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Ex-Aviators catcher ready for starting role with Athletics

Updated March 5, 2023 - 7:49 pm

The Oakland Athletics sent a message about their belief in one of their top prospects when they traded budding star catcher Sean Murphy on Dec. 12.

Shea Langeliers, named the organization’s 2022 Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America for his impressive work with the Aviators, is ready for prime time as the team’s regular catcher.

“He’s a big leaguer,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said after his team wrapped up a two-game exhibition series with a 12-4 loss to the Reds in front of 8,024 on Sunday at Las Vegas Ballpark.

Langeliers, a first-round pick of the Braves out of Baylor in 2019, hit .283 with 19 home runs and 56 RBIs in 92 games last season for the Aviators before making his MLB debut Aug. 16 and playing 40 games for Oakland.

“He’s a great learner, and he’s got a passion for the game and a passion for the position, which is what it takes to be great at that position,” Kotsay said. “He’s young. He’ll have some inexperience things that take place this season, but I’ve been impressed with the steady growth we’ve seen since he came to the big leagues.”

The 25-year-old showed enough to allow the A’s to trade Murphy, who subsequently signed a six-year, $73 million deal in Atlanta.

“The past couple years have been a whirlwind, and that was part of it,” Langeliers said of learning about the trade. “It’s been crazy, but everything happens for a reason. I was blessed to be working behind him last year and watching how he handled himself and how he prepared, how he handled the pitchers and his relationship with them. Being in that situation, I just tried to be a sponge, soak up everything I could, learn from it and keep getting better.”

It has been a steady ascension for Langeliers, who spent the remainder of 2019 in Single A after the draft. He didn’t play a minor league game in the 2020 COVID season and was assigned to Double A in 2021, finishing the season with one series in Triple A before he was traded to the Athletics’ organization. Oakland kept him in Triple A for less than a full season with the Aviators before he got the call.

Langeliers had six home runs and 22 RBIs in 142 at-bats for Oakland, but his focus always has been on defense despite his plus-bat.

“If I can get to know the pitchers and make them feel as comfortable as possible, that’s one thing I’m looking to do,” Langeliers said. “If they have a good year, we as a team have a good year. It starts with that. Anything offensively is a plus. My focus is definitely catching and dealing with the pitchers.”

That’s one of the reasons he caught the first two innings Sunday despite a heavy workload Saturday. All-Star Paul Blackburn got the start for the Athletics, and Kotsay wanted to see him throw to Langeliers because the pitcher suffered a season-ending finger injury just before Langeliers got called up.

“This was the first time I ever threw to him (in a game), said Blackburn, who battled through 10 batters and allowed six runs on five hits. “Just from watching him and how he approaches his day, you can just see he’s a pro. He’s got all the talent in the world. He can hit, he can throw. He’s smart. Calls a good game. I feel like the more we get to work together, the better we’ll be together. He’s someone you never have to worry about as far as doing the work or being ready.”

Langeliers, who struck out in his only plate appearance Sunday and is 5-for-12 with a home run and three RBIs this spring, looks back on his partial season with the Aviators fondly and was pleased to be back for the weekend. He also thinks his time in Las Vegas playing every day in a notoriously hitter-friendly league helped him get better as a catcher.

“You have to be more on top of your game plan here and more aware of what hitters are trying to do,” he said. “It really helps you focus more on game-planning and taking that part of your game to the next level.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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