Athletics

How A's catching prospect Sean Murphy became major power-hitting threat

seanmurphyusa.jpg
USATSI

How A's catching prospect Sean Murphy became major power-hitting threat

Sean Murphy sure is making this whole Major League Baseball thing look pretty easy.

All the A's rookie catcher has done is launch four home runs in his first 18 major league at-bats, including three in his last two games.

"I (feel) comfortable in the box," Murphy told reporters. "I think hopefully (I) can continue feeling good in the box and seeing pitches well."

In addition to the four homers, Murphy has recorded a pair of singles, scored six runs and notched seven RBI. The 24-year-old is ranked as the A's third-best prospect by MLB Pipeline, but no one could have seen this type of production coming so early in his career.

"You're having to learn a pitching staff," Oakland manager Bob Melvin told reporters. "You're having to learn players in the league with extensive scouting reports these days and he handles it all really well. Obviously, the bat has shown up too. The more he plays, the more comfortable he's going to be and he looks pretty comfortable right now."

Throughout his minor-league career, Murphy's defense actually has been his greatest strength. He has displayed tremendous athleticism and agility behind the plate, not to mention he has a cannon for an arm. Now it appears the offense has caught up.

"(He's) a two-way player," Melvin said. "He catches, he throws, he frames well, he's got power. He's really developed the power the last couple of years. It can be pretty dramatic. To add another guy to our lineup like that and get him comfortable here, he's got a chance to enhance our lineup as well."

Murphy's power has increased rapidly over the last year. In 2018, he hit just eight home runs in 73 minor-league games. This season, Murphy belted 10 in 31 games at Triple-A Las Vegas, plus four in four starts for the A's.

"A couple of mechanical differences, but at the end of the day, it's just seeing more pitches and swinging at the right stuff," he explained. "When you're chasing out of the zone and getting in bad counts, your power numbers suffer. But when you can get in hitter's counts, you're going to do more damage. I think that's been the big key."

[RELATED: A's top prospect Luzardo lives up to hype in MLB debut]

Melvin has noticed some changes Murphy has made to his swing.

"There's a lot of leverage to (his swing). There's a lot of legs that are in play. A couple of years ago, it might not have been as powerful a swing and the velo(city) behind it. But he's worked hard on using his legs a little bit more and getting his bat head through the zone some."

Clearly, the adjustments have paid off.

Murphy has long been considered the A's catcher of the future. It appears that the future is now.

MLB rumors: A's in talks with Stephen Vogt's agent during free agency

vogtgiantsus.jpg
USATSI

MLB rumors: A's in talks with Stephen Vogt's agent during free agency

Stephen Vogt could be staying in the Bay Area after all. But the catcher might choose a reunion over the option to continue wearing a Giants jersey.

The San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reported Monday morning that the A's have contacted the agent for the free-agent catcher.

Vogt, 35, proved to be fully healthy after what was once seen as potentially career-threatening shoulder surgery. After missing the entire 2018 season, Vogt was one of the Giants' most reliable bats this past season. 

The veteran catcher signed a minor league contract with the Giants in February, and went on to be a steal for San Francisco. He played in 99 games, hitting .263 with 10 homers and 40 RBI as a spot starter and backup to Buster Posey. Vogt also played seven games in left field last season. 

Vogt became somewhat of a cult hero over his four-and-a-half seasons in Oakland. He broke through as a 30-year-old for the A's in 2015 when he made his first of back-to-back All-Star Game appearances. 

The left-handed hitting catcher had a .255 batting average with 49 homers in 458 games with the A's. Even as someone who turned 35 on Nov. 1, he could be the perfect fit for an Oakland reunion. 

Adding Vogt likely would be the end of the Josh Phegley era. The A's have one of the best young catchers in the game in Sean Murphy, and could pair the 25-year-old right-handed hitter with Vogt, a veteran lefty. 

[RELATED: Vogt's championship desires might hinder Giants return in 2020]

Vogt could start games here and there behind the dish, as well as at DH, play left field and even first base, while being an incredibly serviceable bat off the bench. He hit .325 with two homers in 43 games off the bench for the Giants last season.

At this stage of his career, Vogt has one thing on his mind: A World Series ring. The A's could fit his desires while keeping him in the Bay Area on the team that truly gave him his first chance.

MLB free agency: Why reliever Daniel Hudson, A's might be good fit

hudsonusatsi.jpg
USATSI

MLB free agency: Why reliever Daniel Hudson, A's might be good fit

It's free agency time, baseball fans -- you know what that means. Well, if history has a way of repeating itself, it means some lulls in the winter months.

For now, we get to speculate and dissect rumors as they come. For the A's, that means concentrating on pitching acquisitions. 

Every team needs pitching whether they're starving for it or not. Oakland is no different, but they have a tendency to concentrate on bullpen arms and are willing to pay up as MLB.com's Mark Feinsand points out. 

Daniel Hudson is one of Feinsand's pitching free-agent targets for the A's and for good reason.

The 10-year veteran was a big part of the World Series champion Washington Nationals' success as he recorded the final out of the Fall Classic. His 2019 campaign had him boasting a 1.44 ERA in 24 games and 23 strikeouts in 25 innings. If you're into pitching wins (some of you are, it's OK to admit it) he was undefeated last season with a 3-0 record.

[RELATEDJesús Luzardo intriguing candidate for 2020 Rookie of the Year]

Hudson never wanted the closing spot, he believed it was too much pressure, because of his ability to throw too many strikes and allowing too much contact. Hudson more than made up for those doubts in himself, but knowing he could potentially be a set-up man and assist in the closing department if needed could benefit the A's.

Liam Hendriks did a fabulous job last season transitioning to the closer role. Adding Hudson to that could be fun to watch.