Although the Oakland A’s didn’t have a spot available to select a player in last winter’s Rule 5 draft, they came away with a player nonetheless, acquiring Rule 5 pick Mark Canha from the Colorado Rockies for relief prospect Austin House. The Rockies had selected Canha from the Miami Marlins.
The A’s weren’t the team that selected Canha in the Rule 5 draft, but Rule 5 rules still applied to him throughout the 2015 season. That meant that Canha needed to remain on the A’s active roster for the entire 2015 season or be offered back to the Marlins.
Given that the A’s gave up a decent prospect for Canha (House was ranked as the A’s 31st best prospect before the trade and he saved 20 games in Double-A for the Rockies this year) and that they had traded a significant amount of power over the off-season, it seemed likely that Canha would make the A’s roster coming out of spring training. He erased all doubts about his Opening Day status by putting together an excellent spring, posting a 977 OPS and homering six times in 29 games.
Mark Canha, 2015 Stats
Canha’s big league career got off to a rousing start when he doubled twice and drove-in four on Opening Night. He added his first big league homerun in the third game of the season and had a six-game hitting streak to start his career. Not surprisingly, Canha cooled off, although he finished the month of April with a decent line (.279/.329/.412).
May was a major struggle for Canha (and the rest of the A’s squad). He homered four times in 24 games, but managed just a .169/.273/.369 line. He improved in June (.265/.308/.429), but fell off in July significantly (.208/.269/.313). Canha was never placed on the disabled list, but he did battle a variety of ailments during the season, including an illness that impacted his energy for several weeks.
They say that it isn’t how you start, but how you finish – and if that saying is true, Canha will be in good shape for next year. He had his best month in August (.309/.333/.532) and put together a solid September (.256/.341/.427). In September, he established monthly-bests for homeruns (5) and walks (11). Canha’s strong finish allowed him to reach 16 homers and 70 RBI for the season, leaving him third on the team in both categories.
Canha was always an aggressive hitter in the minor leagues, but he did see his K/BB rate go from 1.67 in the minor leagues to 2.91 in the majors. That is an area Canha will look to improve upon in future years. Canha was also slightly unlucky on balls hit into play this year, with a .292 BABIP compared to his career minor league .326 BABIP. Although he is a right-handed hitter, Canha hit significantly better against right-handed pitchers (.271 with 13 HR) than he did against lefties (.221 with three HR). In the minors, Canha’s production was fairly even against righties and lefties. If he can regain his ability to hit left-handers, his numbers could take-off next season.
In the minor leagues, Canha spent the bulk of his time defensively playing first base. He split his time more evenly between first base and the outfield with the A’s, logging 75 games at first and 61 in the outfield. Canha also played two innings at third base, a position he had a little experience playing in the minors. As a first baseman, Canha rated below average defensively with the A’s. Baseball-Reference.com rated him as -6 runs saved for the season at first. His defensive metrics in the outfield were more positive. Although a big guy, Canha showed some athleticism this season, both in the outfield and on the bases. He stole seven bases in nine chances and covered a decent amount of ground in left field.
While Canha’s season had its ups and downs, he certainly did enough to position himself as a likely member of the A’s Opening Day roster next season. He will need to continue to produce to keep that spot, as the A’s now control his rights without Rule 5 restrictions, meaning they can send him to the minor leagues without needing to offer him back to the Marlins.
If the A’s don’t acquire a first baseman this off-season, Canha is likely to be the A’s starting first baseman at the beginning of next season. Ideally, both for Canha and the A’s, Oakland’s front office will find a solution at first base this off-season. That will allow the A’s to move Canha to left field more permanently, where his glove plays better.
Canha’s ability to play several positions will help him as he looks to claim a regular spot on the A’s roster. If he can get back to hitting at least average against lefties, Canha could be one of the A's most productive everyday players next season. He will need to produce to keep an everyday spot into 2017, however, as the A’s have a wave of power-hitting prospects coming from Double-A that can play the corner infield spots and some outfield. The A's also have some Triple-A depth at first base (Rangel Ravelo, Max Muncy and Nate Freiman), as well as Jake Smolinski for experienced Triple-A outfield depth.
All in all, Canha is in a good spot with the A’s. Power is an expensive commodity, and he was an above-average power-hitter in the big leagues during his rookie year. If he can keep that up and make incremental improvements with his plate discipline, he could be looking at a long run in the major leagues.