Jeremy Brown joined the team three times during the season but didn't manage to get into a game until late in September when the rosters had expanded. Brown made only one brief appearance behind the plate, serving as the DH in the other four games he appeared in at the major league level. The rookie catcher had three hits in 10 at-bats, including two doubles, at the big league level.
Catchers Invited To Camp
Number Of Catchers Likely On Roster – 3, including Piazza.
Locks To Make The Team
Jason Kendall: The A's have turned to Kendall to catch 80 percent of their games in each of the last two seasons. That isn't likely to change in 2007.
Mike Piazza: The A's are hoping Piazza will deliver the kind of offensive firepower that Frank Thomas provided the team in 2006.
Favorite For The Final Spot
Adam Melhuse: Melhuse is arbitration-eligible this off-season and there were some rumblings at the start of the off-season that the A's would non-tender him. With Kendall on the roster, the A's hardly use their back-up catchers, so it seemed that the budget-conscious A's might decide not to pay more than the minimum for a back-up catcher, especially with AAA-seasoned Brown and Baker waiting in the wings. The A's decided to tender Melhuse a contract, however, so he will enter camp as the favorite to act as the team's back-up catcher once again.
His best major league season was in 2003, when he posted a 956 OPS in 77 at-bats. He followed that up with a 772 OPS in 2004 spread over 214 at-bats. However, each of the last two seasons, Melhuse's OPS has come in under the 700 mark. He is a below-average game-caller with an average throwing arm. Teams are always looking for a veteran back-up catcher, so Melhuse could become trade bait if the A's decide they want to go in a cheaper direction during the spring.
Battling For The Final Spot
Brown's strength is his hitting. He has a very good batting eye and surprising power for someone only standing 5'10''. Brown approaches his at-bats in a studious way and rarely swings at the first pitch, a good trait for a pinch-hitter. His defense, however, is below-average, although he has worked to improve in that area. His throwing arm is average, but his footwork when blocking balls behind the plate is suspect. Former A's manager Ken Macha didn't trust Brown's defense, thus rarely playing him during his time in Oakland. He'll need to improve behind the plate to become a back-up catcher at the major league level.
New A's manager Bob Geren, a former major league catcher himself, could help Brown with his defense. If he shows improvement in that area, Brown could be an intriguing choice to replace Melhuse as the A's back-up catcher, as Brown is likely to out-hit Melhuse over the course of a season and appears to be better suited to be a pinch-hitter than Melhuse due to Brown's famously patient hitting approach.
Baker is a better defensive catcher than Brown and may be better behind the plate than Melhuse. He handles pitching staffs well and is a famously hard-worker. Baker has the advantage over Brown of being a left-handed hitter, and with Kendall and Piazza being right-handed, the A's might look for a left-handed hitting back-up catcher if they decide to move Melhuse.
Here For The Future
Suzuki is solid line-drive hitter with great command of the strike zone and excellent balance at the plate. He walked more than he struck out last season and was a catalyst in the top two spots of the Rockhounds' line-up. His defense was criticized in 2005 when he was in High-A Stockton, but he improved tremendously in 2006, cutting down his passed balls by nearly 75 percent and throwing out nearly half of the base-runners who tried to steal off of him. He is a hard worker who has always been one of the leaders on the teams he has played on. This will be Suzuki's third spring training at major league camp and the A's are clearly grooming him as their catcher of the future.
Storyline To Watch
Suzuki will almost assuredly be at Triple-A Sacramento in 2007, meaning that there will be an overload of catchers at the Triple-A level if the A's decide not to trade Melhuse. Look for either Brown or Baker to be moved if Melhuse stays, as both catchers are too good to play as third catchers at Triple-A and are too advanced to play at Double-A, where Landon Powell will likely be getting the majority of the 2007 playing time anyway.