Athletics

A's thrilled to draft Tyler Soderstrom, plan to keep him at catcher

A's thrilled to draft Tyler Soderstrom, plan to keep him at catcher

The A’s have kept an eye on Turlock High School catcher Tyler Soderstrom for some time. They didn’t expect him to be there when they selected No. 26 overall during the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft on Wednesday, yet there he was when they formally went on the clock.

The selection was super easy to make.

“Tyler Soderstrom was one of the top follows on our board coming into the spring, and we’re super excited that things worked out and he got to us,” A’s scouting director Eric Kubota said in a video conference with local media. “We think he’s one of the premier high school bats in this draft, and we also think he has a chance to impact us defensively behind the plate. We’re completely thrilled that things went this way.”

Soderstrom’s offensive acumen was well known. Where he projected to play in the pros was less certain among draft analysts, considering his athleticism and defensive versatility, but Kubota quickly cleared that up.

“I think every scout for the Oakland A’s thinks he’s a catcher,” Kubota said. “First off, he has a strong desire to catch, and that’s more than half the battle when you’re talking about developing as a catcher in the minor leagues. He’s athletic. He has good hands and has an advanced knowledge about the position for his age.

"We have [right-handed starter] Daulton Jefferies, one of our top prospects, actually works out at his dad’s facility and Daulton raved about him as a catcher as well. All the ingredients are there for him to be a very good catcher.”

Soderstrom said he wants to stay behind the plate, despite some experience at third base and an ability to transition to first base or a corner outfield spot. Catcher, more than any other position on the diamond, just suits him.

“I enjoy being part of every pitch of the game. I enjoy being in control,” Soderstrom said. “I’m athletic, and I prefer moving around, always being a part of the game. That’s why I love catching. I have done that since I have been little. And I have a strong arm and like to throw some people out.”

[RELATED: MLB's potential return different for A's broadcaster Kuiper]

There’s no doubt about his offensive prowess. He hit .450 with a 1.340 OPS in his junior year at Turlock High -- his senior season was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic -- and starred over nine games with the 18U U.S. national team last summer.

“We saw him a lot last summer, and the comment that came up so often is that the ball makes a different sound off his bat,” Kubota said. “We think there’s a ton of power potential and a lot of upside both offensively and defensively.”

And there’s signability.

Kubota said the A’s were comfortable they’d lock him up despite a commitment to UCLA. Soderstrom said an agreement on terms of a contract hasn’t been reached, that process is ongoing, and could end up with him being paid above his draft slot.

A's Chris Bassitt, Austin Allen's quick bond creating success on mound

A's Chris Bassitt, Austin Allen's quick bond creating success on mound

Chris Bassitt’s stellar outing in the A's 3-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday almost wasn’t. But we’ll let the first inning be just a memory.

“I told myself after the first inning, I’m like ‘All right, you may be a little wild today, but don’t walk guys, make them earn everything,’ and it obviously smoothed itself out,” Bassitt told reporters in the postgame interview. 

Bassitt hit J.P. Crawford in the first with a curveball. After Dylan Moore hit into a fielder's choice and stole second, he came around to score on a single by Daniel Vogelbach.

Bassitt's performance more than smoothed itself out, and he had the help of rookie catcher Austin Allen in the process. In 5 2/3 innings, Bassitt allowed just one earned run, three hits and struck out seven. 

“Austin kind of guided me through the first inning and [got] going from there,” Bassitt said. “After the second inning, I just kind of felt myself out and I was kind of locked in from there on out." 

Allen came to the A's an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres for Jurickson Profar. And while he’s the new guy, Allen was able to form a bond with Bassitt quicker than usual. 

“Me and Austin spent a lot of time together over the last -- I would say two, three weeks just getting to know one another, talking about what I like, what I don’t like,” Bassitt said. “Obviously, a new catcher coming in, he’s got to learn basically me -- he’s got to learn who I am mentally, who I am physically, what I can and can’t do.

