A's Josh Phegley Is Proving He's More Than Just a Defensive Catcher

OAKLAND -- Josh Phegley has always been known as a solid defensive catcher. While he certainly takes pride in that, he is tired of being pigeonholed.

"You kind of hear about it: 'Oh, he's a defensive catcher and does really well, but hasn't produced (offensively),'" Phegley said. "That starts to wear on you after a little while. I'm as happy as anyone else about my production this year and kind of showing myself that I can still play this game."

That might be an understatement. Phegley ranks second on the A's with a .310 batting average and third with a .571 slugging percentage. His three home runs are tied for third-most among American League catchers, while his nine RBI also rank third.

"I'm just happy I'm swinging the bat well," he said. "Call it a pride thing, I've always felt like I could hit. I was a hitter growing up all the way through college and pro ball. I take a lot of pride in my offensive production."

Phegley, 31, is the first to acknowledge his struggles at the plate the last few years. He hasn't posted an OPS above .600 since 2016. But he believes a lot of those struggles derived from a lack of playing time.

"It's tough to hit when you don't get a lot of at-bats," he noted. "That's kind of a tough pill to swallow because you want to do well. You feel like you can hit, but it's hard to keep your timing and tempo. That's not an easy thing to do."

In addition to getting more consistent at-bats this season, Phegley made a few mechanical adjustments during spring training.

"Just trying to be more direct," he explained. "A big thing for me is kind of getting too rotational and spinning off of pitches. Now I'm trying to just be more linear, directly to the ball. I've got great hand-eye coordination. I can always get the bat to the ball. But getting out of my hitting position a lot and making soft contact – I'm kind of known for that the last few years – just to stay in my position and be able to put a strong swing on the ball."

Added A's manager Bob Melvin: "I think one of the important things is that he's maintained his mechanical adjustment. You see the numbers at this point. He's swinging the bat as well as probably any catcher in the American League. On top of that, he's getting maybe the best opportunity he's ever had before, so I know he's looking forward to running with it."

Phegley admits it was often difficult to stay positive through his offensive woes and lack of regular playing time.

"Absolutely. It was very hard. I feel like every guy in this clubhouse wants to be on the field every day and that's why we're all here. We compete at this high level. I took those at-bats pretty hard because I've got one or two days a week where I've got something to prove."

Entering spring training this year, Phegley knew he had a great chance to capture the starting catcher job, as last season's starter Jonathan Lucroy had signed with the Angels during the offseason.

"This has been my best opportunity in years," Phegley said. "I felt coming into spring training that this was the year I could get a chance to really prove it and I needed to grab it while it was there."

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"I think the ability has always been there," Melvin noted. "He catches well. He throws really well. It's just been the offense where there's maybe not as much of a track record. He has to go out there and make his own track record at this point. I think the consistent at-bats and the opportunity he has would accentuate that."

So far, Phegley is making the most of his opportunity.

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