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A's catchers have room to improve at plate in '18

Maxwell expected to serve as primary backstop with Phegley facing lefties
MLB.com @JaneMLB

The Around the Horn series, which features a position-by-position look at Oakland's projected starters and backup options heading into the season, goes behind the plate.

Who's at catcher?

The Around the Horn series, which features a position-by-position look at Oakland's projected starters and backup options heading into the season, goes behind the plate.

Who's at catcher?

The A's have plans in place for a platoon system behind the plate: Bruce Maxwell, so long as he's able to put legal issues behind him, is expected to be the primary catcher, with Josh Phegley handling duties when the team opposes a left-handed starter. The A's have a third catcher on their 40-man roster in Dustin Garneau.

Maxwell was indicted by a grand jury on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct this winter after allegedly pointing a gun at a food delivery worker on Oct. 28 in Scottsdale, Ariz. A plea deal is expected to be reached before his scheduled trial date, however, and the A's anticipate having him in spring camp.

"We plan on him being the No. 1 catcher, and until someone tells us different, that's the process that we're going with," A's manager Bob Melvin said last week. "It's not probably appropriate for me to speak about what's going on, but what's been intimated to me is, expect him to be your catcher, and if we have to make an adjustment at some point in time, we will."

Maxwell first gained national exposure in September when he became the first Major League player to kneel during the national anthem, citing racial injustice.

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report Feb. 13. Their first workout will take place the following day.

• Chapman ready for sophomore spotlight at 3B

Offensive outlook

Maxwell had an opportunity to shine in 2017, taking over main catching responsibilities when the A's designated Stephen Vogt for assignment in June. But Maxwell hit just .237 with three home runs and 22 RBIs in 76 games during his rookie campaign, finishing with a .663 OPS. He drew enough walks to post a solid .329 on-base percentage.

Phegley, meanwhile, was limited to just 57 games because of injuries, hitting three homers with 10 RBIs and a .201 average. Garneau hit .188 with a .585 OPS in 112 at-bats between Oakland and the Rockies in 2017. He inherited backup duties with the A's in August and went 7-for-44 at the plate.

This group doesn't offer much inspiration at the plate, a common tradeoff with many catchers whose true value lies in defense. Maxwell's bat, however, does still have upside. He has a solid Minor League track record and is young enough, 27, to continue making improvements against big league pitching.

Getting defensive

All three catchers handle the A's pitching well and provide excellent defense, a trait that was magnified when dealing with a staff that managed to set a record for wild pitches last year.

Video: OAK@TEX: Maxwell nabs Robinson in the 3rd

Depth chart

The A's have another strong defender looming in the Minors. Sean Murphy, recently ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 4 catching prospect in baseball, finished the season with Double-A Midland, and his elite defense has him on the fast track to the Majors.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Dustin Garneau, Bruce Maxwell, Josh Phegley