During the 2014-2015 offseason, the Oakland Athletics traded away two of their starting catchers – John Jaso to the Tampa Bay Rays and Derek Norris to the San Diego Padres. It was then expected that Stephen Vogt, the A’s then third string catcher during the 2014 season, would assume the starting catcher role even though he did not actually catch that much in 2014 due to a nagging foot injury. Even though Vogt was expected to be healthy by the 2015 season after undergoing foot surgery during the offseason, there was still the question as to who would back Vogt up at the plate.
Then along came Josh Phegley. Phegley came to the Athletics from the Chicago White Sox via the Jeff Samardzija trade. Phegley was definitely not the centerpiece of this package deal for Oakland who also gained a starting shortstop in Marcus Semien and top prospect starting pitcher in Chris Bassitt. However, Phegley turned out to be the most overall beneficial player to come from this trade.
Phegley had only played in a total of 76 Major League games before joining the Oakland Athletics. He was known as somewhat of a power hitter with above-average defense. After the 2014 Wild Card Game spotlighted the problems with the A’s catchers’ defense, Phegley seemed like a promising backup catcher. Ultimately, he proved to be much more than just a second string player.
In 2015, Phegley played his best season in the Majors yet. He batted .249 with a .749 OPS. In 73 games, he hit 34 RBI and nine home runs. Interestingly enough, Phegley spent about four seasons in Triple-A before being permanently promoted to the big leagues. And, each year he played in Triple-A, he got better. This consistent upward trend also seems to be happening again in the Majors. That being said, it would not be surprising to see him improve further in 2016.
Phegley’s defense was the highlight of his 2015 season. During one game against the Detroit Tigers in late May, Phegley threw out three players trying to steal second. His caught stealing percentage this year was an impressive .391 and his DWAR was 0.8. These numbers will surely go up when he receives more playing time.
Unfortunately, Phegley’s season ended early this year because of a concussion incurred during batting practice in late September. He will be healthy for 2016 and is expected to be behind the plate again as Vogt’s backup. However, Phegley proved this year that he has the talent both offensively and defensively to be a starting catcher. If, for some reason, the Athletics decide to trade Vogt, they will still have a quality catcher behind the plate.