The A’s announced that they have selected the contract of a top prospect Shea Langeliers. The club also remembered David MacKinnon of Triple-A Las Vegas. In corresponding moves, Oakland placed Ramon Laureano on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Aug. 15, with a left oblique strain, and released outfielder Stephen Piscotty.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for the A’s, who will get their first look at a player they hope will be a key piece of the future. Langeliers was one of four players that Oakland received from the Braves in the Matt Olson trade this spring. Arguably the headliner of the deal, the right-handed hitting back is viewed by most prospect evaluators as a potential above-average regular behind the plate.
The ninth overall pick in the 2019 draft, Langeliers has spent the last three years working his way up the minor league ladder. He got off to a bit of a slow start late in his first pro season — not too surprising for a catcher who logs the most strikeouts in any year of his career. The following minor league season was wiped out by the pandemic, and Atlanta pushed the Baylor product to Double-A to start 2021. Langeliers spent practically the entire year there, building an impressive .258/.338/.498 line with 22 homers. runs in 92 games in pitching friendly environment.
That would be quality power production for any player, but it’s especially impressive for a highly regarded defensive catcher. Langeliers fits that bill. Most evaluators peg him as at least an average receiver, and he draws unanimous praise for his arm strength. Each of FanGraphs, Keith Law of the Athletics, Baseball America and ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel ranked him among the back half of their top 100 overall prospects heading into the 2022 season, and the A’s acquired him as part of their Spring Training teardown.
Langeliers continued to impress in his new organization. He spent the year in Triple-A, his first extended stretch there after a brief cameo late last season. Over 402 plate appearances, the 24-year-old hit 19 home runs and posted a solid 10.7% walk rate against a manageable 21.9% strikeout rate. Las Vegas is one of the more favorable environments in the league for hitters, but Langeliers’ .283/.366/.510 line is a strong showing even in that context. With nearly 200 upper minors games under his belt over the past two seasons, he had little to prove before earning an MLB appearance.
The A’s would have had to add Langeliers to the 40-man roster this offseason to prevent him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft. General manager David Forst indicated last week that they hope to get a look at him sooner than that, and he is expected to spend the final seven weeks of the season on the active roster. The club has played the ropes in a brutal season, but the promotion of Langeliers will give the fan base and organization a glimpse of a potential core piece for 2023 and beyond. BA recently named him the game’s #81 farmhand, while McDaniel pegs him as the second best perspective in the organization.
First-year manager Mark Kotsay will be tasked with splitting playing time between the rookie and incumbent back. Sean Murphy. Oakland’s primary catcher is arguably the team’s best player. An elite defender with an above average .244/.323/.422 showing at the plate, Murphy is one of the best catchers in the game. He will certainly remain in the lineup on most days, although Langeliers’ promotion could provide Murphy with some additional quasi-rest work at first base or as a designated hitter. Langeliers himself figures to see some action at those locations as well.
That will at least be the temporary arrangement, but a solid showing from Langeliers during his first look at big league pitching would only heighten speculation about Murphy’s long-term future. With Murphy controllable until 2025, the A’s certainly don’t have to deal him next offseason. He’ll only go through arbitration for the first time this winter, and next year’s salary (while a notable increase over his pre-arb pay) won’t be a stretch — even for an Oakland club that’s likely to run one of the league’s lowest payrolls. . However, a significant part of the value of each of Murphy and Langeliers lies in their defensive acumen behind the plate. That’s nowhere near as valuable at first base or DH, of course, so an argument could be made for the A’s to deal Murphy over the winter and turn to Langeliers regularly in 2023. Murphy has drawn interest from teams like the Rangers and Red Sox before. this summer’s trade deadline, and the A’s are sure to get plenty of calls about his availability once teams are allowed to trade MLB players again.
The promotion of Langeliers will not have huge immediate consequences from a service time perspective. Enough time has passed that he won’t get enough action to reach a full year of service or qualify for early arbitration after 2024 as a Super Two player. If he is on the MLB roster for good, Langeliers would reach tree eligibility after the 2025 campaign and first hit free agency during the 2028-29 offseason. Oakland can option him back to the minors over the next few years, and any demotion could affect his service trajectory.
While Langeliers’ call-up is the most significant news for the A’s as they look ahead to future seasons, the corresponding transaction subtracts a player who spent nearly five years with the team. The A’s acquired Piscotty, a Bay Area native and Stanford product, from the Cardinals heading into the 2018 season. The right-handed outfielder broke into the majors with two excellent seasons to earn a $33.5MM contract extension from St. Louis heading into the 2017 campaign. He didn’t perform at the same level his final season in St. Louis, but the A’s took a shot at rebound (and brought Piscotty closer to his family as his mother battled ALS) in business at the end of that year.
At first, the change of scenery seemed to do wonders for Piscotty’s career. He blasted 27 long balls and put up a .267/.331/.491 line over 151 games during his first season in green and gold. At the age of 27, Piscotty looked to have rediscovered his early career form and appeared poised to settle in as a middle-of-the-order bat for years to come. That unfortunately hasn’t happened, as he’s posted below-average numbers in each of the four years since.
Going back to the start of 2019, Piscotty owns a .229/.287/.378 line just shy of 900 plate appearances. He is hitting .190/.252/.341 with a 34.5% strikeout rate over 42 games this year. He got just one start over the past eight days as the club increasingly turned to Laureano in right field playing as a rookie. Cal Stevenson in the center With Piscotty getting such sporadic playing time, the A’s decided to move on entirely.
Piscotty will technically be available to the league’s 29 other teams via waivers over the next two days. Any team that claims him would assume the approximate $2MM remaining on his $7.25MM salary, as well as the $1MM buyout on a $15MM team option for next season. That makes it a certainty he’ll clear waivers, with the A’s remaining on the hook for the rest of that amount. Piscotty will be a free agent in the next few days, at which point he will be allowed to explore other opportunities. If he were to sign elsewhere before Sept. 1 — even on a minor league contract — he would be eligible for a new team’s postseason roster.
Laureano, meanwhile, will now miss at least the next week and a half. The team did not provide further details about his diagnosis, but it is common for oblique strains to cost players more than a month of action. Laureano missed the first month of the season when he finished the PED suspension handed down last summer. He returned to play in 84 games, hitting .223/.300/.395 with 12 home runs while splitting his time between center and right field.
Images courtesy of USA Today Sports.