Nottingham had been considered the key component of the trade that sent starting pitcher Scott Kazmir to the Houston Astros at the non-waiver trade deadline last summer. Nottingham, a 6’3” 250 lb former tight end who had the opportunity to play college football, chose instead to become a catcher with a power bat. While he was still working on his game calling and defensive skills, a catcher with that kind of power is a commodity not found often in baseball. The A’s were expected to keep him and groom him to be their catcher of the future.
His trade has led many to believe that the A’s were suddenly lacking in the catching department. The team reinforced that belief on Wednesday when they re-signed catcher Bryan Anderson. Anderson is a perennial minor leaguer. He has appeared briefly in the big leagues over the course of five seasons between the Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland. He was acquired by Oakland from the Cincinnati Reds but he never appeared in a major league game for the club.
Over his five stints in the big leagues he has played in only 40 games and accumulated just 77 plate appearances stringing together a major league slashline of just .221/.276/.279. With very little big league experience at age 29 and with starting All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt having just undergone elbow surgery the A’s catching situation from the outside, doesn’t look all that great.
Vogt is expected to be available on Opening Day but if he isn’t it would be backup catcher Josh Phegley who would assume the the starting catcher duties until Vogt is fully recovered, meaning it would be Anderson waiting in the wings. In 2015 Phegley appeared in 73 games for Oakland, compiling a slashline of .249/.300/.449.
While those numbers may appear underwhelming and Anderson’s much more underwhelming, it could easily look like the Athletics might be in a world of hurt at one of baseball’s most important positions.
As it turns out the A’s catching situation might not be dire at all, unless an unforeseen injury occurs to Vogt or Phegley. When you examine it by the numbers the A’s actually had one of the better catching teams in all of baseball. That team also included seven plate appearances by Anderson and 35 by A’s minor leaguer Carson Blair. While Blair’s sample was very small and Anderson’s even moreso, collectively the A’s catchers’ finished higher among catchers around the league in almost every offensive category.
It’s true that Vogt might not hit 14 homers in the first half again this season (he ended up with 18 total) but it’s also unlikely that he will have a serious regression in 2016. He batted .261 in 2015 and has a career .257 average, meaning he played basically at the same level he has played in his three full big league seasons, all of which have been with the Athletics. Phegley will likely get more playing time in 2016 in order to shelter Vogt from potential injury which, in theory, should help his batting average which was just one point under the league average for catchers (.250).
The best part is that sixth place out of all 30 teams was the lowest they were ranked among statistics like OBP, SLG, OPS a and WAR. Not what you expected to hear was it? That the A’s catchers were among the best out of all 30 MLB teams!
For the actual rankings and some seriously (and pleasantly for As’s fans!!) surprising stats follow the link below to read the remainder of my column on the FanRag Sports Network‘s MLB site Today’s Knuckleball (I can assure you that A’s fans will enjoy it and other fans may not believe their eyes!!)
Honestly, I even came up with the pitch for this piece because I was wondering if Oakland my actually be in trouble without Nottingham. Davis was a needed addition no doubt, but the price was steep, really steep. I felt the need to know just how steep it was, so I went on a mission to find out …. just promise me you will click the link because numbers never lie!! You may even be amazed at what you find!! (all statistics are from baseball-reference.com)