What drew A's to add ex-top prospect Bleday in Puk trade


The Athletics made a surprising move Saturday when they traded former top prospect A.J. Puk to the Miami Marlins in exchange for former first-round draft pick JJ Bleday.

While Puk had success as an A's reliever last season, Bleday, an outfielder, struggled in a brief stint with the Marlins in 2022. But Bleday is a product of college baseball powerhouse Vanderbilt and was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, so he comes with potential, even if he hasn't met expectations.

So, what would cause the A's to trade a pitcher whom they believed might compete for a rotation spot for Bleday?

“Really like the power," A's general manager David Forst told media members in Arizona on Wednesday as pitchers and catchers reported to spring training [h/t's Martin Gallegos]. "There’s elite plate discipline there. And he can play center and is really good in the corners.”

During his time at Vanderbilt, Bleday hit six combined homers between his freshman and sophomore years. But as a junior, his power developed, and he crushed 27 homers while racking up a .701 slugging percentage.

The Marlins pushed him to High-A Jupiter after he was drafted in 2019, and in 38 games, he hit three homers.

Bleday's 2020 minor league season was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, and when he got back on the field in 2021, he hit 12 homers in 397 at-bats for Double-A Pensacola. The 25-year-old's power came back when he began the 2022 season at Triple-A Jacksonville, as he hit 20 homers in 302 at-bats, though he hit .229/.365/.470 in the International League.


Once Bleday received his MLB promotion in July, he struggled in the big leagues, hitting just .167/.277/.309 with 10 doubles and five homers in 65 games.

As for the plate discipline Forst cited, that trait hasn't translated from college to professional baseball. At Vanderbilt, Bleday walked 126 times and struck out 107 times. But in the minors, he has struck out 229 times while walking just 135 times. In his cup of coffee with Miami, he struck out 67 times and drew 30 base on balls.

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But Forst and the A's have had their eye on Bleday for a few years, and hope they can help him reach his potential.

If Bleday can make the A's 2023 Opening Day roster, he likely will join fellow 2019 first-round pick Shea Langeliers, whom Oakland acquired last year from the Atlanta Braves in the Matt Olson trade.