(This piece originally ran at BTBNL.com on June 8)
It’s hard to believe that former Marlins prospect and current Athletics 1B/OF Mark Canha has only played 356 MLB games headed into tonight’s action. At 30 years old, he’s technically one-fifth through his third full season. He’s logged major league at-bats since 2015, a season in which he played his most games (124), but hasn’t taken a big leap forward until now.
Don’t scoff at the .247 batting average until looking under the hood. The San Jose product and Billy Bean project boasts a robust .383 OBP, and a man oft touted as a power-hitting prospect put up gaudy OBP numbers at all stops. At age 23, Canha reached base at a .371 clip at Double-A in the Marlins system. The next season at Triple-A, he improved to .384, and he logged over 500 plate appearances in both seasons. In 2017 at Triple-A, this time in the Oakland system, Canha did it again in a new league with a .373 rate in 75 games. Fast-forward to 122 major league games in 2018 and Canha, with 197 games of big league action under his belt, demonstrated his ability to produce with a .328 OBP and 17 homers in 411 plate appearances — close to a 30-homer pace.
That brings me to 2019. Canha is not only displaying career-bests in OBP and walk rate (15% BB, 8.3% in 2018), but he has also vastly improved his approach. In 2015 and 2018 (the two biggest samples), he swung at 32.9% and 31.1% of pitches outside the strike zone (O-Swing%) respectively. In those same two years, he swung and missed (SwStr%) at 9.8% and 8.1% of strikes. Now in 2019, he’s drastically reduced his O-Swing to 22.4% (!), good for the 19th-lowest mark in MLB (min. 120 PA), and is in the company of Anthony Rendon (22%), George Springer (21.4%) and Joey Votto (20.3%). When it comes to plate discipline for a “power prospect,” that’s extraordinary company. Furthermore, his 75.4% O-Contact rate in 2019 is a career-best, and his career-low 7.5% SwStr% is tied for 45th-lowest in MLB, well below the 10.4% MLB average. Read the rest of this entry »