For the second time this week, the Oakland A's have promoted a homegrown player to the big leagues. This time it is corner infielder Max Muncy, who will make his major-league debut less than three years after being selected by Oakland in the draft out of Baylor University.
Muncy takes the place of utilityman Ben Zobrist on the A's 25-man roster. Zobrist, arguably the A's most valuable position player, has a medial meniscus tear in his left knee. He will miss a 4-6 weeks after playing in the A's 5-4, 11-inning loss on Friday. To make room for Muncy on the A's 40-man roster, Oakland designated reliever Eury De La Rosa for assignment.
It isn't yet clear exactly what role Muncy will play in the big leagues. Primarily a first baseman as a professional, Muncy spent part of last season and much of spring training working out at third base. He played almost exclusively at first base once the regular season began with Triple-A Nashville, however. The A's already have three first basemen on their 25-man roster in addition to Muncy (Ike Davis, Billy Butler and Mark Canha), so it is likely Muncy will see some time at third. He is making his major-league debut at third base on Saturday.
This spring, Muncy told OaklandClubhouse.com that he is still a work-in-progress at third base.
"[I'm n]ot as comfortable as I would like [at third], but I’m getting there," Muncy said this spring. "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."
A's roving minor league field coordinator Aaron Nieckula believes Muncy can handle third base long-term. Nieckula was Muncy's manager with Double-A Midland last season.
“He’s one of those guys who doesn’t necessarily have the greatest body when you look at him – and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way – but he is a very gifted and very talented athlete," Nieckula said of Muncy this spring. "He’s very athletic. He’s got quick feet. He’s got good hands. He moves well on the bases. He’s got a plus arm. It’s just a matter of getting more repetition on that side of the field."
Utilityman Tyler Ladendorf would likely have gotten the call in Zobrist's place because of his ability to play all over the field, but Ladendorf is currently on the Nashville disabled list with a left ankle injury.
As a hitter, Muncy has plenty of upside. He was arguably the A's best hitter this spring in big league camp and he was off to a fast start in Triple-A this season. He homered on Friday night for the Sounds and was batting .293/.408/.466 in 58 at-bats. He had walked 12 times. Muncy led the Texas League in walks and on-base percentage last season.
Muncy's biggest knock from a scouting perspective is his perceived lack of power for a corner infielder. He hit only seven homeruns in Double-A last season, but the year before, he hit 25 between High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland. Muncy is a line-drive hitter with an excellent eye at the plate and the ability to use the whole field. In many ways, he is a more athletic version of Daric Barton and he has shown more power than Barton showed at the same levels during his progression through the A's system (albeit at an older age than Barton).
OaklandClubhouse.com had Muncy ranked 20th in the A's system heading into this season. [Click here for the full top-50 list.] He is the second member of the A's 2012 draft class to get the call to the big leagues (Addison Russell was the first earlier this week with the Chicago Cubs) and the first to make his debut with Oakland. Muncy was the first member of the A's 2012 draft class to play for a full-season team in 2012.
The A's will hope to hang onto De La Rosa as a non-roster player. He will be exposed to waivers for the second time in less than six months (the A's claimed him off waivers this off-season from the Arizona Diamondbacks). De La Rosa had yet to allow a run in six innings for Nashville this season. He had walked five and struck-out four.
The A's have yet to announce who will take Muncy and De La Rosa's spots on the Nashville roster.