Monday, April 7, 2014

Oakland Athletics 2014 Team Breakdown

OAKLAND ATHLETICS:  96-66 (Fist Place in AL West)

Projected Lineup/Batting Order:

CF        Coco Crisp
SS        Jed Lowrie
3B       Josh Donaldson
LF        Yoenis Cespedes
1B       Brandon Moss
RF        Josh Reddick
2B       Alberto Callaspo
DH       John Jaso
C          Derek Norris

Projected Rotation/Key Bullpen Arms:

SP        Scott Kazmir
SP        Dan Straily
SP        Sonny Gray
SP        Tommy Milong
SP        A.J. Griffin
RP       Jim Johnson
RP       Eric O’Flaherty
RP       Luke Gregerson

The A’s have continued to defy expectations and their economic situation as they won the division back-to-back years.  The Angels looked more talented, the Rangers had the recent success, but the A’s continue to cobble together the best lineup they can afford and rely on their talented young arms to make noise in what has become on the of the best divisions in baseball.  But the thing that really but this team on the map were the hitters on this Athletics staff.  They can hit and pitch, which has predictably led to success in the regular season. 

Their offense still looks to be in good shape.  They aren’t the best team by any stretch, but they are very balanced with power, speed and guys who can hit for average.  Coco Crisp will be the leadoff man once again for this team after signing a 2-year $22 million contract extension.  He’s been a great value for the financially challenged Athletics.  He had a career high 22 HR to go with 21 SB and 93 R.  He is 34 and has a pretty rich injury history, which is why the A’s signed Craig Gentry as an insurance policy.  He’s older now but still has great wheels.  I’d put him down for another 260 season with double digit HR and 20+ SB.  If he’s healthy 90+ R should be a real possibility.  Craig Gentry will be a backup option and may spend some time in the field to let Cespedes and Crisp have off days as a DH.  He had a very productive season in 106 games with division rival Texas last year hitting 280 with 24 SB.  He can leadoff if Crisp falters or gets hurt and will likely see a fair amount of time in the lineup due to his abilities on both sides of the ball.  Jed Lowrie had his best year for the A’s last season posting a 290 AVG with 15 HR, 75 RBI and 80 R.  The power wasn’t a big surprise as he popped 16 HR in 97 games with Houston in 2012.  But Oakland was pleased with the AVG, which was 26 points above his career average.  I think a regression is possible, which is why I have him hitting 2nd and not 3rd, which is where RotoWorld is listing him.  I have MVP candidate Josh Donaldson hitting third on this team.  The third baseman had a breakout year last season hitting 301 with 24 HR, 93 RBI and 89 R.  Prior to last year he had less than 100 games on his resume.  We’ll see what he does this year, though a slight regression is to be expected.  No idea what we can expect AVG-wise, but they like his overall skillset.  I’d guess another 20 HR, but more is possible as he’s a talented young player who is only getting better.  He could hit 30 HR and hit 320.  We don’t know what kind of player he is yet, but his ceiling seems to be quite high.  I put Yoenis Cespedes fourth in the order, believing that last year’s struggles were a product of his injury issues.  I know if affected him some as his average fell over 50 points and he stole half as many bases.  But he still hit over 20 HR and showed he’s a great threat for the long-ball after winning the HR Derby last year.  I think Cespedes is a great hitter and I expect him to bounce back in a big way with a 280+ season with 25 HR and 15 SB.  And I’m also expecting a healthy 80+ in the RBI and R columns.  I have Brandon Moss in the 5th spot after his breakout season.  The 256 AVG isn’t eye popping, but he did pop 30 HR and drive in 87.  This was his best season, topping the previous season, which had been his best since he came into the league in 2007.  His 2012 stat line was 291 with 21 HR and 52 RBI in 84 games.  That’s why I believe the power is here to stay, even though he plays in pitcher friendly O.Co Coliseum.  250 may be the average at this point (he’s a career 253 hitter) but I’d be shocked if he didn’t make his way to 20 HR, with 25 a real possibility.  Moss’ career year helped make up for the abysmal season Josh Reddick turned in.  He fell off tremendously from his 2012 campaign (242/32/85/85/11) and turned in a 226/12/56/54/9 line.  He’s not a great contact hitter, but it’s the power they needed from him.  His 2012 was a big surprise and he didn’t have a lot of experience before that, so it’s hard to intelligently gauge what he may do this season.  Ignoring the average (which will likely be between 230 and 250) we can expect anywhere from 15-30 HR.  I’m guessing closer to 15 however, with maybe 10 SB.  The bottom third of the lineup will consist of Alberto Callaspo at second, John Jaso DHing and occasionally catching, and Derek Norris logging the majority of the time as the backstop.  Callaspo comes over from the Angels and takes over for the departed Jemile Weeks, who was shipped off to Baltimore for Jim Johnson.  Callaspo had a down season hitting 258 last year.  He’s a career 273 hitter.  His 10 HR were right were we expected, however.  He’s a hitter who makes pretty good contact but has little power or speed.  He is the best hitter at the bottom of the Oakland lineup, which is why I put him 7th in the order.  He can cleanup after the big hitters and turn his 10 HR into 50 RBI in a good year.  I have John Jaso as the backup catcher and primary DH hitting 8th.  He hit 271 in limited time last year due to concussions.  But he’s got double digit HR power and will get opportunities to play either as the DH or catcher.  However expect all 3 outfielders to get time at DH with Craig Gentry and young Michael Taylor around.  Nick Punto can play second, third and short so the starters at those positions can take turns DHing as well and Daric Barton is also around to spell Moss.  Derek Norris will bring up the rear most days, unless Jaso is calling the pitches.

