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Oakland A’s outfielder: ‘People might think of us as a laughingstock … but next year’s going to be a different story’

Oakland A’s outfielder: ‘People might think of us as a laughingstock … but next year’s going to be a different story’

OAKLAND – Say this about rookie outfielder Lawrence Butler, he doesn’t lack confidence in himself, or in the Oakland A’s.

Butler hit two of Oakland’s four home runs on Monday as the A’s had their three-game winning streak snapped with a 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Toronto Blue Jays before an announced Labor Day crowd of 9,062 at the Coliseum.

The loss dropped the A’s record to an MLB-worst 42-96, which includes a 7-23 mark against American League East opponents. Still, all five runs came courtesy of A’s rookies, with infielders Ryan Noda and Jordan Diaz hitting solo home runs.

“The A’s have a really bright future,” “People might think of us as a laughingstock of the league this year, but next year, it’s going to be a whole different story.”

The A’s front office is using this time with just under four weeks left in the regular season to help determine which players can be a part of the solution going forward.

It sure looks like first baseman Noda, Butler, and second baseman Zack Gelof figure into the A’s long-term plans — and could even be key ingredients for whenever the franchise is ready to compete for a playoff spot again.

According to Butler, that might happen sooner than people think, despite the A’s having the worst record in the majors right now at 42-96.

“We’re playing really good baseball right now,” Butler said. “Putting up good at-bats, pitchers are throwing well, the bullpen’s been good, starters have been good and we’re playing good defense. So I mean, it’s just a matter of time before it all really clicks and we take off.”

Gelof was just named the AL Rookie of the Month for August and Noda has played his best baseball of the year since he returned from a fractured jaw midway through last month, helping the A’s put together an 8-6 stretch in what’s otherwise been a dismal 2023 season.

Besides Butler’s homers, Noda homer was his 14th of the season, and Diaz hit his 10th.

“We’re trying obviously to identify a group to go forward with in the future,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said before the game. “Ryan, for maybe most of the season or all season, has really done that and solidified himself as a piece here.

“Last year, I think we used 11 different first basemen and Ryan has really taken over that role and solidified the position. So, with Zack and him, it’s fun to watch two young players that have power and an (ability) to put the ball in play and get on base at the top of the lineup.”

Asked postgame about Butler, Kotsay said, “I can’t tell you what his ceiling is but he’s only going to get better. He has the tools to play at a really high level, so that’s probably the ceiling.

“Being an everyday guy, being an impact player. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him defensively, I don’t think we’ve seen him run and steal bases like he probably can. But again, this kid is really young and it’s exciting.”

Gelof, Butler, and Diaz are all 23 and Noda is 27. Best of all, at least from the frugal A’s perspective, is the fact that they’re all under team control for several more years to come, with the chance that they could provide some long-term stability to an organization that’s seen multiple players come and go since the start of last season.

Butler was the A’s sixth-round pick in the 2018 draft and was rated as Oakland’s fifth-best prospect by MLB.com, as he hit .257 with 50 home runs, 223 RBI, and 67 stolen bases in 376 games in five seasons in the minors.

In 23 games, Butler is hitting .246 with nine RBIs and an OPS of .717, although he does have 16 strikeouts.

“Coming from High-A and hitting two home runs in a big league game in less than a year’s time is impressive,” Kotsay said of Butler. “This is a kid that we identified early, a high school draft kid, that’s really taken the time to mature.

“You’re seeing that maturation process now happen at the big league level. … To see the success, it’s a great sign.”

Since he was reinstated from the injured list Aug. 21, Noda, before Monday, was 13-for-42 (.310) with six walks and a .442 on-base percentage in 13 games. For the season, Noda led Major League rookies in walks (66) and on-base percentage (.384) and ranked seventh in OPS (.813).

In August, Gelof hit 286 with eight doubles and seven home runs and had 15 RBI and a .912 OPS in 27 games.

“It’d be awesome if we could be here for the foreseeable future together,” Noda said before the game of him and Gelof.

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Still, there’s a lot to learn. Gelof, after his single in the sixth inning, stole second base but was picked off by Jays starter Jose Berrios. The mental mistake was especially tough considering it came right before Noda’s home run.

Noda was also 0-for-2 on Monday with runners in scoring position. In the eighth inning, with two outs, the score tied 3-3, and Nick Allen at third base, Noda grounded out to first base.

A’s starter Luis Medina, who was activated off the 15-day injured list Monday, allowed three walks and three earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.

Kotsay lamented the free passes — the A’s gave up six — and the team going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, but added, “overall, it was a good game.”