Monday, March 18, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days:Oakland Athletics

The A's surprise and made the playoffs in
2012, but can they do it again in 2013?
2012 Record: 94-68 (1st in AL West)

Key Additions
Jed Lowrie (Traded from Hou)
Andrew Werner (Traded from SD)
Fernando Rodriguez (Traded from Hou)
Andy Parrino (Traded from SD)
Chris Resop (Traded from Pit)
International Signings
Hiroyuki Nakajima (2 years, 6.5 million)

Key Subtractions
Brandon McCarthy (Signed w/ Ari)
Jonny Gomes (Signed w/ Bos)
Chris Carter (Traded to Hou)
Stephen Drew (Signed w/ Bos)
Brandon Hicks (Traded to NYM)
Brandon Inge (Signed w/ Pitt)
Tyson Ross (Traded to SD)
Rich Harden (Signed w/ Min)
Collin Cowgill (Traded to NYM)
Jim Miller (Off Waivers to NYY)

Which new guy will help the most?
Nakajima and Lowrie both have the ability to make a difference this year in Oakland. The question isn’t who can help the team the most, but rather who’ll be given the chance. Nakajima is slated to start the year at shortstop, while Lowrie seems to have the super-utility spot claimed, but that could change in an instant with the depth of this Oakland middle-infield. It’s safe to say one of these two infielders will have the most impact, but it’s yet to be seen who it’ll be.  

Spring Training Battle
 Who will man the double-play partnership?
Sizemore seems to be the favourite for the second-base job. Although Sizemore showed his talents quite well last year, there is no saying he’ll sustain it in 2013, and Lowrie had a better year. So his favoritism for the second base job doesn’t seem warranted, besides Lowrie’s lack of second-base playing time since 2010.

Hiroyuki Nakajima
The international signing seems to have the inside edge on winning the opening day shortstop job. Oakland seems to be set on giving the 30 year old Japanese infielder a shot to show his worth. Nakajima is a wild card, but Oakland definitely has good backup plans if he doesn’t work out.

Jed Lowrie
Lowrie is the most versatile of the four, seeing that he can play all four infield positions. With his breakout year with the Astros last year, you’d think he’d have a starting job set in stone, but that’s not the case. Lowrie, rather, seems to be set to be a super-utility guy, coming off the bench. He could play 4 or 5 games a week though filling in for the infielders, so it's not necessarily such a bad case for Lowrie.

Although Weeks has the highest potential of the four, he showed huge regression in 2012 after a good 2011 year. His wOBA dropped from a decent .333 in 2012 to a dismal .276 in 2011, and this inability to get on base won’t allow him to use his speed on the base paths as much as Bob Melvin may like. Weeks played complete replacement level baseball last year, to the stroke of a 0.0 WAR in 118 games. With that in mind, maybe starting the year in triple-A would help him regain his stroke. His BABIP was very low at .256(compared t0 .301 career), so if he can start hitting balls harder, and he finds some luck, he'll be able a solid second basemen. But, for now, he's likely to start in AAA.

Questions Heading into the Season
How will Bob Melvin rotate his four starting caliber outfielders?
Cespedes,52, had a very good year in 2012,
but at just 27, he's just entering his prime,
and should put up monster numbers in the coming years.
With Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, and recently acquired Chris Young set to start the season in Oakland, Bob Melvin has the task of keeping everyone happy. All four of those men are MLB caliber starting outfielders, and with Seth Smith set to DH, they’re not all going to get every day at bats. Going by last year’s WAR, Josh Reddick was the most valuable of the four, by more than an entire win, but the other three were within a third of a win. Cespedes is young, and some may expect him to improve with experience, Coco Crisp has been very consistent of the last three years, and Chris Young had a down year. If you’re Melvin, and are going on upside, Crisp is your odd-man-out, but his consistency is valuable in itself. Nevertheless, Oakland is set to have a very strong outfield with a good backup option; maybe even a platoon could be created.

Will John Jaso and Derek Norris be platooned?
In Norris’ 60 game stretch in 2012 he did not impress, striking out over a quarter of the time. Jaso, on the other hand, had a great year, putting up a 2.7 WAR and a .371 wOBA, and whacking 10 HRs. Norris has the potential to surpass Jaso offensively, with raw power, but his inability to get on base was a problem in his short stint last year. Neither are particularly good when facing pitchers with the same handedness as them, so it makes all the sense in the world for a platoon to be implemented. Jaso faces righties, while Norris faces lefties. I’m sure this platoon will be implemented to start the year, but if Norris doesn’t prove he can face major league pitching, Jaso could take over for most at bats.

Prospect Who Should Have the Most Impact in 2013
Dan Straily is one of Oakland’s top 5 prospects, and is slated to start the year as their fifth starter. Although Straily showed well in his almost 40 innings pitched last year, and has the inside track on Travis Blackley for the fifth start of the year, it has been rumoured that Bartolo Colon will take that spot immediately after his return from suspension in early April. If Colon does take the rotation spot it would limit Straily’s role to first pitcher to be called up upon injury or struggle. Straily’s impact this year will completely depend on his role throughout the year, which, in turn, will depend on the other five pitchers ahead of him in the depth chart. His impact could vary from a September call-up, to a season full of successful outings. 

Projected Roster (via
(*indicates left-handed batter **indicates switch-hitter) 
Projected 'Go-To' Starting Lineup 
1 CF Coco Crisp**
3B Jed Lowrie** 
LF Yoenis Cespedes
4 1B Brandon Mossvs RHP
5 RF Josh Reddick*
DH Seth Smithvs RHP 
C John Jaso*  vs RHP 
2B Scott Sizemore 
9 SS Hiroyuki Nakajima

Projected Bench 
C Derek Norris  vs LHP
1B Daric Barton
3B Josh Donaldson  vs LHP
OF Chris Young vs LHP

Projected Starting Rotation 
LHP Brett Anderson
RHP Jarrod Parker  
LHP Tom Milone  
RHP A. J. Griffin 
5 RHP Daniel Straily BA#6 BP#3 

Projected Bullpen 
CL RHP Ryan Cook
SU LHP Sean Doolittle
SU RHP Pat Neshek 
MID LHP Jordan Norberto
MID RHP Evan Scribner 
MID LHP Jerry Blevins
LR RHP Chris Resop

Projected Disabled List
RHP Grant Balfour +  KNEE SURGERY - out 4-6 weeks 2/14/13 
RHP Fernando Rodriguez +  TORN UCL; out indefinitely 

Restricted List
RHP Bartolo Colon  SUSPENDED 50 GAMES as of 8/22/12 

Projected Record
82-80 (3rd in AL West)

Predicting the Athletics to repeat last year’s performance would be pretty far fetched, because, being honest, last year’s win total was very fluky. Oakland will be the middle team in division with major variance; the AL West could easily be the home to the teams with the worst and best records in the MLB. Oakland is putting forth an extremely deep team for a club on a strict budget, so injuries shouldn’t affect team as much as the next team. The Athletics look to be a .500 team, but anything could happen with this team, I wouldn’t rule out a playoff appearance or a top ten 2014 MLB draft pick. 

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