Athletics

A's 2019 Projections: Can Mark Canha get more playing time next season?

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USATSI

A's 2019 Projections: Can Mark Canha get more playing time next season?

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

Mark Canha is coming off the best season of his career. The 29-year-old hit .249/.328/.449 with a career-high 17 home runs, 22 doubles, and 52 RBI in 122 games (100 starts).

Canha tore up left-handed pitching, posting a .282/.337/.604 slash line with 13 homers and 28 RBI in 149 at-bats. The 13 round-trippers were tied for second-most in the American League against lefties.

Canha had to split time in the outfield with Nick Martini and Ramón Laureano, but his versatility allowed him to still get 365 at-bats. The San Jose native can play all three outfield positions as well as first base, which should allow him to get some decent playing time in 2019.

Canha figures to start just about every game against left-handed pitching and he should see some pinch-hitting opportunities too. Last year as a pinch-hitter, he went 6-for-14 with a pair of home runs and five RBI.

The former Cal Bear also put together a strong defensive season, making it through the whole year without committing a single error at any position.

Baseball-Reference projects Canha to hit .234/.305/.416 next season with 15 home runs, 22 doubles, and 47 RBI. That would represent a drop-off from last year in nearly every category.

We humbly disagree and expect Canha to get plenty of opportunities in left field and as a pinch-hitter. If he stays healthy, he has a real shot at his first 20-homer season.

Projection: .251/.335/.451, 19 HR, 23 doubles, 61 RBI

A's 2019 projections: Chris Herrmann seeks improvement, starting time

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USATSI

A's 2019 projections: Chris Herrmann seeks improvement, starting time

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

It remains to be seen if the A's will add another catcher this offseason, but as of right now, the team would feature a Chris Herrmann-Josh Phegley platoon behind the plate.

Herrmann, 31, signed a one-year, $1 million contract with Oakland last month after playing for the Mariners in 2018. A left-handed hitter, Herrmann played just 36 games for Seattle, slashing .237/.322/.421 with two home runs, four doubles, and seven RBI.

Herrmann has never put up big numbers at the plate, hitting just .205/.282/.351 in seven career seasons. He did perform well in Triple-A last year, however, posting a slash line of .257/.416/.426 with six homers and 24 RBI in 42 games.

Defensively, Herrmann has a career fielding percentage of .993 behind the dish and has thrown out 32 percent of attempted base stealers, four points higher than the league average. The A's said they were impressed by his pitch framing and pop times.

Baseball Reference projects Herrmann to hit .227/.306/.399 with nine home runs and 30 RBI next season. If he does end up platooning with Josh Phegley, he figures to get the majority of starts since he is the left-handed bat.

We still think the A's would be wise to add a true starting catcher before the start of the season, but if Herrmann ends up being the de facto starter, he could certainly challenge his previous career-highs in both home runs (10) and RBI (28).

Projection: .235/.309/.398, 8 HR, 31 RBI

A's A.J. Puk making 'tremendous' progress following Tommy John surgery

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AP

A's A.J. Puk making 'tremendous' progress following Tommy John surgery

The A's farm system has taken on a life of its own this offseason with all the Kyler Murray talk, but it's time for an update on the organization's No. 2 prospect, A.J. Puk.

And so far, it appears to be a good one.

MLB.com's Jane Lee reported recently that "per general manager David Forst, A.J. Puk is already throwing pitches from flat ground," after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April of 2018.

While this may not sound like much, Lee considers it "tremendous progress," and indicates he is well on his way to return to game action. And the plan for him to sport a minor league uniform for the A's in 2019 is a huge possibility.

We could see him appear in a game around the midseason point, "if not sooner," Lee said.

Despite him being selected to MLB Pipeline's top left-handed prospects, his ETA to The Show is estimated to be 2020.

Things could change, of course -- everyone's rehabilitation process is different. But for the time being, this is great news for those curious about the lefty who has been compared to Randy Johnson.

[RELATED: Prospect breakdown on A.J. Puk]

Talk about pressure.

In 2017, across two teams (High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland), the A's 2016 first-rounder boasted a 4.03 ERA with 184 strikeouts in 125 innings.