OAKLAND, Calif. – With spring training just under a week away, let’s take a look at what the A’s hopefuls will see this coming year from their starting 5 pitching rotation after finishing another below .500 record season.
What to expect from Sonny, Manea and the rest of the starting five?
Sonny Gray – Sonny finishing the year with only 22 starts, a 5.69 ERA, and only 117 IP thanks to an injury-plagued throwing arm was everything BUT advertised. Going into his age 27 season, it’ll be huge for Sonny to have a bounce-back year after last season. Here’s why.
Depending on if the A’s are in the mix towards the end of the all-star break or not, Gray, as much as I hate to say this, will be a good piece to move in return for some prospects. But if by some miracle, the A’s grab a wild card spot and Gray proves he’s no fluke, it’d be smart for the Athletics to lock him up again after signing for a one-year deal this off-season for a few more years and continue to be a solid piece, or dare I say ace, in the rotation. I’d say the goal for Sonny to reattain his “star” status should be based on whether or not he can start 30 games like he did in his first two full years. With that stat alone, the innings pitched will come, strikeouts will come, and hopefully no more Gray skies for Sonny.
2017 season line for Sonny Gray: 32 GS, 203 IP, 15-10, 152 SO, 3.15 ERA
Sean Manea, Jharel Cotton and Kendall Graveman – In the meat of the rotation is where the hopes of a winning season lies. Sean Manea showed great and unexpected things his rookie season with a 3.86 ERA and contributing 144.2 innings pitched with only 24 starts. That’s on pace to a 190+ IP season. What stands out the most to me about Manea is his WHIP (1.19), that’s allowing barely over a base runner an inning. That’s huge for the Athletics because it’s not obvious that the A’s don’t know how to score, scoring an AL WORST 653 runs. All in all, Manea (only 25 years old) will prove to be a vital part of determining the A’s success this year.
In only 5 games last year, Cotton who is still taking his rookie status into 2017 at 25 years old, proved to be a force to be reckoned with his plus 12-6 curveball which generated more swings and misses than league average by a substantial margin. Cotton especially got high praise after his win against the Rangers, allowing only 3 hits and 1 earned run over 7 innings. 2017 will be an interesting year for Cotton. Once he gets his feet wet we will be able to get a better grasp of what he’s capable of. Hopefully there will be more of this to come, but it’s a lot to weigh his potential for the A’s this year with only 5 starts…
Last but not least in one of the middle spots is Kendall Graveman who played up to his role last year in the bottom half of the rotation. Graveman, 26, got it done when asked, starting 31 games for the Athletics and tossing 186 innings. What Graveman provides is consistency and healthiness, one of the most valuable assets of any professional ball player. By the end of the year I expect Graveman to slowly but surely mold into the 2 spot behind Gray, knocking down that elevated ERA of 4.11.
2017 season line for Sean Manea: 28 GS, 195 IP, 12-12, 134 SO, 3.67 ERA
2017 season line for Jharel Cotton: 23 GS, 160 IP, 9-10, 140 SO, 3.96 ERA
2017 season line for Kendall Graveman: 33 GS, 205 IP, 12-15, 143 SO, 3.47 ERA
The other one – With RHP Daniel Mengden having right foot surgery earlier this week and the timetable on his return being unknown, the Athletics will have to shuffle some pitchers in at the last spot of the rotation to get them by. Although Mengden was nothing spectacular, posting a 6.50 ERA in 14 starts, he seemed very promising for not pitching above Class A ball until last season. But including all his season totals last year from MiLB to MLB he had a 1.46 ERA and a .197 BAA.
The slot to be Mengden’s replacement seems to be Andrew Triggs to lose. Side-armer Triggs, 27, is fresh off of a back injury which ruined his whole 2016 season. What stands out about Triggs, a bright spot in the abysmal 2016 campaign, to me is that he made just one start in the minors and was able to produce what he did in the bigs. In just 6 starts, Triggs was 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA over 26 1/3 IP with 23 SO.
But the A’s most like can’t count on him for a full season of work. Other options for the 5 man spot include prospect Frankie Montas who has a triple-digit fastball on his resume, Jesse Hahn, who is looking to return to his early-2015 form, and Raul Alcantra who will most likely fill in for an injured starter or become a Jesse Chavez type of reliever, the guy who mops up those boring innings due to blowouts.
We’ll see how things play out this spring, if someone makes a name for themselves or claims their righteous spot in the notably youthful rotation. But just like for every A’s team, their pitching will determine their success thanks to the pocket book of Mr. Beane… which I think is growing cobwebs and has a family of mice.