"I think we’re still learning each other, but at the same time, I think a lot more ahead of what we should be just because, again -- me and [Sean Murphy] are on the same page, and I think Austin’s done a great job of learning who I am.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]
 

The fifth inning came fast, but before Bassitt was pulled, he wanted to make it count against Mariners rookie outfielder Kyle Lewis, who is hitting .425 with three home runs this season. 

Bassitt glanced over to the bullpen to see A’s reliever T.J. McFarland warming up, knowing Vogelbach was about to come to the plate. He had an internal message for Lewis. 

“All right, if you’re going to hit me, you’re going to hit my best pitch, so uh … here we go,” Bassitt explained. “So yeah, I knew that was my last batter.”

[RELATED: Luzardo to make first big-league start next week]

Bassitt struck Lewis out.

And Bassitt continues to improve.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said Bassitt was fantastic and “seems to get better every time out.”

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in 3-2 win over Mariners

A's takeaways: What you might have missed in 3-2 win over Mariners

BOX SCORE

Coming off an extra-innings win over the Mariners the night before, the A's backed that up with another 3-2 victory in Seattle on Sunday.

The A's bats were quiet until Ramón Laureano crushed a three-run home run in the top of the fifth to give Oakland a 3-1 lead. Matt Chapman also had his first hit of the series with a line-drive single to left field in the eighth.

On the mound opposing the A's was a familiar face in Kendall Graveman, whose velocity looked stellar with a four-seam fastball he worked on during quarantine. 

Here’s what you might have missed during Sunday’s game:

Still depending on homers?

Just a couple days ago, Laureano told reporters that those on the outside might be worried about the team’s offensive production, but that is definitely not the case for him. His fifth-inning homer was his second of the young season. 

This exit velocity on that homer actually clocked in at only 98.5 mph which is low for homers, but that’s Laureano for you.

On Saturday night, Chad Pinder hit a home run to tie the game which ultimately would help the A's pull out the win, but are these homers being depended on too much?

They’re also not all base-clearing home runs … minus, of course, Matt Olson’s walk-off slam on Opening Day, but that’s the consensus around the league it appears. This season, the A’s have left 12.62 runners on base per game, which believe it or not, isn’t even the top eight worst in the league, so it could be a blanketed situation.

Perhaps this homer dependability is a thing, but it doesn’t appear the team minds at the moment.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Bassitt puts on a show

It was smooth sailing for Chris Bassitt, who made it through to 5 2/3 innings and threw 83 pitches. He allowed just one earned run on three hits, and struck out seven batters.

His flyball percentage has dropped drastically this season and that showed Sunday. Bassitt's curveball has lacked velocity, but is massive to add to his repertoire.

Heading into the season, Bassitt could have been pitched out of the rotation or the bullpen. With the delay of Jesus Luzardo’s arrival after he tested positive for coronavirus, and the setback from A.J. Puk, Bassitt easily worked his way into the starting rotation.

Last season, however, he made a great case for himself coming out of the bullpen when Blake Treinen struggled with a back injury.

"Hey, we know you."

Graveman, the former Opening Day starter for the A's, was impressive through the first four innings. Aside from his fastball, he also had a pretty impressive slider that he threw to Marcus Semien on a 3-0 count.

Gravemen spent four seasons with the A’s from 2015-18. He missed most of the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

The 29-year-old went 4 2/3 innings and allowed three hits and two earned runs. Graveman struck out three and walked two A's batters. Graveman was originally supposed to be a big part of the A’s rotation in 2018, but that ultimately wasn’t the case.

[RELATED: Grossman details adjustment that changed his season]

It's been two years since Graveman pitched in the big leagues, and after a pitstop with the Chicago Cubs, he's found a new home in Seattle. So, despite him no longer wearing green and gold, it was good to see Graveman healthy and back on the mound again.