Jaso's catching skills could determine how A's construct roster

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Jaso's catching skills could determine how A's construct roster
March 2, 2014, 8:15 pm
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If the A's feel comfortable with John Jaso behind the plate, that could force Stephen Vogt off the big league roster. (USATSI)

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Keep an eye on how John Jaso looks behind the plate this spring. It might influence how the Oakland A’s roster shapes up heading into the regular season.

The prevailing theory is that Oakland will keep three catchers, with Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt platooning defensively and Jaso serving as the primary designated hitter. But manager Bob Melvin continues to stress that Jaso will also see time behind the plate.

“As long as he’s healthy and can catch, he’ll be a catcher,” Melvin reiterated this weekend to the Bay Area News Group.

If the A’s intend to use Jaso substantially as a catcher, it makes no sense to keep both him and Vogt on the big league roster because both hit left-handed. So they would likely keep just two catchers – Jaso and Norris – but have to look elsewhere for their primary DH.

With an extra roster spot available, they could elect to slot Brandon Moss into the DH role and perhaps keep Daric Barton to play first base against right-handed pitchers. No doubt many of you are slapping your foreheads at the thought of Barton wedging his way on to the 25-man roster. He’s always been a polarizing figure among the fan base. But A’s officials think highly of Barton’s defense at first and love his ability to get on base.

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Melvin mentioned earlier in camp that Moss likely will see action in a number of roles this season – first base, DH, the outfield … If the A’s decide to keep just four outfielders, they can rest easy doing that knowing that Moss is available to play out there if needed.

But before this scenario could potentially unfold, Jaso first must prove that he can handle the defensive load as a catcher.

This is a guy who missed the final two-plus months of the 2013 season due to complications from a concussion. He has cleared all medical hurdles from that injury, but it makes sense that the A’s will give him substantial time behind the plate in Cactus League games to evaluate him.

Norris and Vogt generally are considered stronger defensively, and Jaso threw out just 2 of 30 attempted base stealers last season. He will have to show that he’s not a liability back there.

Jaso indicated his preference for wearing the catcher’s gear during FanFest.

“It doesn’t matter, as long as I’m on the 25-man roster,” he said. “(But) would I like to catch? Yeah.”

Perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into Melvin’s words about using Jaso at catcher. Perhaps he just wants to keep all options open, not wanting any player to feel pigeon-holed into a specific role.

But if Jaso holds his own defensively during camp, it opens up different avenues for the A’s. And it adds a dose of intrigue to the spring training roster battles.