While the Oakland A’s first three picks in the 2012 draft may get more press, the A’s fifth-round pick from that draft class has quietly become the player closest to being major-league ready. Max Muncy is coming off of a standout spring training in big league camp and is poised to be one step from the big leagues this season.
Muncy has blazed several trails amongst his draft class. He was the first position player in the A’s 2012 class to reach a full-season affiliate. In his first full season as a pro, Muncy was the only member of the A’s minor league system to reach 100 RBI and 25 homeruns. He posted a .273/.382/.476 line in 140 games between High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland. He walked 88 times and collected 143 hits.
In 2014, Muncy was an important part of a Double-A Midland squad that won the Texas League championship. Although his power numbers dipped, Muncy led the Texas League in walks (87) and OBP (.385). His overall line was .264/.385/.379. Muncy found himself moving across the diamond defensively for the first time as a pro last year. He appeared in 22 games at third base in 2014 after playing exclusively at first base his first one-and-a-half years in professional baseball.
The Baylor alum earned a non-roster invitation to the A’s spring training, and he was one of the top performers in A’s camp this spring. He lasted on the A’s big league roster until the final week of camp and led the team in OBP (.463) and SLG (.697) and was second in batting average (.364). All told, Muncy collected 33 at-bats in his first big league camp. He hit five doubles and two homers and he walked seven times. Muncy also played almost exclusively at third base this spring.
Muncy is expected to see more time at first base than third with Triple-A Nashville this season, but his increasing versatility makes him an even better candidate to reach the big leagues in the next year or two. I caught-up with the 24-year-old Texas native during the final week of spring training for a Q&A.
OC: Congratulations on a great big league camp. Obviously, the numbers were excellent, but what were the biggest things you took away from that experience?
Max Muncy: There was a lot. Mainly, one of the big things was how to prepare for the game and how to act during it. That’s one of the things you don’t really learn when you are around guys your own age. When you are around veteran guys who know how to do it, you learn good things and you learn things you probably shouldn’t do. But that’s the biggest thing I took away was how to handle myself and how to prepare myself and how to go about my business in batting practice, and that sort of thing.
OC: You pretty much played third base throughout the spring. How comfortable are you feeling there after playing at first for so many years?
MM: Not as comfortable as I would like, but I’m getting there. It’s definitely a lot better than when I started there this spring and definitely a lot better than last year. Last year when I went over there, it was kind of like ‘let’s see how it goes.’ This spring was a lot better. I had a lot of early work over there and I feel a little bit more comfortable. Like I said, not quite where I want to be, but it’s getting there.
OC: You had played some other positions besides first base in high school, right? Was that experience something you drew upon this spring?
MM: Yes. I actually never played first base in high school. I played third, short, second, caught a little bit, played some outfield. I pretty much played everywhere but first base in high school. Once I got to college, the other positions pretty much got thrown away.
OC: Was there anything that you picked up from Brett Lawrie or any of the other more veteran third basemen in terms of angles?
MM: Yeah, there was a lot of stuff I picked up from him. The thing he does so well is when a ball is hit to him, he stays low. He stays as low as possible to the ground so he can see those hops and see what the ball is going to do. Sometimes he is a little unorthodox with what he does, but he’s like a cat over there. There’s not many people out there who can do what he does. He’s very energetic and stuff. He stays very low to the ground and it’s almost like he prowls after the ball. That’s the biggest thing I learned from him and I think that has been helping me the most. Mike Gallego worked with me on that and one of his biggest things was ‘stay low when you go to get balls’ and I definitely picked that up from Lawrie.
OC: Is there anything that you translate from third base when you are over at first base now?
MM: Probably just stay low and attacking the ball a little bit. It’s a little bit of an adjustment because at first, it’s all about knocking it down and getting it to first. At third, you have to make that throw, so you have to get it cleanly and not just knock it down. That’s something I have struggled with a little bit at third on balls that I have been getting on short hops and different hops, but definitely just staying low. That’s the main thing that I will translate over to first.
OC: You hit for a lot of power in camp and obviously the air is a little more conducive to hitting in Arizona than it is in the windy Texas League, but do you feel like playing in Midland it was hard as a left-handed hitter with those winds to get the power numbers you wanted?
MM: As a pull left-handed hitter, it was very hard. Every ballpark you play in, it’s pretty much the same conditions – the wind blows straight in from right and across the field. As a pull left-handed hitter, it’s a little difficult. The biggest thing is that you hit a ball or two with the wind, you learn to deal with that, but when it starts to get into your head, it’s the mental aspect of it that starts to get more difficult to deal with. That’s when you start changing your swing and changing what you are doing. It really affects how you play.
I feel like that was one of the biggest things for me that really drained my power numbers. I hit several balls that I hit good [that didn’t go out], but the biggest thing is that I changed a lot of stuff that I shouldn’t have and that caused me not to be able to hit some of the balls I hit the year before. It’s definitely an adjustment going from Stockton to Midland, but it’s one that you have to stay strong through mentally.
OC: Was there anything specific you took away from winning the Texas League championship last year? Was that as much fun as you have had playing on a team?
MM: Yeah. It’s a lot of fun. It was the first championship I have ever won. I have made the playoffs before and regionals in college and state playoffs in high school, but there was always something that happened that caused us to lose. There was always a groundball through the legs or a dropped pop-up or something. There was always something that caused us to not get to where we should. To finally win a championship was very relieving. It was confirmation that there wasn’t a curse on me or something because every team I played on something would happen.
It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the guys. It was a great team. It was a different team, in a lot of ways. Except for that last playoff series, there were very few prospects on the team. Just a lot of veteran guys. They meshed really well. It was great.