The 2021 Oakland Athletics‘ top five prospects are very intriguing, especially because two (#1 prospect LHP AJ Puk and #5 prospect RHP Daulton Jefferies) look to be getting significant playing time in MLB this season.
2021 Oakland Athletics: AJ Puk
AJ Puk is a 6’7, 238lb behemoth of a man whose fastball-slider combo will be frustrating hitters on both sides of the batter’s box for years to come. Puk had a cup of coffee in 2019, but he should have a huge impact on the 2021 Oakland Athletics.
Standing taller than most pitchers and averaging 97.5mph on his fastball, Puk has garnered comparisons to Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. While any comparison to one of the greatest players of all time is an extremely difficult expectation to live up to (comparing an 18-year-old Jasson Dominguez to Mike Trout before he’s played a professional baseball game), it is hard for 2021 Oakland Athletics fans to not be excited for Puk’s first full MLB season after shoulder surgery sidelined him in 2020.
Two Future Stars
The 2021 Oakland Athletics’ #2 prospect, SS Robert Puason, is the other prospect with a signing bonus of over $5 million in the 2020-2021 international signing period, the other being the aforementioned Jasson Dominguez.
He has a 50 overall grade on MLB.com, and his glove already looks to be ready for the upper levels of the minor leagues, but his bat still needs time to develop. He is lean and wiry 6’3″ and he should continue to add strength as he grows into his frame. MLB.com projects Puason to make his MLB debut around 2024, so he could potentially be Elvis Andrus‘ replacement, should the Athletics take his option.
C Tyler Soderstrom’s skill inspired the Oakland Athletics to go almost $650,000 over his pick value in the 2020 draft after he emerged as the top prep catching prospect in baseball.
A non-roster invitee for 2021 Oakland Athletics Spring Training, Soderstrom looks to show the front office they were right to put so much faith in him before making his minor league debut this season.
Bat-first catchers are more common than they have been, and with the large possibility of the electronic strike zone in the future, Soderstrom’s lagging defense may not be as much of a negative as it currently stands.
Soderstrom’s athleticism will carry him to at least a backup catcher role (MLB.com has his ETA at 2024) but the Athletics could form a more even split situation, similar to what the Dodgers did with Austin Barnes and Will Smith in 2020. However, if his bat is major-league ready well before his glove, then the Athletics could choose to move him out from behind the plate, similar to how they handled Josh Donaldson.
The #5 2021 Oakland Athletics prospect is RHP Daulton Jefferies. On the plus side, Jefferies’ velocity during his MLB cup of coffee averaged 95.4mph, although he was knocked around for 5 runs in an inning by the Texas Rangers.
The Athletics plan to develop Jefferies as a starter, but he will need to continue to develop his slider/cutter into a league-average offering to stay in the rotation. Otherwise, expect his first full MLB season to be a bit of a back-and-forth between the rotation and bullpen before settling in as a very good option for the 6th-8th inning against both sides.
The 2021 Oakland Athletics stand to be a very good team who should win the AL West, and if Jefferies and Puk play to their potential, they could make a sneaky playoff run come October.
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