Written by: Jake Tweedie
Follow him on Twitter: @MLBUKAnalysis1
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The Oakland A’s will always be known as the team who try and keep their books balanced and pick out cheap but effective players. On the first look of their Draft picks it has a similar sort of feel, with the exception of their Round 1 choice.
Rounds 1 and 2 produced players that were touted to go around that time, whilst the other 3 Rounds had players not as well known or weren’t showcased as much.
In any case, we shall dig a bit deeper into their picks to see exactly what the Oakland Athletics thought and how they fit into their farm system.
Round 1 Pick 26 : Tyler Soderstrom – C – Turlock HS (Ca.) – Bat: L – Throw: R – Height: 6’2 – Weight: 190lbs
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Probably the most impressive of their picks. He featured on my East v West Battle: Outfielders as a Designated Hitter. The 6’2 left-handed hitter is initially down as a catcher but has the potential to slot into numerous positions.
He probably wouldn’t have been their first pick as he was mocked to go 13th in our Mock Draft 2.0, but the opportunity arose and the A’s made sure they got their man. There was a lot of talk about San Francisco Giants picking him and utilizing him elsewhere in the field, but instead, they went with Patrick Bailey.
Offensive: Certainly his greatest strength is the way he makes solid contact with the ball and has the ability to generate significant power. He has a nice solid, wide stance, that allows him to create his power through the movement of his hips. He has quick hands and a smooth swing to boot.
His 94mph exit velocity at the PG National Showcase wasn’t the most powerful, but he can barrel the ball effectively and can cause some serious damage with his bat. This linked with his loud contact with the ball shows impressive qualities that can only be improved with further development.
Defensive: This is where the biggest question mark around him lies. He has been a catcher at High School and at PG Events. He has been impressive, but with the abundance of talent that Oakland has at catcher currently, there are doubts about whether he will pursue his career as a catcher.
He is athletic behind the plate and moves from side-to-side well, but has the tendency to have to stand to make throws, which could prove costly with runners on the move. He has quick hands and can distribute the ball well with his impressive arm strength, but he could be utilized more effectively elsewhere. There are talks of either 3B or OF, and his size and abilities would certainly allow for this switch.
High School Career: He had an impressive Junior year at Turlock, averaging .450 with 4 HRs and an OPS of 1.340. Although he made just 5 appearances in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he averaged .357 with a sole HR. What was even more interesting was that he split time as a catcher and a 3B whilst at High School.
Overall: The A’s wanted him, and they wanted him badly enough to pay overslot to ensure he signed. He has plenty of hitting upside, and if he can adjust his position on the field, then he has the potential to be a valuable player for the future. He is a left-hander, which Oakland seem to lack, and has the ability to generate decent power which could prove effective at the Coliseum.
Round 2 Pick 58 : Jeff Criswell – RHP – University of Michigan – Bat: R – Throw: R – Height: 6’4 – Weight: 225lbs
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With their 2nd Round pick, the A’s picked up Michigan’s Friday night starter Jeff Criswell. Starting off in the bullpen in 2018, he quickly found his way to being a regular starter for the Wolverines. Whether he continues to be a starter as he enters pro ball, or he returns to his bullpen role, remains to be seen but his high-octane pitching is something to watch out for.
Fastball: One of his many talents is his ability to pitch at around 93-96mph on a regular basis. His fastball has a heavy sink to it that can run away from left-handed hitters and in to right-handed hitters. His control over this pitch starts off well but he does have the tendency to overthrow, and this leads to more hits and more walks. There is a lot of power going through his arm, and he uses his tall frame to generate this pitching speed.
Secondary pitches: He has 2 secondary pitches. The first is his slider that can be extremely effective as the pace drops significantly and has some movement that makes it extremely difficult for hitters to pick up.
The other secondary pitch is his changeup. This presents itself as a fastball early into his wind-up and into the slot. The release from his hand to slow it down can fool hitters expecting a high-velocity fastball.
These are hugely effective pitches that make his repertoire impressive, however, his tendency to overthrow can sometimes cause him to have a lapse of command.
Delivery: As shown by the GIF above, he has a lot of energy going through his body as he generates his power. His big build and athleticism allow him to slingshot his arm with impressive force. He has a high kick before a big step off the mound and allowing his body to generate the power. It’s easy to see why his control may not always be there as there is a lot of force going through his body and one slight change to his action could cause a different outcome.
College Career: Starting off in the bullpen for the Wolverines he recorded a 3-2 record with an ERA of 2.23 and 32 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. He was shifted to starter in 2019 and really established himself.
