Ken Waldichuk was the Oakland Athletics‘ top acquisition at the 2022 trade deadline. The left-hander was acquired by the A’s in the trade that sent starting pitcher Frankie Montas to the New York Yankees back in August. Waldichuk was called up to Oakland in early September, and immediately struggled. He did, however, find a way to get things going in his last few starts.
Ken Waldichuk played his college ball at St Mary’s and was drafted in the 5th round of the 2019 MLB draft by the New York Yankees. Waldichuk played three years in college and his best year came in 2018 when the southpaw went 8–4 with a 2.05 ERA in 14 starts. The lefty performed well in the minors in 2021, helping him finish the year in Double-A. In 2022, he got off to a hot start in Double-A and was called up to the Yankees’ Triple-A roster after just six starts. In mid-July, Waldichuk appeared in the Futures game, where he got to face one batter and recorded an out.
While Waldichuk was in the Yankees’ system, talks with the A’s right-handed pitcher Frankie Montas were starting to heat up. The Yankees had been rumored to be in on the A’s pitcher. On August 1, just a day before the trade deadline, the A’s finally decided to deal Montas. The Yankees were the team the A’s decided to make the trade with. In return, came a few prospects, one of them being one of the more highly touted players in the Yankees organization, Ken Waldichuk.
Waldichuk began his time in the A’s organization in Triple-A. At 24-years old, the left-hander didn’t have much left to prove at the minor league level. With September call-ups right around the corner, his arrival in Oakland seemed imminent
The A’s new prospect had a very good stint in Triple-A Vegas. Waldichuk went 0–1 in four starts, but did have a 3.38 ERA to show for his outings. On September 1, the A’s made the decision to call up the prized pitcher for his big league debut.
How He Performed
Waldichuk’s debut in the majors came against the Washington Nationals, the only team to finish with a worse record then the A’s this year. He had a decent outing, going 4 ⅔, and only giving up one run. The A’s ultimately lost the game, but Waldichuk did not record the loss.
The A’s prized prospect began to struggle over his next few starts. His worst outing came against the Houston Astros, where Waldichuk was only able to go 2 ⅔, after giving up five runs. His first win of his career came in his next start against Jacob deGrom, of all people. The A’s offense tagged deGrom early, in what was arguably the best offensive performance of the season for the team. Waldichuk did his job, going five innings and giving up four runs. The A’s would win the game by the score of 10–4.
In his next start, Waldichuk fared even better, going five innings and giving up only one run. The A’s were encouraged by the progress the lefty was showing. He had yet to go very deep in a game, but he still had one more start before year’s end.
In the final game of the season Waldichuk got the ball against the Los Angeles Angels hoping to close the door the right way, on what was a forgettable 2022 campaign for the A’s. The southpaw would get into trouble in the first, but was able to escape unscathed. After that, he was dealing. Waldichuk would go seven innings of shutout ball. It was the 24-year old’s longest outing in his big league career, both in innings and pitches. The outstanding performance delivered him his second win of the year, and helped the A’s reach 60 wins for the season.
2023 Could be Promising for A’s Left Hander
All signs point towards Ken Waldichuk beginning the 2023 season in the majors. It would take an implosion for him to end up in the minor leagues again. He showed plenty of progress through his short stint in the big leagues. A’s fans have a lot to be excited about when it comes to their new southpaw pitcher.
The left hander received high praise from the A’s manager after one of his starts. Mark Kotsay compared Waldichuk to former AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray. Ray and Waldichuk are each lefties and both possess a strong physique on the mound. Waldichuk still has a ways to go before he reaches his prime, but Ray would be a good guy for him to model moving forward.
Pitch sequence seems to be an asset for the A’s pitcher. The lefty likes to use his curveball a lot. He’ll often start batters off this way, before mixing in his fastball, changeup, and slider. His fastball only reaches 95, but his ability to locate and to diversify his pitch sequence make Waldichuk appear to be a rather talented starting pitcher.
Waldichuk will be hoping to work his way up to being one of the top guys in the A’s rotation next year. He will likely be behind Cole Irvin, James Kaprielian, and Paul Blackburn. With a good spring training and a solid start to the year, Waldichuk could climb up the depth chart and establish himself as a top-two guy in the A’s rotation. He’ll have to keep developing his pitches over the off-season, and come into Arizona ready to work next spring. If he does, look for him to be one of the guys that helps the A’s come back strong from a disappointing 2022 season.
Embed from Getty Images