“I’m stealing second base. Literally.” | Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to the 1⁄3 mark; it’s truly impressive that you have made it here alive. I can’t remember exactly which game it was, but in the very first week of the season I recall making a comment in the game thread, “This team could very well lose 100 games.” Then they had a decent road trip, won the Baltimore series at home (literally their only home series win of the season to date), and the comment sounded like nothing more than bitter frustration.
Then May happened, June looks like a winless month waiting to happen and…lo and behold (they may be the A’s newest relievers, who can keep track?), the A’s are on pace for a 60-102 season. It ok, though — they’re just a hot streak away from going 63-99.
Don’t blame Mark Kotsay, as the A’s skipper is doing exactly what you need to do when you have the 30th best offense in MLB. You ramp up the “small ball” instead of waiting for Earl Weaver’s “2 walks and a 3-run HR” and you try to create runs more because they create themselves less.
The A’s are stealing bases like it’s going back into style, and they’re doing it the right way by running opportunistically rather than with reckless abandon. It’s impressive that Oakland is tied for 3rd in the big leagues in steals considering they only get on base at an embarrassing .281 clip. With an 86% success rate they’re doing far more good than harm.
Kotsay’s A’s have also been more open to bunting, though they haven’t always proven to be that good at it. What I appreciate about the bunting is that Oakland hasn’t always bunted to “give up outs,” also bunting for hits and trying to squeeze (literally) runs out of “runner at 3B, less than 2 outs” situations where the A’s have been especially putrid as a hitting squad.
Even if you’re not a fan of bunting in general you have to recognize that this A’s squad literally has no one on pace to finish the season with more than 15 HRs. Which is … kind of sad, in an “even Dwayne Murphy and Davey Lopes did better than that” way. (The 1983 club was led by those two with 17 HRs a piece, but those A’s still managed to win 74 games.)
Anyway, Kots is doing what he can but is trying to get blood from the stone that is a pretty wretched lineup. A lineup so bad one can’t help but try to ignore it and talk about the up and coming minor leagues instead…
You probably don’t want to hear about Ryan Cusick’s oblique injury or J.T. Ginn’s arm giving him a “0 win, 2 IL” season thus far. Shea Langeliers’ away splits might make you want to rock back and forth weeping in the corner. You might be frantically refreshing Erubiel Angeles’ MiLB page figuring “.320 slugging” must be a typo. You may even have just gone ahead and written “K” on your scorecard for a Kevin Smith at bat while the count was only 1-2.
Here’s the good news. Many A’s minor leaguers who are actually prospects are hitting — they just happen to be ones Oakland drafted and not the ones they recently acquired. This is new for the A’s, who are generally known for their drafting and development failures on the hitting side but who often snatch great hitters out of the air in a Mossian, Donaldsonish, Laureanic way.
Here is your much needed dose of good A’s news for the day:
Zack Gelof A 2nd round pick who is just 22, Gelof continues his rapid ascent at AA Midland. With a .315/.372/.458 batting line, the 2B/3B is poised for a AAA call up by season’s end and should vie strongly for an Opening Day spot on the 2023 roster.
Jonah Bride Is Bride a real prospect? The numbers 26 and 23 would say no, as the former is Bride’s age, the latter the round in which he was drafted. But the rest of the numbers suggest Bride could be a late bloomer, and one has to remember that the pandemic rendered 26 year old prospects more akin to 24 year old prospects of year’s past.
After mastering AA Midland with a .315/.402/.603 stat line, the A’s promoted Bride to AAA Las Vegas and all Bride has done so far is rake: .484/.568/.710. Granted it’s just 31 ABs, but it’s common for players to struggle in an initial promotion and always a good sign when they don’t. You also have to love the ratio of 16 BB to 14 K for the season at AA and AAA combined.
Brett Harris Harris, a 3Bman, is another A’s prospect who has been unfazed by a mid-season promotion. A 23 year old 7th round pick, Harris made a mockery of A+ Lansing, batting .304/.415/.578 with 19 BB and 21 K, 7 HR in 29 games, earning him a call up to AA Midland. All Harris has done so far in AA is to bat a nifty .500 in his first 26 ABs (.500/.581/.808) with an “impressive even in a tiny sample” 5 BB against 1 K.
Jordan Diaz Now 21, Diaz was signed out of Columbia at age 16. His best position may be DH but that doesn’t mean he can’t hit — just ask Yordan Alvarez. So while his defense may be conjuring up memories of Renato Nuñez and Ryon Healy, this “1B/3B” is proving that his hit tool is a thing.
Diaz has risen to AA Midland this season, where he has put up a solid .302/.351/.552 line with 8 HR in 44 games. Diaz batted a solid .288/.337/.483, with 13 HR, as a 20 year old at A+ Lansing in 2021 and appears only to be getting better.
Tyler Soderstom The A’s top prospect is just 20 and reports of his demise are greatly exaggerated. Soderstrom had a miserable April (.159/.232/.317) at A+ Lansing, but was battling a thumb injury that surely impacted his swing.
Fast forward to May. Soderstrom rebounded nicely in 95 AB: .274/.320/.600, with 8HR and 5 2B in 24 games. That sounds more like the guy who pummeled A-ball pitching in Stockton last season, when he hit .306/.390/.568 with 12 HR at the tender age of 19.
The point is, no the off-season acquisitions haven’t quite shined yet but the “old guard” is giving fans plenty of reason to be optimistic that help is on the way. And sorely, sorely, sorely needed, I might add. And will. And just did.