He finished 2019 with a 7-1 record and an ERA of 2.72 with 116 strikeouts in 106 innings. These impressive figures earned him a selection to the All-Big Ten First Team, as well as being selected to the USA Baseball Collegiate Team. His highlight of the season was recording a career-high 12 strikeouts through 6 innings against Oklahoma State.
Despite the 2020 season being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Criswell still managed 4 starts in his Junior year. He finished with a 0-1 record and an ERA of 4.50, but he did strike out 26 batters in 24 innings. The highlight of such a short season was a season-best 7.2 innings against Cal Poly, recording 6 strikeouts, and allowing just one run.
Overall: Despite getting shaky when posting a high number of pitches, his consistent velocity, high-octane pitching showcase his ability to either be an option as a starter or a power reliever. Oakland will know how to get the best out of him, and you would like to think he and Tyler Soderstrom are certain to reach the Majors.
Round 3 Pick 98 : Michael Guldberg – OF – Georgia Tech – Bat: R – Throw: R – Height: 6’0 – Weight: 171lbs
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The first relatively unknown pick came in Round 3 with the selection of Georgia Tech INF/OF Michael Guldberg. He missed the majority of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury so he certainly has a lot to prove. His ability to connect with the ball so well will boost his stock but he will need to further develop his game to be successful.
Offensive: Offensively he is extremely impressive. Despite hitting just 3 HRs in his 3 seasons for Georgia Tech, his average was constantly above .350. He has the ability to time the ball extremely well and is a regular hitter. His effortless swing looks majestic as he uses the momentum to make solid contact.
He starts off by bouncing on his front foot, with it being just behind his back foot line in the box. He bounces forward as he steps up to the ball before timing the ball with incredible ability. The fact he is walked more than he is struck out is a testament to the threat he can be.
He doesn’t have the greatest power, and this is partly down to a shoulder injury that kept him out for the majority of the 2018 season. When he came back to action he was utilized as a DH for the 2019 season. He can move quite well and has a decent pace between the bases, but he won’t be a base-stealing threat.
Defensive: It’s hard to judge his defensive abilities due to his injuries and how he was utilized in his only full season. Some suggest he will be a corner outfielder due to the reduction of arm strength post shoulder injury, but his .933 FLD% with 26 POs and just 2 errors show that he can be pretty effective wherever he is put. His arm strength looks reduced in his swing and power restriction when hitting. He will need to find his ideal position moving forward into pro ball.
College Career: His 2018 season was heavily affected by his injury. He made 28 appearances though, with a BA of .368 and 2 doubles, 2 HRs, and 9 RBIs. He walked 8 times and was struck out just 6 times. He mixed his defensive responsibilities between OF and 2B.
The 2019 season saw him being used as a DH. He managed 60 appearances, with a BA of .355 and 7 doubles, 2 triples, 1 HR, and 30 RBIs. This showed a dramatic increase in extra-base hits but further showcased his ability to get on base. He was struck out 32 times, but also walked 31 times. He led Georgia Tech and finished 2nd in the ACC with his impressive average.
In a shortened 2020 season he made 16 appearances before the pandemic shut everything down. He had 5 doubles and 9 RBIs with a BA of .450. He was struck out just 3 times and walked 5 times.
Overall: This one was a high risk but potentially a high reward if it pays off. He may have been hampered by injury, but with the right guidance and work off the field then he has every possibility of being a reliable hitter for the A’s. As it stands it doesn’t seem to be the greatest selection in Round 3 but could prove everyone wrong. It is definitely a Billy Beane signing for all you Moneyball fans.
Round 4 Pick 127 : Dane Acker – RHP – University of Oklahoma – Bat: R – Throw: R – Height: 6’2 – Weight: 189lbs
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Another interesting pick brought the Sooners’ starter to Oakland. He may not be as flashy with his velocity as Criswell, but his durability certainly gives him the edge to be a long-term starter in the pros. His ability was showcased with a nine-inning no-no against LSU in March, the first reported no-no ever against the Tigers.
Fastball: With a consistent velocity of 91-92 with highs of 94mph, he shows great composure and durability. His 2-seam fastball shows some sinking action, but he has the ability to elevate it with his 4-seam grip. His clean delivery allows him to regularly pound the strike zone and limit walks by picking off hitters.
Secondary pitches: His impressive fastball is backed up by three potential pitches. His first pitch is his curveball. It sits in the 78-81mph category and shows a big break to catch hitters in the lower quadrants of the strike zone.
