A familiar name now sits atop the Oakland Athletics prospect rankings. This week, Tyler Soderstrom was tabbed as the number one overall prospect in the A’s organization by MLB Pipeline, Baseball America and Fangraphs. The Turlock native and Bulldog alumnus also received recognition from Minor League Baseball (MiLB), as he was named a 2022 Athletics Organization All-Star.
The new ranking and All-Star honor comes after a breakout minor league season for Soderstrom. In 2022, the 21-year-old split time with Single-A Lansing, Double-A Midland and Triple-A Las Vegas over the course of the year, where he launched 29 home runs and drove in 105 runs while hitting .267 in 505 at-bats.
Baseball prospects are ranked via scouting grades on a 20-80 scale, with a 70-80 grade considered to be well above average. Meanwhile, MiLB determines their Organization All-Stars by going position by position across each farm system every offseason to determine the players who they believe had the best seasons.
Ed Sprague is the A’s Director of Player Development and has overseen Soderstrom’s development since he was drafted by the club in 2020. He was impressed with the fact that Soderstrom was still able to put up the impressive numbers despite facing a number of hurdles throughout the year.
“I think Tyler has developed very well,” Sprague said. “This year was probably his biggest growth period because it was probably the first time he struggled in his entire life. In April, it was cold, wet and rainy in the Midwest League [with Lansing] and he got off to a slow start hitting .150 and getting banged up a bit behind the plate with his thumb getting jammed a bit. He had to really work through some adversity and once he got through that, it really helped him.”
While Soderstrom’s offensive statistics had those within the Oakland organization excited, it’s his ability to play multiple positions that has garnered some of the biggest praise. In fact, Soderstrom, who is predominately a catcher, was given the Organization All-Star nod at first baseman.
“It's difficult to play catcher everyday anyway, but we knew he was an athletic kid coming out of Turlock, so we took advantage of the fact and getting him some time at first in base in what we thought would be the best second option for him,” Sprague said. “It would’ve been easy for us to DH him those days, but we wanted to continue to see his athleticism out in the field.”
The combination of athleticism and power at the plate led Athletics Assistant General Manager Billy Owens to make a unique comparison for Soderstrom last week at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
“[Soderstrom] can catch, but the bat is elite. I’m kind of getting a Carlos Delgado comp,” Owens told Chris Townsend of the A’s Cast podcast. “Carlos Delgado actually came up as a catcher, and Soderstrom can catch, but Carlos’ bat was so elite, that at some point he took off the gear and started raking and produced. So [Soderstrom] can definitely catch, he has got a good arm, he’s athletic, but the bat is special.”
Sprague offered his own thoughts on the Delgado comparison, and there might not have been a better person to do so considering the fact that the two were teammates from 1993 to 1998 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I think Tyler’s a little more athletic than Carlos,” Sprague said. “It’s an easy comparison to take a young kid who started at catcher and played a little bit of left field and a little bit of first base. Tyler has power for sure, but Delgado has as much power as anyone I’ve seen in the game… Delgado probably has a bit more of the raw power especially the other way, not that Tyler doesn’t have raw power, but he hit over 400 home runs in his career. We’re talking about a handful of people who played the game.”
With Soderstrom’s continued dominance at the Triple-A level to end the season and with the handful of accolades that have accumulated this offseason, Sprague is aware of the possibility that an MLB debut is in the realm of possibility in 2023. Even Soderstrom himself acknowledged it back in September.
“Anything’s possible in this game. I feel like the game, especially in the big leagues, gets younger and younger each year [with] younger talent,” Soderstrom told the Turlock Journal. “You always have that in the back of your mind that it’s a possibility, but you have to take it day by day.”
Nevertheless, Sprague stressed the importance of not rushing the developmental process, especially with a player as young as Soderstrom.
“Obviously, he’s at a place now where people will be expecting his debut in the big leagues, and it’ll come. I think Tyler will play in the big leagues if he stays healthy and he’ll have his opportunity, but I don’t think that should be the focus for him right now… He just needs to use spring training for what it is, a training ground, and not try to do anything special.”
Athletics spring training will run from mid-February to March 27 in Arizona. It will be the second time Soderstrom will report to camp in his three years will the organization.