Oakland Athletics Preview 2016: Catcher Josh Phegley

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Sep 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics catcher Josh Phegley (19) high fives third baseman Danny Valencia (26) after batting him in on a two run home run against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 2, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics catcher Josh Phegley (19) high fives third baseman Danny Valencia (26) after batting him in on a two run home run against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oakland Athletics’ Preview 2016: Backup Catcher Josh Phegley


The Oakland Athletics will continue to utilize platoons at various positions in the infield. This includes 27-year-old Josh Phegley, one half of a platoon at catcher. Phegley has never started with regularity, but with catchers like Stephen Vogt and Tyler Flowers (with whom he played as a member of the Chicago White Sox from 2013-2014) ahead of him on the depth chart, there’s never been a need for him to do so. This season, however, the A’s are expected to lean on him more, given Stephen Vogt’s injury history and relatively little success with left-handed pitching. Phegley has a lot to offer as a backup catcher.

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Phegley has some pop. In 73 games last year, he hit nine homers, with a slash line of .249/.300/.449. Does this small sample size mean much? As far as the 2016 season goes, of course not. But it’s not too far off from what his numbers could look in a season in which he might play 150 games and hit twenty home runs. His .749 OPS is the 14th best compared to all MLB catchers with more than 70 games. Mind you, that puts him ahead of people like Jonathan Lucroy, Derek Norris, and Salvador Perez, the latter of which was the World Series MVP last year. He also hits for a isolated power of .200 – for comparison’s sake, Andrew McCutchen and Miguel Cabrera both had an ISO of .196.

Yes, it is totally unfair to compare MVPs to a backup catcher, especially when Phegley’s sample size is half that of an everyday player. But the point is that Phegley can hit. He plays well against lefties in particular, and was used primarily to spell Vogt against lefties last year, or to allow Vogt a chance to get out from behind the plate and play first base. Against lefties, Phegley hit .276/.323/.466. His wOBA (weighted on-base average, which measures the overall impact of offensive contribution) is .341 against southpaws, which essentially proves that Phegley is above average against lefties.

Against right-handers, Phegley takes a dip in production: he has a higher strikeout rate than against lefties (23.5 percent vs. 18.5 percent against lefties), walks less than vs. lefties (5% vs. 6.5%). In general, Phegley is far less productive when hitting against the much-more common right-handed pitcher.

Thus, Stephen Vogt still has the primary catching job for the Athletics. The simple solution is what the A’s have done last year: catch Vogt against righties and catch Phegley against lefties. Vogt is coming off an All-Star year, though he himself admitted that he is on the wrong side of 30. Vogt is just as banged up this spring as is Phegley, with both of them nursing injuries early in camp: rehab from elbow surgery for Vogt, and shoulder soreness for Phegley. Neither of these guys seems to really be built for everyday use, even though in 2015, Vogt played in 136 games. The A’s have Carson Blair, Bryan Anderson, and Bruce Maxwell behind Phegley in the catcher depth chart. Heck, they probably could bring in bullpen catcher Casey Chavez to squat – he may be as equally major-league ready as the last three.

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The A’s had a similar situation in 2014, when they had a platoon consisting of catchers John Jaso and Derek Norris. They may add another catcher this season, just like they added backstop Geovany Soto late that year. Indeed, the A’s are relying on Vogt and Phegley, and if injury forces both of these two out, David Forst and company will be forced to find a replacement through the trade market. Still, it’s difficult to count out a 28-year-old with a chip on his shoulder like Phegley. He’s never played more than the 73 games that he did last year, and someone with three years of service time as merely a backup will be hungry for more. Phegley may surprise some folks this year and may turn out to be more than a serviceable backstop. Manager Bob Melvin will play the matchups, but count on him to rely on Phegley if he can learn to hit better against right-handed pitching.

Bold Prediction: Phegley smacks 15 HR and plays in over 100 games.

Next: A's Preview: LHP Starter Rich Hill

Who gets more playing time this year: Josh Phegley or Stephen Vogt? Will we see any other catchers for the A’s this season? Write us in the comment section below!

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