MLB Preview: Oakland A’s Make Another Pitch For Playoffs

Dan-Straily[1]The A’s will again rely on up-and-coming pitchers like Dan Straily.

 

by Alli Baker

Key Departures: Chris Young, Kurt Suzuki, Jemile Weeks, Pat Neshek, Scott Sizemore, Seth Smith, Bartolo Colon, Brett Anderson, Grant Balfour, Jerry Blevins, Michael Choice

Key Arrivals: Nick Punto, Scott Kazmir, Fernando Abad, Craig Gentry, Drew Pomeranz, Eric O’Flaherty, Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Josh Lindblom

Last year, the Oakland A’s not only overcame the odds and won the AL West, but they had the second-best record (96-66) in the American League to boot. The A’s came out on top despite having the fourth-lowest payroll in the league, a lack of star power, and playing in a division that includes big-spending rivals like Texas and Los Angeles.

This year, Oakland is looking to go deeper into the post-season. This year’s team has a tough act to follow, but General Manager Billy Beane has been working hard this winter to piece together another contender.

The A’s win with pitching so that was Beane’s biggest priority of the off-season. The A’s acquired Fernando Abad, Jim Johnson, Scott Kazmir, Josh Lindblom, Eric O’Flaherty, and Drew Pomerantz. The new recruits may not have the star power the A’s needed, but Beane has usually managed to put together a serviceable staff.

Scott Kazmir will  replace Bartolo Colon in the starting rotation, and for now Jesse Chavez gets a shot with injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. Park underwent Tommy John surgery in March and is out for the year. Griffin, a 14-game winner last year, is out until May with elbow tendinitis. Looking for some depth, the A’s signed former Oakland pitcher Joe Blanton to a minor league deal.

ROTATION
SP: Sonny Gray
SP: Scott Kazmir
SP: Jesse Chavez
SP: Dan Straily
SP: Tommy Milone

BULLPEN
Jim JohnsonLuke Gregerson
Sean Doolittle
Dan Otero
Drew Pomerantz
Fernando Abad
Evan Scribner

Johnson will serve as the team’s closer, but since he led the AL in blown saves last season with Baltimore, he could lose his job. Top setup man Ryan Cook is out indefinitely with shoulder inflammation, while O’Flaherty is making his way back from Tommy John surgery.

While the pitching staff was shaken up over the off-season, the A’s lineup stayed relatively unchanged thus from last year. Oakland acquired Nick Punto and Craig Gentry, neither of whom will provide a drastic change to the look of the A’s. Punto’s versatility gives manager Bob Melvin plenty of opportunity to flip-flop players in and out of the DH spot, while Gentry adds some speed to the outfield.

The team will rely on Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, Josh Reddick, and Brandon Moss for the bulk of their offense. While Beane filled the A’s pitching void,  it would be beneficial to improve rhe offense at some point this season.

LINEUP
C: Derek Norris1B: Daric Barton
2B: Eric Sogard
SS: Jed Lowrie
3B: Josh Donaldson
LF: Yoenis Cespedes
CF: Coco Crips
RF: Josh Reddick
DH: Brandon Moss

PROSPECTS

Oakland has a couple of options with prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney. Both players have big potential to boost the A’s lineup.

Russell would also fill the team’s need for a better shortstop than Jed Lowrie while providing some power behind the plate. Last year in the minors, Russell had 17 home runs and batted  .275 average at Advanced-A Stockton last year, before he was promoted for a brief stint at Triple-A. 1 He’s just 20-years old.

McKinney, an outfielder, is said to have a “tremendous feel for the game,”. The 24th overall pick in last season’s MLB amateur draft, McKinney’s impact to the A’s won’t come for some time.2

OUTLOOK

The Oakland A’s might not have an overly-impressive roster, or a giant payroll, but they definitely will compete for the division again. They’ll also be in the running for the wild card spots as well, especially if their pitching gets healthy.

 

1- milb.com

2- bleacherreport.com

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23

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