“I hang my hat on my power,” the South Bay native said during a post-FanFest media session on Monday. “The best part of the game, the most fun part of the game, the most valuable part of the game is hitting homeruns and doubles. That’s what makes the games fun for me.
“There is nothing better than hitting a homerun. That’s what I want to do all of the time. I love just thinking about power and trying to get as much out of my swing as possible and trying to tailor my hitting game to that.”
Canha’s power-focused approach has produced results throughout his minor league career. A seventh-round pick out of Cal in 2010 by the Marlins, Canha has a career .474 SLG in 496 minor league games. He has reached double-figures in homeruns three of his four full minor league seasons (the one exception came during his year in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Florida State League), and he hit 20 homeruns last season with Triple-A New Orleans.
The A’s acquired Canha this December from the Colorado Rockies, who drafted Canha during the annual Rule 5 draft. Canha will need to remain on the A’s active 25-man roster throughout the 2015 season or be offered back to the Marlins.
This spring will be Canha’s first legitimate opportunity to make a major league team. He was a non-roster invitee to big league camp with the Marlins last spring, but Canha says he was there more as a courtesy than as a legitimate contender for a 25-man roster spot.
“They had picked up Garrett Jones and a couple other guys, so I wasn’t really competing for a spot on the team,” Canha said. “It was nice being around the experience in the clubhouse and talking to those guys because I hadn’t had a chance to do that before. But I think I’ll have a chance to grow a lot more from this spring training.”
Despite never producing a full season with an on-base percentage below .371 or an OPS below 793, Canha has never been tagged with the “top prospect” label. He admits that his “under-the-radar” status has motivated him.
“You can say that I am a guy with a chip on my shoulder,” Canha said. “I have always felt that I’m a guy who can play in the big leagues and I never got a chance with the Marlins, unfortunately. The situation I have been in throughout my career, I have always played with a chip on my shoulder.”
The Rule 5 draft couldn’t have worked out better for Canha, who will not only get a legitimate chance at making a big league roster, but will also have the opportunity to play close to home for the first time since he left Cal in 2010. A native of San Jose, Canha played his high school baseball at Bellarmine Prep. He competed for three years at Cal, hitting .366 as a sophomore and .319 as a junior. Canha was selected in the seventh round that year by the Marlins, one of five Bears to be drafted that season. While at Cal, Canha was teammates with new A’s shortstop Marcus Semien.
Canha is thrilled to be back in the Bay Area.
“[The Rule 5 draft] was pretty crazy especially for me because my career, up until now, had been spent with the same team,” Canha said. “I never even changed levels during the year. I’ve been used to pretty quiet off-seasons and just showing up in spring training and getting ready for the season. It was pretty crazy. Then the fact that it was Oakland was even more amazing for me. Obviously, I’m from here. It was very cool and very exciting for me and my wife.”
Over the past three years, the A’s have used their entire roster, switching line-ups frequently to maximize match-up advantages. Despite those line-up changes, the A’s hit only .239/.313/.368 as a team versus left-handed pitching last season. The A’s hope the right-handed hitting Canha can help Oakland improve in that area this year. Canha has hit .305/.390/.486 versus lefties over the past three seasons. He has also faired well versus right-handed pitchers (.277/.371/.467), which could help him get into more games this year.
The trait that will help Canha most in his quest to make the A’s roster is his versatility. During his minor league career, Canha has spent significant playing time at first and in the corner outfield spots, and he has some experience at third base, as well. Canha believes that his ability to play multiple positions helps him be a better overall baseball player. He acknowledges that he is more comfortable in left and at first right now, but he plans to get more work in at third this spring and believes he will be ready, if needed, at that position, as well.
“One thing that I have learned is that crazy things happen with injuries and everything,” Canha said. “In terms of the versatility, the important thing for me is to be ready for anything. I’m going to do all three [positions] and I believe that is going to keep me athletic. Infield stuff can help you with outfield stuff and the other way around, so I think I’m just going to be ready to do whatever it takes.”
Canha also believes his experience in Triple-A last year will help him make the jump to the big leagues.
“I grew a lot as a player [in Triple-A]. You play with the older guys. You get some wisdom there,” Canha said. “It’s a different game a little bit, just with the experience. You have some more veteran players in Triple-A who do some different things. Pitchers who pitch you different ways. I think it is a different game from Double-A. Not any harder or easier, or anything like that, but just a little bit different. I think you can gain some big experience from going from Double-A to Triple-A.”
Canha is also looking forward to his first spring training in Arizona.
“Florida is a long way from home for me. Arizona is going to be awesome,” Canha said. “I hear that the travel is a lot better. I’ll be having family and friends come out, whereas normally I’m by myself in Florida.”