Matt Olson left Thursday’s game after fouling a pitch off his right hand. While we will have to wait until the Athletics return back home from Japan for a diagnosis, there’s been some speculation that the injury could be of the hamate bone variety, which would force Olson to miss months. Mark Canha was his immediate replacement during the game, so is he worth a pickup if Olson does indeed miss significant time?
Canha is 30 years old and bats from the right side of the plate. He was initially selected by the Florida Marlins in the seventh round of the 2010 MLB draft. The Colorado Rockies scooped him up in the 2014 Rule 5 draft, then subsequently traded him to the Athletics. In four years with the Athletics, Canha has played in 319 games and accumulated 1127 plate appearances. He’s slugged 41 home runs, scored 141 runs, and driven in 142.
Last season, in 411 plate appearances, Canha had a walk rate of 8.3% and a strikeout rate of 21.4%. The ISO was a solid .200, but the average was only .249. He’s primarily a pull hitter (44.8%) and had a decent HR/FB rate of 15.2%. The swinging strike rate was only 8.1% and the contact rate in the strike zone was 87%. Not bad.
What’s the statcast data show? 87 mph exit velocity, 15.5 launch angle, .445 XSLUG and .336 XWOBA. The exit velocity was good for 230th last season. The expected numbers, though, put him in the top 100 for both categories. Not bad, not bad at all.
So, what’s the problem?
Last season, Canha had 163 plate appearances against left-handed pitching and 248 plate appearances against right-handed pitching. He hit 13 of his 17 home runs against lefties. The SLG was .604 against lefties and .343 against righties. The OPS was .941 against lefties and .665 against righties. The ISO was .322 against lefties and .116 against righties.
There’s a modicum of hope, though. Back in 2015, the numbers were reversed. He hit 13 of his 16 home runs against righties and the SLG, OPS, and ISO were all better against right-handed pitching.
When I look at the Athletics roster, there are only three players who bat from the left side of the plate. Olson is one with Jurickson Profar and Robbie Grossman both switch hitters. If the Athletics were to lose Olson for any amount of time, it would be a huge blow because they’d lose that lefty power bat to balance the lineup. So, would Bob Melvin or Billy Beane get creative with the lineup or roster? It’s definitely possible, but Canha should get plate appearances regardless. He played 12 games at 1B and 104 games in the OF last season, so the team wants to get him into the lineup. And why wouldn’t they? He has a decent OBP (.328 last season) and had an ISO of .208 at home and .193 on the road. The only issue is the drastic lefty/righty splits from last season.
If Olson does miss time, Canha is a viable replacement who should get the plate appearances. The bling won’t be too shiny, but there’s pop in the bat and enough skills to not be landfill worthy. TREASURE