A multi-part Around the Horn series, which features a position-by-position look at Oakland's projected starters and backup options heading into the season, turns its focus to third base after covering first base, second base, shortstop and third base.
Who's behind the plate?
Stephen Vogt, who enjoyed his first career All-Star campaign last season, will be back at catcher, joining the right-handed-hitting Josh Phegley in a platoon at the position, which features scarce depth beyond them.
Vogt's offensive performance resembled a tale of two seasons in 2015. He hit .308 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs over his first 70 games before struggling to the tune of a .214 average with only five home runs and 18 RBIs across his final 66 contests. Overall, that added up to a .261 average, including .277 when catching, which led American League catchers.
Phegley, too, got off to a hot start, batting .305 over his first 32 games, but he hit just .208 over his final 41 contests before a concussion ended his season in mid-September. He gathered nine home runs and 34 RBIs in his first season with the A's, following his trade from the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija deal, and started 40 of the A's 41 games against a left-handed starter before his injury. He also made 22 starts against right-handers, hitting .220 against them, compared to .276 against left-handers.
As much as the A's overall defense struggled last year, the club's backstops held their own. Phegley, who will be 28 at the season's start, is a specialist at controlling the running game and tossed out 17 of 45 attempted basestealers last year. His 37.8 success rate marked the third-best percentage in the AL among catchers with at least 60 games behind the dish. Vogt saw 58 attempted basestealers under his watch, nailing 15 of them for a 25.9 percentage. It was rare that he made an error. Vogt totaled just three in 89 games behind the plate, and his .996 fielding percentage was third best in Oakland history by a catcher.
Vogt and Phegley are the lone catchers residing on Oakland's 40-man roster, at least for now. Going down the depth chart, Carson Blair seemingly represents the next option, after making his Major League debut with the A's last year and appearing in 11 games when Vogt and Phegley succumbed to injury at the same time. But fortifying this position with another addition before offseason's end would make sense for the club.
Bruce Maxwell, ranked by MLB.com as the organization's No. 27 prospect, will be in big league camp this year and is expected to make the jump to Triple-A. Catcher Jacob Nottingham, the key player who led the A's to follow through on the Scott Kazmir trade with Houston last July, will also be in camp as a non-roster invite. He's ranked as the team's No. 8 prospect.