By Shayna Rubin
Every tanking team’s fanbase longs for the days when the new generation cracks the big league roster. A series of moves the Oakland A’s made prior to Wednesday’s game signals the next generation is not far away.
The A’s 12-inning, 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels was an unfitting way to end the start of the A’s new era. Hours before the game, the A’s called up left-handed pitcher JP Sears and outfielder Cal Stevenson and placed starter Paul Blackburn on the injured list and designated Jed Lowrie for assignment.
Lowrie, 38, is a fan favorite who always seemed to find his way back to Oakland. The double machine has been a leader and one of the backbones of the A’s success throughout this decade, signed back this season to help guide a discombobulated team. A return to Oakland is unlikely, though it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him come back on the coaching staff or front office one day.
The A’s replaced the two spots on the roster with a pair of prospects making different debuts. Sears, the A’s No. 19 prospect, got called-up and immediately thrown on the mound to start the afternoon game. Stevenson, a Fremont native, was penciled into right field for his Major League debut and got his first big league hit on an opposite field slap that the infield defense couldn’t wrangle.
This loss to the Angels was one of many A’s losses (71, to be exact) in an uncompetitive season. But with a few more call-ups likely on the horizon, the A’s could be close to fielding another exciting crop of players sooner than later. Here’s how things are progressing in Oakland.
Big league-ready prospects
Sears, 26, looked comfortable in his A’s debut. He held the Angels to one hit over his first five innings, at one point retiring 15 in a row until he gave up back-to-back singles in the sixth inning and was pulled for reliever Sam Moll, who gave up a three-run home run to Luis Rengifo.
Sears showed off his mid-90s fastball thrown with a lot of deception, along with his slider and changeup. He struck out three and walked none.
He came to the A’s having pitched 22 innings (including 2 starts) with the Yankees this season. He was acquired at the trade deadline along with pitching prospects Ken Waldichuk, Luis Medina and outfielder Cooper Bowman in a trade that sent Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino to New York.
Waldichuk’s big league clock hasn’t started, but he may not be far behind Sears for a call-up. The A’s No. 3 ranked prospect per MLB.com gave up three runs in 3 1/3 innings in his Las Vegas Aviators debut last week, but he could force the issue if he can get back into rhythm. He had a 1.26 ERA in six starts with the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate this year.
More likely to get a September call-up is No. 1 prospect Shea Langeliers, the catcher Oakland acquired from the Atlanta Braves in their trade for Matt Olson in the offseason. A’s general manager David Forst said on the A’s flagship radio show “A’s Cast” that Langeliers is “ready to go” and that they hope to get him at-bats sometime this season.
Langeliers was the Futures Game MVP at this year’s game at Dodger Stadium after hitting a home run and catching a runner stealing third base. The 24-year-old is batting .284/.368/.518 with a .886 OPS including 19 home runs, 55 RBI in 88 games with the Triple-A Aviators this season.
Some top prospects to keep an eye on
The blockbuster trades have netted the A’s plenty of high-minors players on the cusp of big league action, but their younger prospects taken through the draft are making huge strides.
Notably, they’ve moved away a tad from the “Moneyball” approach to the amatuer draft that prioritizes college players over high school ones. Given how some of their recent first-round picks are progressing, it may pay off.
Tyler Soderstrom, their 2020 first-round pick out of Turlock High School, was promoted to Double-A Midland last week. Turning 21 in November, he’s the youngest player on the roster.
He forced the issue, answering a slow start to a .320/.391/.693 slash line with seven home runs and five doubles in July. Drafted as a catcher, Soderstrom is playing first base this year, where he might have a clearer path to the big leagues given some congestion at the catcher position. In six games with Midland, he’s batting .259/.250/.482 with a .732 OPS.
Max Muncy, their 2021 first-round pick out of Thousand Oaks who will turn 20 in a few weeks, hit .230 with 16 doubles, one triple, 16 home runs and 51 RBIs in 81 games with Low-A Stockton and was promoted late July to the Lansing Lugnuts.
Denzel Clarke, the 22-year-old outfielder taken out of Cal State Northridge in the fourth round, hit two inside the park home runs in two games recently with Lansing. He was in the All-Star Futures game along with Langeliers and has plenty of speed and the bat to boot.
After batting .295/.420/.545 with a .965 OPS and 7 home runs with Stockton, was promoted to High-A Lansing on June 14, where he’s had a slower start batting .233 with a .782 OPS with six home runs in 27 games.
Under the radar
Keep an eye on pitcher Hogan Harris, recently promoted from Lansing to Midland. The left-handed pitcher has a 1.77 ERA over 14 games (13 starts) this season with 59 strikeouts and 23 walks.
Right-handed pitcher Garrett Acton is impressing in Las Vegas after a mid-season promotion. He has a 2.82 ERA in 16 games pitched with the Triple-A affiliate this year. That includes 27 strikeouts and 4 walks.
Source: Paradise Post