Despite trading away a key piece of their catching depth on Saturday, the Athletics still have a promising group of behind-the-plate talent within the organization -- and one prospect's numbers are making a push for his MLB debut.
That’s something general manager David Forst considers “a really good problem” to have.
In a lengthy interview with The Athletic’s Melissa Lockard published Thursday, Forst touched on what that depth means for current starter Sean Murphy and newly acquired prospect Shea Langeliers, and whether or not the two eventually could share playing time at the big-league level.
The two catchers have a lot in common, Lockard noted to Forst. The 24-year-old Langeliers was acquired by Oakland from the Atlanta Braves, along with Cristian Pache, in the Matt Olson trade. Since then, he has slashed .271/.364/.492 across 70 games with 14 home runs and 12 doubles for Triple-A Las Vegas.
Murphy, 27, has a .231 batting average on the season but is No. 2 for the A’s in both home runs and RBI with nine and 34, respectively. Plus, his outstanding defense last season earned him his first Gold Glove award.
“That’s what we call a really good problem,” Forst told Lockard. “You’ve got a Gold Glove catcher who wants to play every day. And you’ve got a really great prospect, who’s probably by all accounts ready to be in the big leagues, and you need to find a spot for him.”
Murphy’s backups behind the plate until this weekend were Christian Bethancourt and Stephen Vogt. But Bethancourt was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, potentially clearing the way for Murphy and Langeliers to be on the A’s roster together in the near future.
Forst told Lockard that he likes what he has seen from the young catching prospect, who on Friday was named to the American League roster for the Futures Game at Dodger Stadium later this month.
“I saw Shea over the weekend in person and watched the throws he made and the swing, and he’s done everything we’ve asked. He’s been great,” Forst told Lockard. “The Triple-A staff raves about him. There’s not a great answer to that one right now. It happens to be one position on the field where you can only put one guy at a time. We’ll have to figure out when is the right time and the right place for Shea to come up here.”
Of course, that was before Bethancourt was traded. But the A’s other catcher in Triple-A, Austin Allen, is making a case for himself as well with a .292/.377/.528 slash line for Las Vegas in 29 games after being sent down in May. Then there’s Jonah Bride, who also is capable of playing behind the plate and working to return from a right shoulder strain.
Bethancourt’s bat might be missed in Oakland, but there’s plenty of depth to make sure the A’s have a suitable backup for Murphy alongside Vogt, and that doesn’t even take into account the prospects at other levels within the organization.
Whether Langeliers gets his shot in the majors after impressing at Triple-A remains to be seen, but it’s clear he’s high on Forst’s radar.
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