The A’s have carried three catchers on their roster under skipper Bob Melvin before. Will it happen again in 2017?
Here at White Cleat Beat we are going to be doing a very preliminary pre-spring training preview of the players who are slated to play for the Oakland Athletics at each position beginning with catcher.
Of course, this is all subject to change as training camp and exhibition games begin. It’s never a guarantee that any player whether a rookie or a veteran will make the 25-man roster. Injuries and spectacular spring performances can change things at the drop of hat.
Assuming that injuries don’t occur, here’s what the Oakland Athletics’ catching situation looks like right now.
Thirty-two year old Stephen Vogt got a bit of a late start in his big league career. He was 27 when he first played 18 big league games with the Tampa Bay Rays. He came to Oakland in his age 28 season and played backup for Derek Norris.
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Vogt quickly became indispensable for the team, playing 47 games in his first season with the A’s and nearly doubling that number in 2014.
The A’s then traded Norris and Vogt took on the role of not only the starting catcher but a leader in the clubhouse and on the field.
Now a two-time all-star Vogt has played in 247 games over the past two seasons. Now the longest tenured Athletic, Vogt is slated to be the team’s starting catcher, however, he is also tasked with grooming 26-year-old Bruce Maxwell to one-day take his place.
This means that you will likely see Vogt playing sometimes at first base, in the outfield or at the DH position as he gives Maxwell a chance to learn his position.
Catcher is, after all, one of the most important positions on the team, directing the game as the only player who can see the entire field and helping the pitchers by calling the game.
Sometimes players emerge who were under the radar, like last year when non-roster invitee catcher Bruce Maxwell took advantage of an opportunity that came his way last spring.
With both Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley recovering from injuries (as well as the flu), the then-25-year old Maxwell got a chance to have his skills showcased for the coaches and manager Bob Melvin, all of whom were impressed.
Originally a power-hitting corner infielder, Maxwell transitioned to catcher his sophomore year at Birmingham-Southern College prior to being drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft by the A’s. It took him four minor league seasons to finally get comfortable behind the plate.
Maxwell had to let his power go during the transition, having to concentrate completely on learning his new position.
"“I basically had to put my power on hold,” Maxwell said last spring. “I was struggling with the speed of the game [defensively]. It was very difficult, but now I’m starting to get the grasp of it.”"
Maxwell was called up to the majors on July 23rd when Vogt was away on family leave and he stayed with the big league club for the rest of the season, playing in 33 games. Over that span he hit just one home run, however he hit .283 with a .337 on-base percentage.
Maxwell’s power will likely return once he has to spend less time concentrating on calling the ballgame and a left-handed batting, power-hitting catcher is a rare commodity. Maxwell is the A’s catcher of the future and will likely replace Vogt in a couple of years.
Josh Phegley has been the A’s backup catcher for the past two seasons, after spending his first two in the majors with the Chicago White Sox.
Out of the three catchers the A’s are likely to have on their 25-man roster, Phegley is the only one who hits right-handed. He’ll likely platoon with Maxwell as the backup for Vogt.
This is good for Phegley who missed much of last season with a knee injury. He played in just 26 games in 2016 after playing in 73 in 2015.
However, Melvin recently told John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group that he is optimistic that Phegley will be completely recovered in time for the beginning of training camp.
So as of right now, it appears that the A’s will carry three catchers on their 25-man roster for the first time since 2012, the season in which they shocked the baseball world by winning the American League Western Division on the final day of the season.
Predicted to lose 100 games that season, the A’s won 97. Perhaps, it was the magic of carrying three catchers on the roster that helped the A’s win. Of course that is unlikely but one can hope, right?
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