Oakland Athletics: Max Muncy’s Role For The 2016 Season

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Max Muncy spent the entire 2014 season helping the Oakland Athletics Double-A Rockhounds to a championship in his hometown of Midland, Texas. He did not set the world on fire for the ‘Hounds, but he hit well enough at .264 and walked 87 times. While he hasn’t shown the type of power production so far in his career (aside from 21 home runs in the hitter friendly California League) that you expect from a corner outfielder, his ability to get on base is an attribute the front office loves.

There is one small problem with Muncy, though. While he has shown that ability to get on base at every level before the 2015 season, his walk rate went drastically down this season between Triple-A and the big club.

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In 355 plate appearances Muncy drew only 35 walks, a big dip from his 87 in 530 PA in the prior season. He did hit .274 with Triple-A affiliate Nashville Sounds but when your bread and butter is getting on base you need to keep the walk rate up. It wouldn’t be as big of an issue if his strikeout rate also went down, but that level remained near his career minor league average.

So what should Muncy’s role be for the 2016 season now that he’s gotten a taste of the big leagues?

Aug 8, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics infielder Ike Davis (17) prepares to field a ground ball before stepping on first base to record an out against the Houston Astros in the sixth inning at O.co Coliseum. The Athletics defeated the Astros 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The answer to that question depends on the Oakland Athletics’ offseason moves. If current first baseman (and occasional lefty reliever) Ike Davis is kept in the mix it would be wise to let Muncy work with the coaches in Nashville for at least the first half of the season to regain the eye that endeared him to the front office. The problem with that is that Davis missed a large chunk of the season and is best served as the left-handed side of a platoon. The A’s already have a lefty in Stephen Vogt, who should get more time at first with Josh Phegley earning more playing time behind the plate.

If Davis is non-tendered, which seems likely, the front office could still go into the free agent market and pick up a guy like Mark Reynolds to work as a platoon with Vogt. They could also dip into the trade market and get a similar player to fill out the right-handed side of the platoon or stick with Mark Canha as the occasional first baseman. In this case, Muncy may spend the entire 2016 season in Triple-A, hoping to prove he is ready when 2017 comes around.

The third and final option doesn’t seem as likely with the way the team has done things in the past, but Muncy could be forced to continue to learn at the big league level and be the primary first baseman come opening day 2015.

This is the least likely option it is also the worst option of the three. It could not only be detrimental to the team, but if he was unable to reproduce his minor league numbers at the big league level, it could also damage his psyche.

The best case scenario would be to platoon Vogt at first, with Phegley taking over as the primary catcher 0 all while allowing Muncy to grow at Triple-A and giving him the ability to win the job in 2017.

His ceiling may never be the 20-plus homer stud he appeared to be with the Stockton Ports, but he could easily be what Daric Barton was at his best, an on-base machine. That might not make A’s fans want to run out and buy his jersey, but it could be just enough to earn him a starting spot for a long time.

Next: What Does Oakland Athletics Front Office Movement Actually Mean?

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