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Strong-armed catcher Heim gets call to bigs

@MartinJGallegos
August 24, 2020

Before Jonah Heim left for the A’s alternate training site in San Jose last month after not making the Opening Day roster, manager Bob Melvin told the young catcher he would contribute to the club at some point in 2020. That time has come. The A’s promoted Heim, ranked by

Before Jonah Heim left for the A’s alternate training site in San Jose last month after not making the Opening Day roster, manager Bob Melvin told the young catcher he would contribute to the club at some point in 2020. That time has come.

The A’s promoted Heim, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the club’s No. 11 prospect, and right-hander Jordan Weems on Monday. Catcher Austin Allen and right-hander Paul Blackburn were optioned to the alternate training site.

The scouting reports on Heim have long described him as a light-hitting backstop with impressive defensive skills, including a strong arm. The 25-year-old has worked on breaking that narrative by showing vastly improved skills at the plate. He had a slash line of .310/.385/.477 over 85 games combined at Double-A and Triple-A in 2019, and he continued producing into the winter, when he had a .301/.386/.411 slash line in 20 games with the Toros del Este in the Dominican Winter League

Receiving reports of Heim swinging a hot bat at the alternate training site, Melvin said the time was right to get a look at him in the big leagues.

“He’s catching and throwing really well and swinging the bat well,” Melvin said. “It’s tough to get a real evaluation based on the fact it’s more simulated stuff down there, but we were impressed in Spring Training and felt all along we would use all three of these guys.”

While Heim is a switch-hitter and could get some at-bats against lefties, the majority of his at-bats in San Jose have come against right-handers. Whenever Heim does make his first Major League start, it likely will come against a right-handed starter, possibly leading to a semi-platoon with right-handed-hitting catcher Sean Murphy.

“Anybody who gets more at-bats from one side or the other is going to be a little more proficient,” Melvin said. “He’s getting more at-bats left-handed right now, but he’ll get his share of right-handed at-bats during the course of a game when there’s matchups. … When he gets his starts, it’ll be against right-handers.”

While there is excitement over Heim, Melvin also said he expects Allen, who hit .194 with a home run and three RBIs in 14 games, to return to the club and contribute at some point this season.

“Offensive numbers don’t look great, but he got some very timely hits for us,” Melvin said of Allen. “He had a big home run in an extra-inning game and has come along on the defensive portion. I really don’t look at this as a demotion for him right now. Good chance we probably see him back at some point, but this is the time to look at Jonah.”

A’s get first look at new Texas ballpark
Monday night marked the A’s first visit to Globe Life Field, the Rangers’ new ballpark just across the street from their previous stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The amenities and spacious visiting clubhouse drew rave reviews from the players. But most important for the A’s, they’re most excited about having a roof to cover them from the exhausting summer heat they grew accustomed to in previous trips to Texas.

“Day games at the old ballpark in the visiting dugout were rough,” Melvin said. “That sun would just beat down on you. We’re happy we don’t have to deal with that anymore. It’s a beautiful park inside and looks very modern. We’ll see how it plays. It’s got the field turf similar to what we saw in Arizona. I think everyone looks forward to playing in new ballparks.”

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.