Let's get hyped: A guide to potential 2022 Lugnuts
On Tuesday, March 1, Major League Baseball announced the cancellation of games.* This will not affect the Minor League Baseball season.* With everything chugging straight ahead toward Opening Day, let's get our hopes up about players we could see in Lugnuts white, black and red on April 6 vs. Michigan
On Tuesday, March 1, Major League Baseball announced the cancellation of games.*
This will not affect the Minor League Baseball season.*
With everything chugging straight ahead toward Opening Day, let's get our hopes up about players we could see in Lugnuts white, black and red on April 6 vs. Michigan State and April 8 vs. Lake County.
Prospective Prospect Rankings:
Keep this list in perspective, these are just the thoughts of MLB.com's people, Fangraphs' Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein, and The Athletic's Keith Law.
C Tyler Soderstrom: No. 1 A's prospect (MLB.com), No. 1 A's prospect (Fangraphs), No. 1 A's prospect (The Athletic), No. 35 prospect in baseball (The Athletic), No. 42 prospect in baseball (MLB.com)
INF Zack Gelof: No. 7 (MLB.com), No. 2 (Fangraphs), No. 2 (The Athletic)
OF Brayan Buelvas: No. 8 (MLB.com), No. 6 (Fangraphs), No. 9 (The Athletic)
OF Denzel Clarke: No. 9 (MLB.com), No. 13 (Fangraphs), No. 7 (The Athletic)
P Jeff Criswell: No. 14 (MLB.com), No. 10 (Fangraphs), No. 12 (The Athletic)
P Mason Miller: No. 16 (MLB.com), No. 11 (Fangraphs), No. 14 (The Athletic)
P Grant Holman: No. 17 (MLB.com), No. 11 (The Athletic)
OF Michael Guldberg: No. 21 (MLB.com), No. 23 (Fangraphs)
1B/OF Lawrence Butler: No. 23 (MLB.com), No. 12 (Fangraphs), No. 6 (The Athletic)
C CJ Rodriguez: No. 29 (MLB.com)
SS Drew Swift: No. 30 (MLB.com)
The Big Two
The first two players jump off the page. Fangraphs' No. 1 and No. 2 Athletics prospects could both be Lugnuts to start the season, and they both can hit. 20-year-old Tyler Soderstrom, the A's 2020 first-round selection (Turlock High School in California), and 22-year-old Zack Gelof, the A's 2021 second-rounder (University of Virginia), have special hitting ability: they can pitch-identify, they can use the whole field, they can drive with power. Should they be assigned to Lansing, it would not be unreasonable to compare them to the 2017 tandem of Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. They're that special. How Tyler and Zack fare moving forward will likely determine the Athletics' fortunes moving forward, too.
How likely are we to see them? If Tyler Soderstrom's health is good, he's virtually guaranteed to be a Lugnut this year, though a quick promotion could be in the cards if he gets off to a strong start. Gelof is more of a question mark; there's more than a slight chance the A's push him to Double-A.
More Names to Know
The offensive talent beyond Soderstrom and Gelof is deep and tantalizing. 19-year-old Colombian Brayan Buelvas, who spent all of last year with Low-A Stockton, is well-rounded, with fine speed, fine defense, and a raw, improving bat. The book on 21-year-old Canadian Denzel Clarke, the A's fourth-round selection last year, is that his power is enormous and his outfield defense is top notch. If not for a late Covid breakout in Arizona, Clarke may have joined the Lugnuts at the end of last season. And 21-year-old Lawrence Butler did join the Lugnuts at the end of 2021 and looked like a superstar in a 14-game cameo. Butler finished a breakout season with a combined 29 stolen bases plus 19 home runs, many of them tape-measure shots.
How likely are we to see them? Buelvas is ready to move up a level to Lansing, Clarke was ready last year, and Lawrence Butler proved he was ready last year. The trio appear sensible choices to make up the Lugnuts' 2022 outfield, though they'll face strong competition from 2020 third-rounder Michael Guldberg, who dazzled in flashes with the Nuts last year before an injury ended his season, and another Butler, 2021 14th-rounder Jonny Butler. Guldberg (Georgia Tech) and Butler (NC State) won the last two ACC batting crowns.
The Athletics clearly prioritized defense in the 2021 draft. Beyond Denzel Clarke and Jonny Butler, catcher CJ Rodriguez (fifth round), third baseman Brett Harris (seventh round) and shortstop Drew Swift (eighth round) all carry reputations as superb defenders, with both Harris (WAC) and Swift (Pac-12) honored as their conference's top defensive player of the year. Rodriguez was the top catcher as both a freshman and a sophomore for the top pitching staff in the country, the Vanderbilt Commodores.
How likely are we to see them? Rodriguez finished 2021 in Stockton and feels like a near certainty to split Lugnuts catching duties with Tyler Soderstrom. Harris and Swift each joined the Nuts toward the tail end of last season; returning to High-A feels in order.
There are more top candidates for Lansing: a returning Patrick McColl at first base, joined in the infield by Sahid Valenzuela and/or TJ Schofield-Sam coming up from Stockton. Kevin Richards is a young outfield prospect who could also come up from Stockton.
Still, here's a potential lineup from just the players listed above that would be a fan's and scout's delight:
1. Michael Guldberg/Jonny Butler, CF
2. Zack Gelof, 2B
3. Tyler Soderstrom, DH
4. Lawrence Butler, 1B
5. Denzel Clarke, RF
6. Brayan Buelvas, LF
7. Brett Harris, 3B
8. Drew Swift, SS
9. CJ Rodriguez, C
Lastly, a Few Arms to Mention
Lansing's top pitching prospect in 2021 was 6-foot-4 Jeff Criswell, but the 2020 second-rounder from Michigan made only five appearances due to an early-season injury that cost him several months. Now a pair of big 2021 selections may well keep Criswell company in Lansing's rotation. 6-foot-5 Mason Miller, a third-round pick from Gardner-Webb, changed his life and career trajectory around after a college diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes and now throws 100 miles-per-hour. 6-foot-6 Grant Holman, taken in the sixth round from California, was an outstanding hitter in college in addition to having a power arm.
How likely are we to see them? Very likely. The A's may want to keep Criswell moving up to Double-A, but Miller and Holman are on pace to come in to Lansing, where they could be joined by Kumar Nambiar and Jake Walkinshaw (a pair of 2019 draftees moving up from Stockton) and a slew of other 2021 acquisitions like relievers Blake Beers, Hunter Breault and Aaron Holiday and starters Luke Anderson, Colton Johnson, Mitch Myers, Jack Owen and Kyle Virbitsky. (Note that Owen and Virbitsky were ahead of the curve, arriving in Lansing to make their pro debut right as last year came to a close.)
For the latest information about the Lansing Lugnuts, visit lansinglugnuts.com or call (517) 485-4500.
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