The A’s saw all the MLB mock draft diehard fans glance at heading into the amateur selection process. They knew Turlock High catcher Tyler Soderstrom was expected to be taken near the middle of the first round, well before their draft slot. Some information suggested their odds might improve.
“I think we knew it was a longshot,” Athletics GM David Forst said Thursday in an interview with Chris Townsend on A’s Cast, “but as it got into the last 36 to 24 hours before the draft, we had good conversations with his agent and felt like it was a possibility.”
That was an intriguing prospect. Soderstrom was someone the A’s valued a great deal after getting to know him well. They normally shy away from taking high school players early, but were willing to make an exception if given a chance.
Forst provided some insight into why that was the case.
“We had him our Area Codes [Baseball underclassman] team last August,” Forst said. “He was coached by our scouts. We saw him play throughout the summer and in big showcases.
“We don’t take a lot of high school kids up top. For us to take a high school kid, we had to know him and his family really well. [West Coast scouting supervisor Scott Kidd] and [Northern California scout] Kevin Mello did a great job getting to know him. I had a chance to meet Tyler and his parents on a Zoom call before the draft and I was really impressed with the family. That’s all the work that goes into a decision like that. We couldn't have been more thrilled that Tyler was there at No. 26.”
The A’s swooped up the semi-local product without hesitation and are expected to formalize terms of his professional contract in the near future.
Soderstrom wants to remain at catcher and the A’s are currently committed to letting him stay there, Forst pointed to another converted catcher as an example of how positional versatility can benefit a strong offensive weapon.
“You do worry about what can happen if the bat is ahead of their positional development,” Forst said. “The guy we point to is Josh Donaldson, who caught in college. The Cubs moved him out from behind the plate after they drafted him because they knew the bat was going to be developing. We did the same thing when we got him. We had him catch a little bit, but we kept third base in the back pocket. Tyler has played some third base. He has played first. In our Zoom conversation, [scouting director Eric Kubota] put the question to him directly. Tyler said, ‘I’m a catcher. I want to catch, and I can do it at the big leagues.’ You don’t want to take that away from a guy who’s as confident as he is.”