Oakland A’s giving Jonah Heim an opportunity

MESA, AZ - February 24: Jonah Heim #37 of the Oakland Athletics catches during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Hohokam Stadium on February 24, 2020 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
MESA, AZ - February 24: Jonah Heim #37 of the Oakland Athletics catches during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Hohokam Stadium on February 24, 2020 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images) /
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As part of a flurry of moves by the Oakland A’s, Jonah Heim is getting his chance to stake a claim at a major league job.

Prior to Monday’s game against the Rangers, the Oakland A’s announced a series of moves. Backup catcher Austin Allen was ticketed to the alternate training site along with Paul Blackburn. Jordan Weems, healthy once again, was brought back to the majors to replace Blackburn. And Jonah Heim was brought in as the A’s new backup catcher.

A seven year minor league veteran, Heim had always been considered a strong defensive catcher with an impressive arm, but his batting tools never quite matched his production. He was never expected to be a power hitting backstop, he did make solid contact and had a respectable eye for the zone.

That changed in 2019. After being challenged by manager Bob Melvin to change his attitude and put in the effort, Heim broke through. In his 327 plate appearances between AA and AAA, he produced a .310/.385/.477 batting line with 21 doubles and nine homers. He even cut down his strikeout rate, with 35 walks and just 45 strikeouts.

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That hot hitting continued through spring training and into summer camp. Heim had been in the conversation to break camp with the A’s in March before the pandemic paused everything. And he continued to impress at the A’s alternate training site, hitting the ball with authority and showing his excellent defensive capabilities.

A change needed to be made. Allen had not exactly lit the world afire in his time as the A’s backup catcher. While his home run in extra innings led to a win, he had also produced a meager .194/.219/.323 batting line in 32 plate appearances, drawing one walk while striking out 14 times.

While he is not likely to supplant Sean Murphy, this is a prime opportunity for Heim to show that he can be a part of the A’s future. As a switch hitting catcher with a line drive swing and an excellent defensive reputation, Heim may be able to do just that.

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Jonah Heim has made his way to the majors. Considering his improvements over the past year and a half, he may not leave the Oakland A’s active roster.

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