Introducing Dustin Garneau, Oakland A’s new backup catcher

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The Oakland A’s added a new player to the organization on Friday when they claimed catcher Dustin Garneau off waivers from the Rockies. On Saturday, they called him up to the bigs, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. Incumbent backup catcher Ryan Lavarnway was designated for assignment to make room.

Who is Garneau? Short version: He’s a 29-year-old right-handed batter, with decent power and on-base ability as well as an impressively low strikeout rate (15.2% for minor league career). He’s reached MLB each of the last three years but hasn’t been able to stick, racking up just 225 total plate appearances. Reading through SB Nation Rockies blog Purple Row, the message is clear that he profiles as a solid backup but not an everyday guy.

Here’s the longer version.

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Background

Garneau, a SoCal native, was drafted by the Rockies in the 19th round in 2009. He generally showed an above-average bat on his steady climb up the minor league ladder, and he moved up a level each year. Still, it took until 2014 (his age-26 season) before he reached Triple-A. Once there he continued to hit and even started getting occasional stints in MLB. His numbers in 213 Triple-A games (861 PAs):

Garneau, AAA career*: .268/.338/.514, 119 wRC+, 45 HR, 8.2% BB, 15.1% Ks

* Note: Most of his time came for Albuquerque, which plays in arguably the best hitters park in the Pacific Coast League.

He makes a lot of contact and puts the ball in the air, and he’s shown enough power and plate discipline to make it in the upper minors. However, he didn’t produce in any of his opportunities in Colorado — a September callup in 2015, and early-season injury replacement duty in both 2016 and 2017. In 68 total games (225 PAs):

Garneau, MLB career: .199/.259/.335, 37 wRC+, 4 HR, 7.1% BB, 26.7% Ks

On the bright side, he has thrown out 13-of-34 basestealers (38%), which precisely matches his success rate in the minors (in nearly 500 attempts).

Role in Oakland

The A’s have lefty Bruce Maxwell as their primary catcher, but righty Josh Phegley is on the disabled list with a strained oblique. In the meantime, journeyman Ryan Lavarnway has started a few games against left-handed pitching, but apparently the team has decided to go in another direction with the backup role. We can likely expect Garneau to play in the situations Phegley or Lavarnway would normally have suited up.

As for Lavarnway, this is the second time the A’s have DFA’d him this year. He cleared waivers last time and stayed in the organization, but we might have to wait a week or two to find out his fate this time. Oakland also has righty Matt McBride as another veteran catcher in Triple-A.

Looking down into the A’s farm, the next notable catcher on the depth chart is Sean Murphy, the team’s 3rd-round pick from 2016. He’s a top prospect with excellent defensive skills, but he only just arrived in Double-A and is still getting adjusted at the plate. Adding a veteran at this position to help in the present-day does not block anyone in the system.

Misc.

According to his Twitter bio and feed, Garneau and his wife have twin sons named Maddox and Maverick. There is also this little one:

He also has a connection to a couple of his new teammates, thanks to his time at Cal State Fullerton.

Finally, some name play, courtesy of Purple Row.

Welcome to Oakland, Dustin!

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