TDG’S Triple Play: Oakland Athletics!
The Triple Play is back for a fifth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Phil Barrington and he is joined by a rotating panel of some of the best Dynasty Baseball writers in the business. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Cristian Pache, Age: 23, Position: OF
Analysis by: Colin Coulahan
Cristian Pache has been at the top of heated debate since he started gaining recognition for his performances in the minor leagues. After signing with the Atlanta Braves in 2015 Pache went on to hit .280/.330/.406 with 67 stolen bases and 32 home runs in five seasons. While those numbers are solid his best tool was his elite center field defense, constantly being praised by scouts and evaluators. And while his offensive numbers were solid there was concern that they may not translate to the MLB level. Well…so far in 69 MLB games, Pache has only posted a .415 OPS with no steals.
Well I’m Going Out West Where the Wind Blows Tall
One of the biggest issues Pache faced was a clear path to playing time. Heading into this year, he would have to break into Atlanta’s outfield trio of Ronald Acuna, Marcell Ozuna, and Adam Duvall. Fortunately, that problem solved itself when Pache was included in a trade that sent him to the Oakland Athletics for slugger` Matt Olson. Oakland isn’t exactly overflowing with talented hitters and Pache was virtually named the starting center fielder after the trade was announced.
Putting Pache in center field is a good move for both him and Oakland. The Coliseum is a large ballpark and you need a fast and elite defender to play up the middle there. Since the team is not intending to challenge for a title in 2022 it also takes some pressure off Pache’s bat to perform. He can take time to adjust to MLB pitching.
It’s Incredibly Hard
To be blunt, Pache has not hit well at all in 2022. As of this writing, he’s only mustered a .438 OPS. The approach is sub-par, only walking at a 4% rate and the almost 58% ground ball rate is killing any power he has. And while it’s easy to look at his .204 BABIP and assume some of his struggles are “bad luck,” that high ground ball rate is probably driving the low BABIP. The good news is that the Gold Glove level defense seems to still be intact. Pache is in the 97th percentile in Outs Above Average and he’s in the 86th percentile for Sprint Speed. There does appear to be some pop in his bat as he’s ranked in the 70th percentile for average exit velocity and Hard Hit%.
Where Do We Go From Here?
So, is Pache worth rostering in dynasty leagues? Unless it’s a deeper league with large benches I would say no. But I do believe that he is worth monitoring as Pache gives me the same impression as a young Yadier Molina. Molina’s defense was always his standout tool, just like Pache. It took Yadier Molina five years in the big leagues to post a wRC+ over 100. Pache will likely need the same amount of time. The glove will keep him in the lineup and give him a chance to develop the bat. And I do see the talent there. Despite his struggles, the strikeout rate isn’t in the danger zone (although it’s close), and his Zone Contact is almost league average. If he can make the adjustments to be more selective with the pitches he swings at and start lifting the ball more we could see a solid, everyday player we could plug into our lineups.
Cole Irvin, Age: 28, Position: SP
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
Swirvin’ Cole Irvin (I refuse to believe that is his nickname, but Wikipedia told me, so I guess it is true? But I digress). Irvin is a guy I have rostered on more than a few teams; his 2021 season helped a lot of fantasy teams, if you played him in the right starts, that is. The 6’4″ lefty started a league-leading 32 games, though also led the majors in losses (15) and hits given up (195) in 178 innings pitched. The Athletics kept sending him out there, and he did perfectly average; an ERA of 4.30 and WHIP of 1.33 are not world-conquering, that is for sure (league average in 2021 was 4.15 ERA and 1.30 WHIP).
Cole the Crocodile Hunter (no, that’s Steve Irwin)
The Phillies drafted Irvin back in the fifth round from the University of Oregon Ducks after his senior season. In 2018, Irvin was flying high playing for the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, and was tops among all Triple-A pitchers in both ERA (2.57) and WHIP (1.05) over 25 starts; though that still was not good enough for Irvin to crack the Phillies top-10 prospect lists. A repeat of Triple-A in 2019 was not as favorable, though he did earn his major league call-up; where he proceeded to stink it up over 41.2 innings; with a 5.83 ERA and slightly better (relatively) FIP of 5.37. In 2020 he pitched three innings and was sold to the Athletics that off-season.
