Injured Athletics catcher Nick Hundley is within 10 days of a rehab assignment as he recovers from back and knee issues, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Once Hundley comes back in August, though, the team could jettison him or one of the other three catchers on its 40-man roster, per Slusser. Indeed, when Hundley’s healthy enough to return, the Athletics “seem likely” to designate him, Chris Herrmann, Josh Phegley or Beau Taylor for assignment, Slusser observes. With the exception of Taylor, all of those backstops are out of minor league options.
The A’s goal entering the season was to roll with Hundley and Herrmann – both free-agent signings – as their two catchers, Slusser writes, but that plan changed when the latter underwent right knee surgery March 6. Herrmann sat out the first couple months of the season recovering from the procedure, only just coming off the IL on Tuesday. The 31-year-old emphatically introduced himself to Oakland that night, smashing a grand slam in a win over Minnesota (one of his ex-teams), and added a 4-for-4 performance in another victory against the Twins on Thursday.
While the lefty-swinging Herrmann’s off to a propitious start as an Athletic, he didn’t bring much of a big league track record to his new team. Also a former Diamondback and Mariner, Herrmann has hit just .206/.283/.354 (69 wRC+) in 903 major league plate appearances. He also hasn’t been a tower of strength behind the plate.
Hundley’s much more of an established commodity in the majors, where the well-traveled 35-year-old has typically provided solid offense for his position. That hasn’t been the case in 2019, though. Before Hundley headed to the IL with back spasms June 8 and then underwent arthroscopic left knee surgery on the 18th, the righty batted an unappealing .200/.233/.357 (54 wRC+) with 18 strikeouts against two walks in 73 PA. At the same time, Hundley threw out a mere 5 of 23 would-be base stealers and earned poor pitch-framing marks.
Herrmann’s absence helped reopen the door for Phegley, an Athletic since 2015 who entered this season off three straight low-impact years in the majors. Phegley’s now enjoying what could go down as a career offensive season, however, with a .259/.303/.463 line (102 wRC+) and nine home runs in 219 attempts. The righty-hitting Phegley has been particularly tough on lefties, whom he has teed off on for a .939 OPS, though his overall offensive production has nosedived since the start of June. Like Hundley, Phegley has not garnered rave reviews as a framer this year. Worsening matters, the 31-year-old rates as Baseball Prospectus’ second-worst blocker.
Taylor, 29, hasn’t gotten much of a chance in the majors since the A’s chose him in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. Dating back to his brief MLB debut last year, Taylor has collected 30 plate appearances at the game’s highest level. The lefty’s now at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he has slashed an excellent .306/.463/.524 (149 wRC+) across 160 tries this season. Despite that production, the A’s may not regard Taylor as a major league-caliber option, in which case his time on their 40-man could soon end.