The Oakland Athletics will be well represented at this year’s MLB All-Star Game.
Let me rephrase that.
The Oakland Athletics will only have one All-Star representing their team in the mid-summer special but have several former players participating in the weekend’s festivities.
Former Athletics Sean Murphy (from Atlanta) and Jonah Heim (from Texas), along with Matt Olson (from Atlanta) and Marcus Semien (from Texas) will all have the opportunity to bat in the All-Star Game. This impressive lineup of players doesn't even take into account Sonny Gray (from Minnesota), who will also be on the All-Star roster.
The A's ownership has made a number of tremendously poor decisions in recent years that have led to the departure of these key players. These decisions include trading away stars for prospects, signing players to short-term contracts, and not spending money on free agents. And these decisions have made it difficult for the A's to build a consistent winner, and they have also led to the team's reputation as a "farm team" for other teams.
Thus, the presence of so many former A's players on this year's All-Star rosters is both a source of pride and a cause for concern. On the one hand, it is gratifying to see that the A's have developed so many talented players who have gone on to have successful careers. On the other hand, it is disheartening to know that these players were not able to stay with the A's long-term.
With that in mind, it raises an important question as we head into the 2023 All Star break: Which current Athletics players have the potential to become future All-Stars, whether they remain with the team or not? Here, we have compiled a list of four individuals who are most likely to meet the criteria.
Outfielder: Esteury Ruiz
With Esteury Ruiz's impressive skills, raw talent, and unwavering dedication to the game, it's not difficult to envision him wearing an All-Star uniform in the near future. Thus far in his remarkable rookie season, Ruiz has showcased his abilities, hitting .257 with 20 doubles and an impressive 35 RBIs. Additionally, his base-stealing prowess has been outstanding, with 43 stolen bases already, breaking the Athletics single-season rookie record and putting him on track to break the AL rookie single-season record.
Ruiz's speed and knack for finding the gaps in the defense make him a formidable threat at the plate, while his elite baserunning skills make him a constant menace on the basepaths. With his exceptional speed, he can easily turn a single into a double, putting additional pressure on the opposing team's defense.
Defensively, Ruiz has proven to be a valuable asset in center field, making impressive plays with his strong arm and keen instincts.
As a complete player, Ruiz's contributions have been instrumental in the Athletics' success. He is a legitimate contender for the AL Rookie of the Year award, and it's only a matter of time before he earns a well-deserved spot on the All-Star roster. Although he was not selected as an All-Star this year, Esteury Ruiz's undeniable impact on the Athletics has firmly established him as a rising star and a future All-Star in the league.
Starting Pitcher: Ken Waldichuk
Ken Waldichuk is no stranger to All-Star Weekend, having been chosen to represent the Yankees at the 2022 All-Star Futures Game. Waldichuk has shown great potential in his career so far and has been described as one of the potentially prized additions to the rotation through trade.
At just 23 years old, Waldichuk is still in the early stages of his professional journey. While he has faced challenges and displayed some inconsistencies, he has also shown glimpses of his immense potential. This season, Waldichuk has been transitioning between the bullpen and rotation, accumulating a 6.07 ERA and 1.65 WHIP over 72 innings. Clearly, these numbers do not currently reflect All-Star caliber performance.
However, what sets Waldichuk apart is his arsenal of pitches that are both diverse and devastating. With a fastball that can reach impressive velocities and a breaking ball that features wicked movement, Waldichuk consistently keeps opposing hitters off balance. As he continues to develop and gain more experience at the Major League level, it is only a matter of time before he begins to receive the recognition and accolades that come with being an All-Star.
While Waldichuk's current statistics may not scream All-Star material, his young age and promising repertoire indicate a player with the potential to ascend to that level. With continued growth and refinement, Waldichuk could soon find himself among the game's brightest stars.
Relief Pitcher: Shintaro Fujinami
Eleven years ago, when an 18-year-old Fujinami was selected in the first round of the 2012 Nippon Professional Baseball draft by the Hanshin Tigers, many evaluators considered him better than Shohei Ohtani, also taken in that round. However, since then, Fujinami's journey has encountered some obstacles.
Yet, while his control has been inconsistent over the years, resulting in several disappointing performances, like those we’ve seen thus far in his brief MLB stint, his raw talent remains exceptional.
Fujinami has always possessed a powerful throwing arm, and just last season, he reached an average fastball velocity of 96.3 mph. In terms of NPB starters, only MLB newcomer Kodai Senga (96.5 mph) and 21-year-old phenom Roki Sasaki (98.9 mph) threw harder in 2022.
This year, he’s throwing even harder with an average fastball speed of 97.9 mph. Whether Fujinami's future role with the Athletics is as a starter or in the bullpen, he has shown glimpses of immense talent when his command is on point.
As he continues to adjust to Major League play, there is a massive opportunity for him to overcome his struggles and tap into his potential.
First Baseman: Tyler Soderstrom
Alright, so technically Tyler Soderstrom isn't an Oakland Athletic just yet, but his arrival is imminent, and let me tell you, he's absolutely fantastic. Soderstrom is Oakland's top prospect and is ranked 35th on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list. He is a legitimate prospect with a lot of hype surrounding him, as evidenced by his recent appearance in the MLB Futures Game.
As a left-handed hitter, Soderstrom has showcased excellent hitting skills and a solid approach at the plate throughout his time in the minor leagues. He consistently makes hard contact to all fields, displaying a combination of strength and bat speed that points to his MLB power potential.
In fact, in AAA play this year, Soderstrom boasts an impressive .839 OPS and leads the Las Vegas Aviators in home runs with 20. He has the ability to drive the ball out of the park to all parts of the field against a wide variety of pitchers.
As Soderstrom continues to develop physically and gain experience against high-level competition, his game is expected to flourish. With his well-rounded skill set, contributing both offensively and defensively, Soderstrom possesses the tools to become a consistent performer and a star in the MLB for years to come.
Oakland A's Future All-Star Players: Conclusion
Esteury Ruiz, Ken Waldichuk, Shintaro Fujinami, and Tyler Soderstrom are just a few examples of talented individuals with the potential to become future stars. While the All-Star game may only showcase a solitary Athletics representative this year, it serves as a reminder that greatness can emerge from unexpected places.
The Athletics' player development system is renowned for identifying and nurturing young talent, helping them blossom into impactful contributors at the Major League level. They have an uncanny ability to find hidden gems, mold them into well-rounded players, and extract their maximum potential. This track record instills confidence that the next breakout star is always on the horizon, waiting to seize the spotlight and etch their name among the league's elite.
So, as fans, let's keep a watchful eye on these players as they continue their ascent. Every at-bat, every pitch, and every defensive play brings them closer to unleashing their full potential and becoming the stars we've been waiting for - hopefully in green and gold this time….