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.
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.
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.