KGPE — Because the MLB Draft was shortened to five rounds this year, no Fresno State Bulldogs were taken in the draft for the first time since 1976.
But Tyler Soderstrom, the son of former Bulldog first-rounder Steve Soderstrom was taken with the 26th overall pick, and the Turlock High graduate signed for 3.3 million with the Athletics on Monday.
Oakland also announced Soderstrom will be joining their 60-man player pool in preparation for the upcoming season, where he’ll be joined by a fellow first-round-pick originally from the Valley, Buhach Colony grad Daulton Jefferies.
Coming straight from high school, it’s highly unlikely Soderstrom would see any Major League action this year, so his assignment to the 60-man player pool is likely more about starting his development as a prospect. Jefferies though, who has already been through Tommy John surgery after being drafted in the first round (37th overall) in 2016, was added to Oakland’s 40-man roster during the winter. In his return to the mound in 2019, he was solid at both High-A and Double-A, and was added to the Athletics 40-man roster over the winter.
Jefferies and Soderstrom were two of several interesting names with Valley ties on the initial lists.
32-year-old Cuban Yadiel Hernandez, who was a hitting machine for the Fresno Grizzlies last year, was on the Washington Nationals initial list.
Visalia native Stephen Vogt was one of four catchers on the Diamondbacks 60-man list, after he was signed by Arizona this offseason. Vogt had 280 plate appearances spread over the life of 99 games with the Giants in 2019, and the former All-Star hit .263 with 10 home runs for San Francisco.
Former Clovis High pitcher Ryan Cook is trying to make a big league comeback after spending last year pitching in Japan. The former 2012 All-Star as a reliever with the Athletics, is on the Marlins invite list, after signing with Miami back in January.
Connor Brodgon, a former pitcher at Liberty-Madera Ranchos, is included in the Phillies player pool. The former 10th-round draft pick out of Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho in 2017, had a 2.61 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched out of the bullpen, across three minor league levels in 2019.
Meantime, seven former Diamond ‘Dogs are also on the 60-man summer camp rosters, including established big league outfielders Aaron Judge of the Yankees and Jordan Luplow of the Indians, as well as established relief pitcher Justin Wilson of the Mets.
Former Bulldog first-round pick Taylor Ward is one of the outfielders on the Angels list, and catcher Austin Wynns is one of four catchers going to Orioles summer camp.
Perhaps the most interesting ex-Bulldog invited to a team’s player pool is former 2016 Mountain West Co-Pitcher of the Year Jimmy Lambert, who is on the White Sox’s list. Lambert last appeared for the Double-A Birmingham Barons in 2019 before being shut down for season-ending Tommy John surgery. The White Sox’s decision to include him in in their player pool suggests Lambert is expected to be ready to go at some point before 2020 ends.
Another pitcher trying to make a bit of a comeback is former Bulldog Justin Miller, who last appeared in the major leagues with the Washington Nationals in 2019, and also made nine appearances in relief for the Fresno Grizzlies last year. He was signed as a minor league free agent by the Toronto Blue Jays on Dec. 2, 2019. He appeared in six games in relief on the mound for the Blue Jays in spring training before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down play.
Teams can have as many as 60 in their player pool for the season. 30 will make up the initial opening day roster, and it will go down to 28 after 14 days, and then to 26 about a month into play. The rest of the players will be on a ‘taxi squad’ in case they are needed.