California prep catcher Tyler Soderstrom wasn’t active on the high school baseball showcase circuit until this summer. He played in his home state of California in previous years but knew the summer after his junior year of high school was critical for exposure.
His approach to the summer months was by design. Growing up in a baseball family, Soderstrom was familiar with the MLB draft process and knew what events were important to improving his draft stock.
He excelled this summer to make him a well-known prospect for the 2020 MLB draft.
“I talked with my family and my advisor,” Soderstrom said. “I have always been an under-the-radar guy and never have done a whole lot until this summer. We made a decision that I needed to do all the events this summer to get my name out there and show them what I can do. Our plan for the summer worked out really well, and I just did everything I needed to do.”
He thrived throughout a hectic summer that was highlighted by his participation in the inaugural PDP League and with the USA U-18 National Team in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup in South Korea.
The PDP League is a three-week, invite-only developmental event put on by MLB and USA Baseball at IMG Academy in Florida. It features 80 of the top prep players in the country. The event allows the players to compete in a high-level environment that resembles the professional ranks while receiving instruction from former professional players.
It wasn’t until this summer that Soderstrom realized he was one of the top high school prospects, he said. He was one of the top performing prep players throughout the summer and major-league scouts noticed his success, which has moved Soderstrom up MLB draft boards in preparation for June’s draft.
The well-rounded prep catcher is one of the top prep players in the draft class and is considered a potential first-round pick.
“I think I showed that I am athletic, can move well behind the plate,” Soderstrom said. “My bat was probably one of my biggest things of the summer. I showed I have power and I can hit for average. I faced really good competition all summer so I think that was also key.”
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound high school senior is a well-rounded catcher, but his top trait is his offensive ability. He has a slightly open stance and incorporates his lower half into his swing. He also has quick hands that generate bat speed, which allows him to consistently barrel up pitches from the left side of the plate.
This offseason, Soderstrom is working on his pitch recognition and making sure he has a disciplined approach at the plate, he said.
“I think my bat is the thing people like to watch the most and how the ball comes off it,” Soderstrom said.
Soderstrom has the intangibles to grow into a respectable defensive catcher. He is athletic and features a strong arm. He also moves well from side to side and has a quick exchange that allows him to quickly release the ball on throws.
Improving his defensive is Soderstrom’s top priority this offseason and as the MLB draft approaches, he said.
“I’ve been working really hard on that right now,” Soderstrom said. “Just focused on being more athletic, quicker, faster. I just need to keep progressing and keep working.”
Playing catcher is “his passion,” he said. He believes he has the intangibles and work ethic to stick behind the plate long-term.
“I just enjoy being in control of the game, and I feel like the leader on the field,” he said. “You are always part of every play. Regardless of what happens, you are always doing something.”
Soderstrom has been immersed in the game of baseball since he was born. His father Steve was the sixth overall pick by the San Francisco Giants in the 1993 MLB draft. He pitched professionally for seven seasons and started three games at the major-league level for the Giants in 1996.
Soderstrom’s brother Tate is a junior at the University of Arizona.
Learning the game from his father and watching his brother go through the recruiting and draft processes have helped Soderstrom as he prepares for the next step in his baseball career. Soderstrom, a senior at Turlock High School in California, will have to decide between embarking on a professional career this summer or attending UCLA in the fall.
Regardless of what avenue he selects, Soderstrom hopes to have a long-lasting career.
“I think it’s just in my blood and always has been a dream of mine,” Soderstrom said. “My dad motives me, and I try to outdo him and play longer than him and have a long big-league career.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.