Oakland Athletics: Why the A’s can win the AL West

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 27: Sean Manaea #55 of the Oakland Athletics pours beer into his mouth as he celebrates clinching a wild card spot after the game against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on September 27, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 27: Sean Manaea #55 of the Oakland Athletics pours beer into his mouth as he celebrates clinching a wild card spot after the game against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on September 27, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Oakland Athletics: Why the A’s can win the AL West

Catcher/DH

The DH spot pits a proven commodity on the decline, Oakland’s Khris Davis, against a budding star in Houston’s Yordan Alvarez. Assuming Alvarez approximates his rookie season, a .313 average, 27 homers and a 173 OPS+, he’ll outpace Davis, whose home run total fell from 48 to 23, who drove in 50 fewer runs than in 2018 and who lost 27 points on his batting average.

The catcher may be another situation entirely. The Oakland Athletics will promote Sean Murphy, whose 2019 debut was noteworthy, to what passes for full-time status in 2020. In 60 plate appearances following his September callup, Murphy produced a .899 OPS and a 137 OPS+. All that remains to be proven is his durability.

The A’s are all-in on Murphy. His backup is Austin Allen, a rookie who was acquired from Oakland over the winter in the Profar deal.

The Astros counter by relying on the defense-minded Martin Maldonado. An eight-year journeyman, Maldonado is touted for his pitch-framing skills and his throwing arm. His bat is another matter; he’s a career .219 hitter who batted .220 in 2019  and .202 for the Astros.

His backup is Dustin Garneau, signed as a free agent over the winter after being released by the A’s. Garneau is a career .207 hitter. Neither he nor Maldonado is likely to provide performance matching what Murphy, a potential future star, should provide the Athletics.