Zack Gelof doesn’t profile as a boom-or-bust prospect. Coming off of a season that saw him reach Triple-A at age 22, the University of Virginia product is a near lock to perform on the big stage — not as a headliner, but rather as a solid contributor to a lineup that is currently patched together with Band Aids. The low-budget Oakland Athletics need all the help they can get, so getting Gelof — ditto the higher-ceilinged Tyler Soderstrom — to the big leagues is an organizational priority.
Drafted 60th overall in 2021, Gelof slashed .270/.352/.463 with 18 home runs this past season, with the bulk of his action coming with Double-A Midland. The right-handed-hitting infielder added three more homers in the Arizona Fall League, and it is his power potential that most stands out for our lead prospect analyst. When I asked Eric Longenhagen for a snapshot scouting report on Gelof, he told me that “it is definitely a power-over-hit profile at this point,” adding that while his 70% contact rate wasn’t great, his “peak power and barrel rates were very encouraging.”
When I asked Gelof for a self-scouting report, he chose not to cite specific strengths, but rather his all-around skillset and desire to get better.
“I’d say I’m a really athletic infielder who likes to compete,” the Delaware native told me during his stint in the AFL. “But I try not to think about who I am and what people scout me to be. I just worry about working on basically every area that I can. I want to perform on the field and be the best player that I can be.”
Asked if he feels he’s better with the bat or with the glove, Gelof said that while he considers offense a strength, he’s also improving defensively. Drafted as a third baseman and transitioned to second base this past season, Gelof is no wizard with the glove, but he is proving to be proficient at a middle infield position. That’s not exactly a surprise. Like most of his pro-ball contemporaries — the fellowship of infielders, so to speak — he grew up playing short. And a former A’s infielder — the team’s primary shortstop from 2004 to ’08 — is playing a meaningful role in the youngster’s defensive development.
“Our manager here, Bobby Crosby, played multiple years as a big-league infielder, so I talk to him a lot,” explained Gelof, who took an unexpected journey to the injured list midway through last season due to a sublexed left shoulder. “I was with him in Midland, too — he was our manager there — and he’s given me a lot of help with the move. A lot of it is simplifying actions on things like double-play feeds, double-play turns. Other than that, it’s really just making sure that your hands are working with your feet, which is what every infielder should do.”
His approach to battling pitchers is similarly simple.
“I like to study hitting, but in the end, I’m more of a feel-over-technology guy,” explained Gelof, whose trip to the IL cost him roughly six weeks. “I just try to keep finding ways to improve and ultimately be a tough out at the plate. I’m going to be working on stuff in the cage and having a good process, but when it gets to game time, I’m going to be competing in the box. It’s me versus the pitcher.”
Gelof’s emerging power — he went over the wall just 16 times in three collegiate seasons — is due in part to his load. Asked about adjustments, he said that developing more of a weight shift has allowed him to do more damage. His leg lift has become a bit higher, although that is mostly happenstance and not by design. Ditto that he’s begun catching more pitches out front.
“It’s not something I’m consciously trying to do,” Faith said. “But when you really get a ball, it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s it,’ so maybe I’ve kind of moved out front a little bit more. At the same time, I never want to take away what I can do to the opposite field. I want to continue to be a hitter who is gap to gap, foul pole to foul pole, and hitting line drives all over the park. If home runs happen, they happen. I just want to be known as a tough out.”
Gelof won’t need to produce light-tower power to chase a ring while wearing an Oakland uniform, but he will have to emerge as the tough out he aspires to be. Again, he doesn’t profile as star — Eric gave him a 45+ FV — but rather as another brick in the wall within a big league lineup. Given the state of the rebuilding A’s, he should be a part of that foundation in the very near future.