Magic Irvin (no, that’s Earvin Johnson)
When the Athletics acquire a guy, especially a pitcher, it is worth taking note; and what Irvin does best is not walk guys. With a walk rate under 2.5 in his minors’ career, he is also 88th percentile this season. That’s the good. The bad is when he is not walking guys, he is serving up hits. That what happens with a guy with a 91 MPH fastball is giving up a .260 average to opposing hitters; his secondary pitchers aren’t much better, though they have been better in 2022 than 2021. Still, there is a lot of blue and light blue on his statcast page.
Doctor C (no that’s Julius Erving)
Prior to the 2014 season, Irvin had Tommy John surgery, so missed that season but returned for two more seasons at Oregon before being drafted. Since then, until a couple of weeks ago, Irvin has been healthy and dependable. Maybe we should call him Dependin’ Irvin (wait, that sounds like he has an incontinence issue, no?). Anyway, shoulder tendonitis put him on the IL for the first time in his career; though he returned to the big-league roster, after making a rehab appearance in the minors, in just under three weeks.
Puttin’ on the Ritz (no, that’s Irving Berlin)
Irvin plays in a division with the Mariners and Rangers, both teams that have struggled mightily in 2022; he also feasts on the AL bottom feeders. This season he has given up one or zero earned runs in 5+ innings pitched against Baltimore, Texas (twice) and Cleveland. Thus, his ERA looks pretty nice at 3.15 to go along with a 1.20 WHIP and four (out of seven) quality starts. However, we all know that pitching has dominated hitting so far in 2022, and as I wrote two sentences back, he feasts on bad teams. Irvin is a straight streamer, no swirvin’ necessary, for 14-team leagues and fewer. If you are in a 16-team or larger league, he should be rostered, (as well as in all points leagues because in those leagues pitchers are pretty valuable, duh) to be used as necessary against poor-hitting opponents. And if anyone in your league is buying that 3.15 ERA, now would be a good time to get the highest return in a trade.
Tyler Soderstrom, Age: 20, Position: C, Level: A+
Analysis by: Brian Shanks
Cat’s in the Cradle
Tyler Soderstrom is a 20-year-old athletic catcher that was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 1st round of the 2020 MLB draft, number 26 overall. Son of former big league pitcher Steve Soderstrom, both hailing from the same high school in Northern California, Soderstrom signed for an over-slot bonus of $3.3 million. Papa Steve must have had son Tyler in the backyard since he was able to hold a bat because this kid is carrying a big stick in the minors. At the age of 19 in Single-A ball, Tyler’s batting average sat at a crisp .306 with 12 home runs, 20 doubles, one triple and 49 RBI. He also had 27 walks to keep his on-base plus slugging above .950! Unfortunately an oblique injury limited him to 57 games and only 222 at bats.
Soder(strom) it together
It looks like Tyler is selling out for power in the early goings of 2022 as the batting average has dipped to .228 but with 10 homers in just 158 at bats. The strikeout percentage in 2021 was a touch too high at 27 percent, and has risen a couple ticks to 29 percent in 2022, so he needs to get his arms wrapped around that. He’s 6’2″ 200 pounds as I write this with plenty of room to fill out that frame and achieve even more power. The hit tool is there along with plenty of athleticism to be able to start lowering that strikeout percentage while still tapping into that power.
As of right now Soderstrom is listed as a catcher and a bat-first catcher is enough alone to excite me. His bat is clearly above his fielding for now, but the even more exciting part is that Soderstrom is now being groomed at first base as well! If there is any chance that he could be catcher and first base eligible then I want to be all over this player in dynasty leagues. The athleticism would also allow him to move to 3rd or a corner outfield spot, but the Athletics haven’t toyed with that yet. We are starting to see a great group of catching prospects make their way through the minors and Soderstrom is firmly entrenched in that group. If he hits his potential, we have a C/1B eligible player with 30 home runs, 30 doubles and a high batting average while headlining the next group of Oakland major league players.