His slider sits in the low-80s and is deemed cutterish with it’s modest break. It’s not an above-average pitch but his control allows it to be better than it is.
He also has a changeup that is in the low-80s. It is average at best and doesn’t stand out by itself, but coincided with his fastball and other secondary pitches, it is a useful pitch.
Delivery: His durability makes him an interesting pitcher. He has a clean and smooth action that allows him to really stay in control of his pitching. He has the ability to reduce walks and, although he doesn’t get many strikeouts, he makes the hitters play the pitch and get out. This was evident in his impressive display against LSU.
College Career: He started his college career coming out of the bullpen to register a 5-2 record with an ERA of 4.20 and 32 strikeouts in 40.2 innings. This earned him Conference USA All-Freshman Team honors.
He made the change to starter in 2019 when he changed schools and was hugely impressive with a 10-0 record, an ERA of just 2.36, and 97 strikeouts in 76.1 innings. He also only allowed 32 walks, which shows his ability to stay within the zone and be in command of his pitching. This formidable season followed him being selected in the 2019 Draft by Arizona Diamondbacks.
In a shortened 2020 season, he had transferred to the University of Oklahoma and recorded a 1-1 record with an ERA of 3.51. He also picked up 28 strikeouts in 25.2 innings. His highlight was the first-ever nine-inning no-no against LSU in March. It was also the first by a Sooners pitcher since 1989.
Overall: He may not be the quickest or be as flashy as Criswell but he certainly has the qualities to be a long-term starter for the Oakland Athletics. If he can continue to be in control of his pitching and not be expensive then he can be an under the radar pick for the A’s.
Round 5 Pick 157 : Stevie Emanuels – RHP – University of Washington – Bat: R – Throw: R – Height: 6’5 – Weight: 210lbs
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The Oakland Athletics’ picks were rounded off with the selection of their 3rd pitcher of the 2020 Draft, Stevie Emanuels. Another player seemingly signed overslot, the righty was last seen dominating as a starter for the Huskies after being a bullpen pitcher for the 2 seasons before this.
Fastball: Generally staying in the low-90s, he can reach 95mph on an occasional basis. He has a nice loose arm that allows the ball to come out of his hand with force and quickly get to the hitter. It has the ability to move in and sink, but he can push it up by adjusting his grip between a 2-seam and a 4-seam. He has an upright end to his pitching action, which is unique but allows him to control his pitch a bit easier.
Secondary pitches: He has the ability to mix up his pitches with his arsenal of a slider/curveball and a changeup. The slider/curveball is his breaking ball that can act more like a slider due to its movement, but a curveball due to its speed. If he can merge these into one significant pitch then it may be easier to focus on and become an impressive tool for the future.
His other secondary pitch is his changeup. It’s a lot similar to his fastball in the sense it sinks and comes in on right-handed hitters, however it needs a lot more work in order for it to be a consistent part of his repertoire.
Delivery: His long and athletic build allows him to control his pitching well. Standing at 6’5, the ball comes out of his hand into a downward motion and tends to be around the strike zone. His experience as a closer has also allowed him to be more disciplined on the mound and helps him with his control.
College Career: Starting off as a closer in his first year at college, he picked up an 8-2 record with an ERA of 4.37 with just 32 strikeouts in 45.1 innings. He also allowed 28 walks as well. He made a record amount of appearances for the Huskies in 2018, as well as leading the team with 8 wins.
He began to be more consistent in 2019 despite having a losing record (2-3). He was named to the All-PAC-12 Academic Honorable Mention Team due to his 65 strikeouts in just 53.2 innings and 6 saves. He ended the regular season ranked fourth in the PAC-12 in ERA, and fifth in appearances (31) and saves.
His shortened 2020 season was hugely impressive. He was named to the Collegiate Baseball All-America Third Team and was one of 5 Huskies to be named to the 2020 PAC-12 Academic Honor Roll. With a record of 3-1, an ERA of 0.79, and 38 strikeouts in 22.2 innings, he ranked 16th nationally with 15.1 K/9 and 22nd in overall strikeouts. He also finished 3rd in PAC-12 with his ERA and had 8 strikeouts in each of his 4 appearances.
Overall: Despite being the fifth and final pick for the Oakland Athletics, he has an impressive resume with the Huskies that should bode well for him. He has the ability to make the Majors based on his decent control and consistency but will have to work hard to assert himself in a competitive farm system.
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