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How Kotsay envisions Ruiz, Gelof improving in second season

How Kotsay envisions Ruiz, Gelof improving in second season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

Young Athletics stars Esteury Ruiz and Zack Gelof will look to improve their play in the 2024 MLB seasons after impressive rookie campaigns.

Both Ruiz and Gelof turned heads with their historic performances in 2023, and have set the bar high for their sophomore seasons.

A's manager Mark Kotsay spoke with NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil last week at spring training in Mesa, Ariz., where he was asked how, if possible, Ruiz can improve upon his eye-popping 67-stolen-base rookie season in 2024.

"Obviously getting on base more," Kotsay told Brazil. "His on-base (percentage) last year was just a clip over .300, so he understands that plate discipline is an important part of the growth. But the league's going to know, and they knew toward the end of last year. So it's going to be a little more challenging, he's not going to surprise anybody but he's got the speed to accomplish something of that nature and we'll look forward to seeing how his year progresses."

Ruiz swiped the second-most bases in 2023 behind Atlanta Braves superstar and NL MVP winner Ronald Acuña Jr. (73) while batting .254/.309/.345 with five home runs, 24 doubles and 47 RBI.

Gelof got a late start to his rookie season after a July 14 promotion, but finished the campaign batting .267/.337/.504 with 14 home runs, 32 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 270 at-bats, earning Rookie of the Month honors and breaking franchise records along the way.

Kotsay has been impressed with Gelof's improvements this offseason, which included taking a page out of Colorado Rockies Hall of Famer Todd Helton's book.

"He was sharp, and I think Zack believes in himself that he can have a better year, that he can continue to improve," Kotsay explained. "He's made some adjustments with hitting versus left-handed pitching.

"It's awesome to hear this, that he was engaged in the Hall of Fame induction speeches and talks when Todd Helton got inducted. Todd made a point about where he referenced his eyesight and it clicked for Zack, he's changed a little bit of his eyesight against lefties. So far in camp and the live BPs you can see the difference."

Gelof is off to a hot start in spring training, and blasted his second home run in as many games on Thursday against the San Diego Padres Hohokam Stadium.

The A's will rely on Ruiz and Gelof to help anchor an increasingly young Oakland lineup now and for years in the future.