The Oakland A’s catching situation is wide open entering the offseason, but one long-term depth option is sticking around for another year. Beau Taylor has re-signed on a minor league contract, first reported by the Baseball-Rosters Twitter account and then confirmed by Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle.
After being drafted by the A’s all the way back in 2011 and spending eight seasons in the minors, Taylor finally made his MLB debut this past summer at age 28. He made it into seven games and racked up six plate appearances, finishing with a double, a walk, and two strikeouts. His first career hit included an endearing face-plant around first base.
Throughout the minors, Taylor’s calling card on offense has been his strong on-base ability, buoyed by a consistently high walk rate. Most of his value comes from his work behind the plate, and he doesn’t bring any power to speak of, but at least that discipline helps him contribute a little with the bat too. Here are his career Triple-A numbers, combined over the last two seasons (131 total games, 519 plate appearances):
Taylor, AAA career: .261/.364/.363, 95 wRC+, 6 HR, 13.5% BB, 23.3% Ks
After the season, Taylor was outrighted off the 40-man roster, and this new contract will not change that fact. He is a non-roster player for now, which means he won’t get in the way of any of Oakland’s other offseason maneuvers. If an opportunity arises next year and the A’s wish to bring him up, then he’ll need to be re-added to the 40-man first.
The only other catcher currently in the 2019 picture is arbitration-eligible backup Josh Phegley, who played 39 games this past summer in his fourth season in green and gold. Starter Jonathan Lucroy is a free agent, and it remains to be seen whether he will return or if the team will find a replacement. Top prospect Sean Murphy barely reached Triple-A this year and doesn’t figure to be an option for Opening Day, so another short-term veteran stopgap (whether Lucroy or someone else) would seem ideal until he’s ready.
Welcome back, Beau!
More minor league free agents
The A’s have 17 players who elected minor league free agency. Here they are, courtesy of Baseball America (including the level they mostly played at in 2018):
- RHP Josh Lucas (AAA)
- RHP Carlos Ramirez (AAA)
- LHP Jeremy Bleich (AAA)
- LHP Eric Jokisch (AAA)
- LHP Jarret Martin (AA)
- LHP Ivan Andueza (A)
- C Bruce Maxwell (AAA)
C Beau Taylor (AAA)(re-signed)
- C Santiago Chavez (A+)
- 1B Sandber Pimentel (A+)
- 1B Viosergy Rosa (A+)
- 2B Steve Lombardozzi (AAA)
- UT Melvin Mercedes (AAA)
- OF B.J. Boyd (AAA)
- OF Anthony Garcia (AAA)
- OF Boog Powell (AAA)
- OF Brett Vertigan (AA)
Who are these people? Here’s a quick rundown.
The biggest name on the list is Maxwell, who requires no introduction. You probably know Boog, who played for Oakland each of the last two years. Relief pitchers Lucas, Ramirez, and Bleich also appeared for the A’s this summer.
As for those who never reached the bigs, Bay Area native Boyd made our 2018 Community Prospect List (No. 22), and Pimentel made it in past years before his stock faded. Lucas was also on the latest CPL (No. 24). Mercedes and Vertigan have served as reliable org filler since being drafted in 2012, while Andueza and Chavez were international signings who didn’t climb the ladder fast enough to make real noise but are still quite young.
Finally, Jokisch, Martin, Lombardozzi, and Garcia were minor league depth signings last winter (alongside Nick Martini) but never ended up becoming factors. Rosa, a past postseason hero with Double-A Midland, was brought in late to fill in for injuries.
On the other hand, a few new names have already signed on:
- RHP Jake Buchanan (Melissa Lockard, The Athletic)
- LHP Kyle Lobstein (Baseball-Rosters)
- Four more international teenagers (Athletics Farm)
We’ll take a closer look at Buchanan and Lobstein as the winter progresses.
Tovar suspended, again
In darker news, pitching prospect Oscar Tovar has been suspended for using a banned substance. The right-hander will miss 50 games next summer after testing positive for a stimulant called Phentermine. I’m not clear on whether it’s considered a PED or a drug of abuse, but the story linked above implies it’s the latter.
This is Tovar’s second drug suspension. Back in 2016 he sat out 25 games as punishment for a drug of abuse.
The 20-year-old spent the last two seasons with Low-A Vermont, and this time around he struck out more than a batter per inning in his short-season campaign. He’s noted for having powerful velocity despite a small frame.