Mark Canha’s 2019 is No Laughing Matter
It’s hard to believe that former Marlins prospect, now Athletics 1B/OF Mark Canha, only played his 356th MLB game headed into tonight’s action. At 30, he’s technically 1/5th through his 3rd full season. He’s logged MLB AB’s since 2015, a season where 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 23, in Marlins AA, Canha reached base at a .371 clip. The next season in AAA he improved to .384, and he logged over 500 PA both seasons. In 2017 A’s AAA, 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 a .328 OBP with 17 HR in 411 PA (close to a 30 HR pace).
That brings me to 2019. Canha is not only displaying career bests in OBP and BB% (15% BB, 8.3% in 2018), but also vastly improved his approach. In 2015 and 2018 (two biggest samples) he swung at 32.9% and 31.1% of pitches outside the strike zone (O-Swing%) respectively. Those same two years he swung at missed (SwStr%) at 9.8% and 8.1% of strikes. Now in 2019 (min 120 PA) he’s drastically reduced his O-Swing to 22.4% (!) good for 19th lowest in MLB and is in the company of Rendon (22%), Springer (21.4%) and Votto (20.3%). When it comes to plate discipline for a ‘power prospect’, that’s extraordinary company. Furthermore, his 2019 75.4% O-Contact rate 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.
This didn’t come out of nowhere, particularly when you look at his rolling SwStr%, O-Swing%, Swing% and Contact%. Around June 20th 2018, it’s clear Canha decided to swing less. What’s that expression? Less is more? By swinging less he made better contact and began showing promise with a post 6/1/2018 line of .260/.347/.455 with a 122 wRC+, a career best streak.
Canha’s batted ball distance on LD/FB in the aforementioned 6/1/18 and previous was 283 feet, after 6/2/18 he jumped to 298 feet and in 2019, with just 28 results leads MLB by a mile (specifically 15 feet) with an average of 333 feet (min 25 results). Folks it’s only June 6th, it’s not only barely the start of Canha season (June onward, apparently), it’s also more importantly not sweltering hot at the ballpark. Canha, a notorious flyballsman, seems poised to mash homers and get on base.
A couple things to keep your eye on, while Canha’s apparent change in approach seems to be working well for him, he’s hitting flyballs at a staggering 54.2% clip…
He owns the lowest LD% in baseball by a wide margin at 6.9% (Bradley Jr. 10.7%), which based on his solid improved peripherals isn’t necessarily a bad thing. His 20.5% IFFB rate (10th in MLB) is cause for concern. With respect to the Athletics, this is actually cause for concern with over half their lineup. 5 of MLB’s top 25 IFFB rates belong to the A’s (Profar 9th 21.1%, Canha, Olson 15th at 18.4%, Pinder’s 22nd at 17.2% and Chapman’s 25th with 17.1%). Those 5 players are averaging a 6% jump in IFFB% from 2018-’19, popups are always terrible, particularly with huge foul territory at Oakland Coliseum.
Back to Canha, the data here overwhelmingly says he’s doing many things right and is poised for a career year. He’s already performing well with a 152 wRC+ in 120 PA and his 15% BB rate compared to 21.7% K’s is a strong ratio for a 6’2″ 212 LB man with on-base and power ability. It’s tough to say how much of an aberration, if any, his 23.1% HR/FB rate is given his new approach and career best distance and exit velocity numbers. My guess is that number regresses roughly 4-5%, but that still puts him in 30 HR territory with a sublime OBP (& SLG). If you are in need of a 1B, OF, or a bat off the bench, Mark Canha, owned in 3.4% of ESPN leagues and 3% of Yahoo leagues, may prove to be a strong contributor on your team in 2019.
Featured image courtesy of Elaine Thompson, AP Photo