24 appearances, 21 starts)
Koenig spent four years bouncing around various independent leagues and the Australian Baseball League before signing a Minor League contract with Oakland in January 2020. The A’s investment in the 27-year-old paid off as he had a breakout year in his affiliated baseball debut.
The 6-foot-5 southpaw posted a 3.26 ERA in 121 1/3 frames for Midland, striking out 100 batters while walking 43 and limiting opposing hitters to a .240 batting average. Koenig logged the second-most innings and made the second-most starts of any Oakland pitching prospect.
“He really knows how to pitch, changes speeds, can pitch both sides of the plate. He’s not overpowering, but he’s got some angle because he’s got some size to him, and he was able to utilize those weapons,” said Sprague.
Relief pitcher -- Charles Hall, Lansing (43 appearances)
Relievers who can go multiple innings and be inserted in any situation have risen to prominence in recent years, and Hall proved his ability to man that role in 2021. The 27-year-old struck out 79 batters in 64 innings for a 31.9 percent K rate and made 22 multi-inning appearances with a 2.11 ERA, a 0.984 WHIP and a .191 average-against.
The 33rd-round selection in the 2019 Draft converted 12 of his 17 save attempts and allowed three home runs all season.
“His breaking ball is his go-to pitch. He’s not overpowering with the heater, but he can locate," Sprague said. "He can throw his breaking ball in any count."