Oakland Athletics: Catcher a possible concern in 2020
By David Hill
In theory, the Oakland Athletics should be set at catcher for the foreseeable future. However, for 2020, the position could be a concern.
As the Oakland Athletics eventually head into the 2020 season, they are presumably set at the catcher position. Sean Murphy, one of the top catching prospects in the game, is set to take over as the A’s catcher for the foreseeable future. He certainly tantalized with his performance in September, producing a .245/.333/.566 batting line, with five homers and four doubles, over his 60 plate appearances.
Backing up Murphy is another rookie. Austin Allen, acquired along with Buddy Reed for Jurickson Profar, also made his major league debut last year. However, unlike Murphy, Allen struggled, posting a .215/.282/.277 batting line, with four doubles and 21 strikeouts in his 71 plate appearances.
Backing up those two rookies is yet another rookie. Jonah Heim, who had originally been drafted in 2013, finally had his breakout season in 2019. Long considered a great defensive catcher, Heim finally got the kick in the pants he needed to get his offense into gear, forcing his way onto the A’s top prospects list.
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There is certainly a great deal of potential amongst the A’s catching corps. Two of their top 11 prospects are a part of that group, while Allen was considered to be a possible impact bat, although it was questionable as to whether or not he would remain behind the plate.
But with that potential are plenty of question marks. That trio has combined for a total of 131 plate appearances at the major league level. In that time, and while they have displayed promise, there is still reason for concern. Allen and Murphy combined for 37 strikeouts in those plate appearances, and catchers do tend to take longer to develop offensively.
The A’s also do not have a fallback option should that trio fail to develop into what the A’s hope this season. That could change once teams come back and begin to make roster moves – veteran catchers seemingly come available in minor deals every spring. With the expanded rosters, the A’s may be able to keep three catchers, especially if Allen sees playing time at other positions.
The Oakland Athletics have a bright future at the catcher position. But it is fair to wonder if that future is ready now.