The defense looks solid in O.Co this year.  The A’s sport 2 center fielders in their starting outfield with Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes.  Reddick is solid in right and Craig Gentry is a good defensive player in his own right who can play all 3 positions at an above average rate.  The infield isn’t exciting, but Callaspo, Lowrie and Donaldson are all more than capable in their positions and Moss is fine.  Derek Norris is pretty good behind the plate as well.  I’m not predicting any Gold Gloves, but this team should get the job done.

The area that has carried this team for years was their starting pitching.  And while it’s still in pretty good shape, they did lose their ace Bartolo Colon to free agency.  They also lost their former ace Brett Anderson so they are back to having zero veteran arms to carry them.  But that’s a position they are used to.  The biggest issue was the loss of the guy they planned to have as their ace, Jarrod Parker.  He went 12-8 with a 3.97 for the A’s last year.  He logged 197 innings of quality pitching with a WHIP and BAA below the league average.  But Tommy John surgery will knock him out for the year.  A.J. Grifin was expected to pick up the slack for Parker and take over the ace title with his team leading 177 Ks.  He went 14-10 with a 3.83 in 200 IP last year, with even better WHIP and BAA numbers.  However an injury in spring training has left him off the Opening Day roster, and he may not return until May. Dan Straily is one of the few returnees from last year’s staff that is healthy this year.  In 27 strong starts last year he was 10-8 with a 3.96 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 233 BAA.    Also, Sonny Gray will be with the team as a starter on Day 1 after 10 strong performances in the role last year.  In those 10 starts and 2 relief appearances, he went 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA.  More impressive was the 67 Ks in 64 IP and the best peripheral numbers of the bunch.  You worry about some rookie regression, but he has the highest ceiling on this team, even with his inexperience.  He is the future ace, and if this team wants to contend this year he needs to show that he can be the ace, and lead this injured staff.  Their new number 5 man is Scott Kazmir, who resurrected his career with the Indians last year.  He went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA in Cleveland last season and most impressively showed his strikeout prowess with 162 Ks in 158 IP.  He’ll give up hits and walks, but he can eat some innings, get some strikeouts and help the A’s a lot.  While A.J. Griffin recovers, expect to see more of Tommy Milone in the starting lineup.  He went 12-9 in 26 starts with a 4.14 ERA.  You worry about his average numbers across the board, but that’s why he’s likely the 5th starter and the one who will get bumped when Griffin returns.  Jim Johnson, who was added in a trade with Baltimore, now anchors the bullpen.  Johnson is coming off back-to-back 50 Save seasons with sub 3 ERAs.  Luke Gregerson, one of the best setup men in the game will lead the way for him and the A’s got a great pickup in Eric O’Flaherty who will come off Tommy John surgery midway through the year.  When he’s right, he’s among the best left handed relievers in the game.  This bullpen looks as strong as this starting group.  And what it lacks in star power, it more than makes up for in depth.


The A’s have been a surprise team for back-to-back seasons winning the division over the Angels and Rangers, teams considered more talented than the A’s on paper.  They hope to do it again this year, but will lack the surprise element.  The Rangers have finished second to them twice and are gunning for them even harder this year.  The Astros and Mariners have gotten better.  And the Angels are loaded with talent that can theoretically play together and earn some wins.  Their offense looks to be the third best in the division.  Their pitching second.  That’s not necessarily a great recipe for winning. But there is some sort of magic to Billy Beane and the A’s that the other teams in their division lack.  I’ve picked them 3rd two years in a row, and been wrong.  I don’t want to get burned again.  I know they will be better than the Mariners and Astros.  And at this point I want the Angels to prove they can be great before I jump back on their bandwagon.  The Rangers look better, but the A’s are so deep.  In the end, pitching wins championships.  And I think the A’s have the second best pitching in the division, which is why I’m listing them as the number 2 team.  90 Wins and a Wildcard spot for Oakland.  That’s my prediction.   

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