The Ukiah Daily Journal
Langeliers wants to seize opportunity after Murphy trade
MESA, ARIZ. >> The A's have produced a long line of quality catchers over the years. Terry Steinbach, Ramon Hernandez, Kurt Suzuki, Stephen Vogt and, most recently, Sean Murphy, became fan favorites during their tenures.
It's a line Shea Langeliers hopes to join this season.
The 25-year-old catcher is expected to compete for the starting job this spring alongside veteran Manny Piña, a chance that he wants to seize ahead of his anticipated first-full season in the major leagues. But it's one he's taking in stride with a sense of composure.
“I'm looking at it as an opportunity,” Langeliers said before turning his attention to his predecessor, Murphy whom he calls “an unbelievable player… When you're behind a guy like that and you watch him play and you watch how he handles himself, it only makes you better in the process. And with Manny Piña being here, a veteran guy, he's caught a lot of baseball games.”
As a late-season call-up last season, Langeliers got a taste of the fast-paced environment of the big leagues. He was quickly humbled by it.
Langeliers was called up after hitting .283 in 92 games with Triple-a Las Vegas. In 142 at-bats with the A's, Langeliers hit .218. He had six home runs and 22 RBI, decent numbers when extrapolated over a full season, but struck out 53 times and walked only nine times.
“I went through the growing pains,” Langeliers acknowledged.
This season, he says, “I don't want to go up there and try to do too much. I want to go to the plate every time and be myself with the right aggression in the right spot. Once you can slow that game down and kind of just focus on what you need to focus on it makes it a little bit easier.”
A's manager Mark Kotsay echoed similar thoughts about Langeliers on Friday. But he also touted the development that occurred during his time in the big leagues last year that led to better results toward the end of the season. Langeliers had 11 hits over the final 12 games of the year, included a two-homer game in Seattle. His OPS from mid-august to the end of the season was a sterling .691.
“The major league level, when you get here, the league kind of feels you out,” Kotsay said. “They make adjustments, and they made adjustments to Shea and it may have taken a little bit for him to make the adjustments to cover what [pitchers] were exploiting in him offensively, but he did that. And we saw that growth.”
Langeliers' growth hasn't been limited to his approach at the plate.
With a slew of new faces joining the A's pitching staff, along with a large group of returnees, Langeliers has prioritized familiarizing himself with each pitcher he will catch early in camp. He caught Shintaro Fujinami's first bullpen session on Thursday, lauding the newcomer's “nasty” pitch mix.
“The more comfortable you can be with the guy that is on the mound, the better they're going to perform, the better they are going to compete,” Langeliers said. “When pitchers want to throw to you, it kind of lengthens your career, too, because they want you behind the plate.”
Langeliers isn't alone in his development either. He has Piña, a nine-year major leaguer whom the A's acquired in the three-team trade that sent Murphy to the Braves over the offseason. Piña spent a brief time mentoring Langeliers when the two were with Atlanta, where Langeliers was a top10 catching prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
“I knew him a little bit when he was in Atlanta for maybe two or three weeks and now I have the opportunity to help him and be open with him in any way he needs from me,” Piña said. “So I think he has a lot of talent, he's a young guy that can show that talent in the big leagues very soon.
“He's got that talent, he just needs to play more and have more experience.”
Experience is exactly what Langeliers is seeking this season.
His campaign for a starting role will take place over the course of the spring among a young group of backstops that features non-roster invitees Tyler Soderstrom (Oakland's No.
1 overall prospect last season) and 2022 first-round draft pick Daniel Susac. Langeliers' ascent through the minor leagues has put him in position to make an immediate impact with the A's. That's his focus now.
“I think I'm zoned in on what I'm trying to achieve,” Langeliers said. “Eventually, it'll be nice to look back and see the journey, but right now I'm keeping my focus on getting better and getting better with these guys and being the best team we can be.”