Mark Canha has not been overwhelmingly good for the Oakland Athletics this season, but he also hasn’t been terrible. In a Rule 5 draft pick, it’s hard to ask for much more.
Canha, who was drafted by the Marlins in 2010, spent the last five seasons in the minors before getting his shot in Oakland this season. In 2011, he hit 25 home runs with the Greensboro Grasshoppers before being promoted to High-A the following season. He had another big year in 2014, hitting 20 homers for Triple-A New Orleans, and playing Winter Ball with the Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican League.
Because he was not on the Marlins’ 40-man roster, the Colorado Rockies were able to snag Canha in the Rule 5 Draft, and they immediately traded him to Oakland. By the rules of the draft, Canha must stay on the club’s major league roster for a full season. Disabled list time doesn’t count, so there isn’t any way to stash him for part of a season. He must be either on the field or on the bench for the whole year.
So far, Canha has made the most of his opportunity. He has hit .243/.311/.416, which isn’t exactly good enough to blow anyone away, but his eight home runs make him more valuable than his average implies. So do his five stolen bases in six attempts, which is an unexpected bonus. He had never stolen more than seven bases in an entire season during his time in the minors, so speed is a new element of his game.
With the exclusion of his home runs, Canha has been perfectly average all season. His 19.7 percent strikeout rate and his 7.8 percent walk rate are both league average, as is his ability to hit for extra bases. He hasn’t wowed anyone with his defense, certainly, but he’s also not costing the team runs.
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It’s much easier to hide a pitcher than it is to hide a position player. A starter who is drafted as a Rule 5 pick can be placed in the bullpen, largely ignored except for long relief and mop-up situations. But hitters are exposed. Either they play every day and are forced to learn how to hit major league pitching, or they sit on the bench and become rusty.
So why should the A’s keep Canha, aside from his glorious hair? He has a 0.3 WAR, in which his power and speed are balancing out a negative defensive WAR. That makes him replaceable but not harmful, and for that reason, he’s worth a roster spot.
Rule 5 picks are not typically players who have lit the world on fire in the minor leagues. They often are mediocre hitters who have the potential to excel in one particular area – like speed, defense or power – but have some flaw that has kept them from becoming a valuable asset in the eyes of their current organization. The Marlins felt that they had outfielders with far more value than Canha, so they didn’t bother to protect him.
Canha posses incredible power, if given the opportunity to hit every day. While his defense is questionable, he’s certainly deserving of the chance to be a designated hitter. The Athletics traded Brandon Moss over the off-season, and Canha is a good replacement for him. The A’s need someone in the lineup who is capable of hitting 30 home runs in a season, and Canha is that guy.
Using a roster spot on a Rule 5 pick can be frustrating, but the rewards are worth it. Next season, Oakland will be able to send him down to Nashville as often as they’d like, and until then, he’s perfectly capable of performing at the level of an average major league player. Canha is a good fit for the A’s, and they shouldn’t back out now, when they’re already two months into a season in which they are not guaranteed a shot at the playoffs.