The Oakland A’s announced some roster moves on Monday. The team called up pitcher Jordan Weems and catcher Jonah Heim from their alternate training camp, and to make room on the active roster they optioned down pitcher Paul Blackburn and catcher Austin Allen.
This is the first call to the majors for Heim, a 25-year-old catcher who ranked in the Top 10 of our Community Prospect List last winter, and when we see him play it will be his MLB debut. The switch-hitter was always known as a plus defender, but he made significant progress on offense the last two years and enjoyed a breakout in 2019 (in 327 total plate appearances). His power is only moderate but he offers great plate discipline, with a high walk rate and low strikeout rate that help maximize his on-base potential.
- Heim, 2019 AA: .282/.370/.431, 125 wRC+, 5 HR, 11.5% BB, 13.0% Ks
- Heim, 2019 AAA: .358/.412/.557, 135 wRC+, 4 HR, 9.2% BB, 15.1% Ks
At 6’4 he’s tall for a catcher, but MLB Pipeline gives him above-average 55 grades for both his fielding and his throwing arm. He was acquired by Oakland from the Rays after 2017, in exchange for infielder Joey Wendle (part of the Brandon Moss trade tree).
Heim will take over for Allen, who was acquired from the Padres last winter (for Jurickson Profar) and made the Opening Day roster as the backup catcher. Sean Murphy remains the primary backstop, having started 69% of the team’s games behind the plate so far. Murphy is in the starting lineup Monday against the Texas Rangers.
Allen played 14 games (nine starts) and had a couple big moments, including his first career homer, which gave the A’s a late lead and proved to be the game-winner. He also notched a game-tying hit in the 13th inning against the Astros, after Houston had taken a lead in the top half; Oakland went on to win.
However, overall Allen was just 6-for-31 with one walk, 14 strikeouts, and only two extra-base hits. Even with some heroics mixed in, the A’s will give Heim a try.
Analysis: Allen made sense for the first nod in the majors this summer, because he had more upper-level experience under his belt. But Heim has always looked like the future of this roster spot, with his complete game on both sides of the ball, while Allen profiles as more of a corner/catcher super-sub lefty bench bat. While Heim still has everything to prove, this feels like a formal changing of the guard, with the long-term future of the A’s catching position now in place between Murphy and Heim.
At about the age of 4 years old @Jonah_heim6 told me he want to be a professional baseball player. After being drafted in 2013 by the Baltimore Orioles and 7 years and two trades later Jonah Major League dream comes true tomorrow. Congrats son!!!!— James Heim (@13_heim) August 24, 2020
Blackburn out, Weems in
As for the pitching shuffle, Blackburn was brought up last Wednesday to provide depth for the bullpen. However, the right-hander never made it into a game, and now will return to alternate camp to wait for the next roster opening.
In his place, Weems comes back for his second stint in Oakland. The right-hander made the Opening Day roster, somewhat surprisingly, and put together two nice multi-inning appearances (including his MLB debut) before landing on the injured list with a lat strain. Now he’s healthy and will return to the A’s bullpen, where he’s thrown five frames so far with a 3.60 ERA and sparkling 1.74 FIP (2 runs, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 0 HR).
The 27-year-old Weems brings good velocity up to 97 mph, solid control, and at least one intriguing secondary offering in his changeup (plus a breaking ball as well). He only became a pitcher a few years ago, so it will be interesting to watch him continue his development, and he could have the makings of a viable MLB reliever.
Here’s the updated 28-man roster.
Frankie Montas (R)
Jesus Luzardo (L)
Sean Manaea (L)
Mike Fiers (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Joakim Soria (R)
Jake Diekman (L)
T.J. McFarland (L)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Jordan Weems (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Sean Murphy (R)
Jonah Heim (S)
Matt Olson (L)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Tony Kemp (L)
Chad Pinder (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
Vimael Machin (L)
Khris Davis (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Robbie Grossman (S)
10-day IL: LHP A.J. Puk (shoulder), RHP Burch Smith (forearm)