Athletics

A's position battles to watch as MLB Summer Camp gets ready to start

A's position battles to watch as MLB Summer Camp gets ready to start

Heading into Summer Camp, the only problem the A’s have is the fact that the team possesses too many good players. It’s ultimately a blessing, but there are still two major position battles heading into Opening Day.

Across the roster, everything looks tidy, but the questions remain at catcher and second base.

Here are breakdowns for the two positions.

Catcher

Starter: Sean Murphy

Backup battle between: Austin Allen, Jonah Heim

Sean Murphy looks to be the starting catcher after 20 games last season with the A’s. The rookie slashed .245/.333/.566 with four home runs puts him pretty solid behind the plate with a strong spring outing -- he didn’t get a lot of exposure as he was coming off knee surgery in the offseason. He’s one of the organization’s top prospects, and while he doesn’t pay attention to those lists, he’s more than ready to take on starter responsibilities.

Behind Murphy is a different story, however. 

Austin Allen came to the A’s in the offseason in a trade with the San Diego Padres along with Buddy Reed for second baseman Jurickson Profar. 

In 34 games last season, Allen batted a .215/.282/.277 line with 14 hits in 34 games. He has a little power and was pretty hot in the Cactus League. 

Allen, for the moment, has the slight edge over Jonah Heim, but that battle might be a little more close than I originally realized.

Heim also possesses a lot of power and proved that by taking advantage of the PCL batting .358 last season. That improvement has been over the last couple of years. Prior to that, he was more known for his productivity behind the plate than at it.

Second Base

Battle between: Franklin Barreto, Tony Kemp

Also: Vimael Machin

One fewer player is involved in this battle after the A's traded Jorge Mateo to the Padres on Tuesday.

Franklin Barreto is a guy A’s manager Bob Melvin wants to see succeed. During spring training (the first one) Melvin said if Barreto can play at his best, he’s a game-changer in any lineup that he’s put in. His numbers were pretty rough last season, but he has some sneaky power and speed.

He looks to platoon with Tony Kemp who was acquired by the Chicago Cubs in the offseason. The A’s were in search of an infield lefty bat to make up for the loss of Profar. And he will make a great addition thanks to his athleticism and his diversity -- a characteristic very much associated with the A’s.

In 2019 across the Cubs and Houston Astros, he hit with a .212 average. He had a bit of a boost from Minute Maid Park and possessed more power during his time there. 

There is also Vimael Machin who was acquired during the Winter Meetings’ Rule 5 Draft. He too hits left-handed and was seeking a roster spot heading into spring training. It appeared he made his presence known going 10-for-30 in 15 Cactus League games.

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They could also always use Sheldon Neuse and Chad Pinder. You know, since they don’t have enough options. 

Jake Diekman's wife appreciates Bob Melvin's message to A's players

Jake Diekman's wife appreciates Bob Melvin's message to A's players

A's reliever Jake Diekman is considered a high-risk player for the 2020 MLB season, but as of now, he has no plans to opt out.

So that means his teammates need to be extra cautious regarding the coronavirus. If one of them contracts the virus, they could pass it to Diekman. That outcome could end up being very bad.

Since the age of 11, Diekman has had ulcerative colitis, a disease that affects the colon. In 2016, Diekman underwent surgery to remove his colon. A year later, he had a second procedure where doctors used his small intestines to create a "J-Pouch," a replacement colon.

No one understands the risk to Diekman more than A's manager Bob Melvin.

During a Zoom conference call with A's reporters Saturday, Melvin mentioned that he plans to address his team Sunday about taking the coronavirus precautions as seriously as possible.

“How important it is to try to stay in as much of a bubble as we possibly can,” Melvin said, according to The San Francisco Chronicle's Matt Kawahara. “It is literally like it is in real life, understanding that you’re doing this for the person next to you, too.

"You’re staying healthy for not only yourself and your family but your teammates and their families.”

Melvin will be sure to mention Diekman.

“His name will come up as well, that it’s very important to take this seriously,” Melvin said, according to Kawahara.

Melvin's comments made their way to Amanda Diekman, Jake's wife.

[RELATED: Diekman dominated TikTok during stoppage]

Melvin is widely loved by his players, and this is another example of why. He cares about all the guys.

The A's acquired Diekman last July from the Kansas City Royals, and re-signed him to a two-year contract this offseason. The 34-year-old is expected to be a key piece of Melvin's bullpen this season.

Cleveland Indians follow Washington, could change controversial name

Cleveland Indians follow Washington, could change controversial name

Have we seen the last game between the A's and the Cleveland Indians as they're known today? Just hours after the NFL team in Washington announced it would consider changing its racist nickname, Cleveland's MLB franchise released a statement indicating that the team was open to discussions on changing the "Indians" nickname.

The franchise has used the "Indians" moniker for over a century, switching over from the Cleveland Naps back in 1915. Broncos, Bluebirds, Lake Shores and Bustlers all also are nicknames the franchise has had in its lengthy history.

[RELATED: How Black MLB players are confined by baseball's conservative culture]

 

Cleveland's management clearly has understood how the nickname could be considered offensive, as it removed the controversial "Chief Wahoo" alternate logo from the team's uniforms and most apparel at the end of the 2018 season.

Public pressure has mounted in the wake of sweeping support across the nation for reform to fight systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. 

It won't be a surprise if we see not one, but two major American sports franchises completely rebrand with a new nickname and mascot before 2020 wraps up.

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