Rule 5 pick Ka’ai Tom beats out Seth Brown for A’s fourth outfielder spot

Bob Melvin raved all spring about Ka’ai Tom’s ability to rake despite being 5-foot-9. As a Rule 5 pick having a great camp, he had some leverage over Seth Brown in the fight to become the A’s fourth outfielder.

On Sunday, Tom solidified his spot by having a stellar day in center field. In the second inning of the 9-3 Cactus League win over the Giants, Tom robbed Alex Dickerson with an over-the-shoulder catch. Tom also made a nice play in the gap to retire Jason Vosler and Melvin noticed.

After the game, the A’s skipper told Tom he made the team.

“He was pretty excited, obviously,” Melvin said on Monday. “He’s had a good spring. This is a guy that we were hoping to get into games after he had the hamstring injury and he’s performed really well. 

“You guys were asking about his defense? We got a pretty good snapshot yesterday. … He made two really good plays in the outfield yesterday that makes us feel that much more secure about his defense and being able to play all three positions.”

Tom beat out Seth Brown for the job despite not making his Cactus League debut until March 15 due to a strained oblique he tweaked working out at his offseason home in Las Vegas. 

Tom couldn’t play last season without the minor leagues but had a solid 2019 campaign between Double-A and Triple-A. He posted a .290/.380/.532 slash line with 23 homers, 86 RBIs, 27 doubles and 10 triples.

The native Hawaiian — whose full name is Ka’ai Blaze Tom — slashed .321/.424/.571 with two doubles, a triple, a homer, six RBI, four walks and eight strikeouts in 32 plate appearances.

The compact outfielder puts on power displays in batting practice, too.

“For a little guy he’s got some juice in his bat,” Melvin said earlier this spring. “That shows up in batting practice. He can hit any number of balls out to right field — which, just looking at him — you might not suspect.”

Vimael Machin also was sent to Triple-A as Jed Lowrie, Chad Pinder and Tony Kemp are all ahead of him in the pecking order for at-bats.

Brown, 28, had a fine camp but the A’s can freely option him, unlike the Rule 5 pick Tom, who would have been returned to the Cleveland Indians if he didn’t make the squad.