A’s Looking to Break out the Brooms, Trade Deadline is Looming

With the series finale at 12:35 PM of the three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays today, the A’s are eyeing their first series sweep of the year. Oakland is currently sitting at a 26-32 record and have Jharel Cotton taking the mound in today’s day game.

The Athletics’ bats are heating up and the bullpen as of late has been nailing the coffin when summoned by manager Bob Melvin. But this is nothing Oakland fans are not accustomed to; egregious road trips and satisfactory home stands. Reliever Daniel Coulombe yesterday in the A’s 4-1 win pitched two thirds of an inning, lowering his ERA to 2.41. Coulombe has been spectacular for the Athletics this year. Madson and Casilla both did their part with a shutout inning of their own and surprisingly, Casilla didn’t give the Oakland faithful any heart attacks, letting just one runner on base.

Ryon Healy has been on fire and has been the only piece in the A’s lineup who I can have the utmost confidence in. Healy a few days ago tied a franchise record with four extra base hits which happened to include his first career two-homer game. Healy this past week has a .346 average, four homeruns and ten ribbies.

Another member of that lineup who has been relatively productive is Jed Lowrie. It’s looking more and more likely that Lowrie will be dealt at the trade deadline with his .292 average and 20 RBIs. However, this isn’t all that bad. This opens room for the A’s shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto who has been tearing it up at Triple-A Nashville.

Barreto’s stats: .278 avg., 4 triples, 31 RBIs, .318 OBP

Opening eyes from Nashville as well is supposed “gold glove ready” third baseman, Matt Chapman. Members of the Oakland Athletics farm system and MLB Pipeline.com have critically acclaimed Chapman as a gold glove third baseman playing in the minors – I won’t believe it till I see it. Chapman the other day had his first multi-homer game. That’s odd… his bat is supposedly the only thing holding him back from being called up. I guess a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.

Chapman’s stats: .255 avg., 14 HRs, 26 RBIs, .335 OBP, .955 fielding percentage

Will the A’s cap of this brief home series against the Jays today? Time will only tell. But every time Oakland has taken two out of the first couple games of a series, they can never find a way to cap it off.

Update 6: The Swinging and Missing A’s (May 26 – June 1)

Record: 23-30 (2-5), 5th place in AL West, 14.5 games back of Houston

Please forgive me on not following up on last week’s update and my lateness to the update on this week. I’ve been very busy regarding my finals at school. But you have not missed much…

The road struggles continue for the Athletics as they still have not reached double digits when playing away from their home ballpark. It hasn’t been pretty at the plate these past couple of weeks. Strikeouts have been the theme for the Oakland lineup. In their four game series against Cleveland, the A’s set a franchise record striking out a total of 59 times. Oakland has the second worst strikeout rate in the majors with a percentage of 24.8. In game two of the Indians series, batters 1-4 struck out of a total of 13 friggin’ times and ended the day with 19 K’s.

I’m not even sure which aspect of the A’s is worse; the hitting or the defense. In Cotton’s start in the series finale with Cleveland he allowed five runs, only one earned. And in Triggs’ start against the Yankees it was even worse; five unearned runs.

And to put the cherry on top, the pitching has been performing subpar. With Hahn and Graveman both getting sent to the DL, the A’s had to make some roster moves. One of those moves was calling Daniel Mengden up to the bigs for his first stint in the MLB since his foot fracture in 2016. Mengden got rocked, allowing three homers and five runs and was sent to the locker room in just the fourth inning. Sonny didn’t look like the Sonny of old whatsoever in his sixth start of the year, allowing seven runs in only four and two thirds innings. There’s one bright spot to this: no team is going to want to trade for a guy with an ERA in the high fours at the trade deadline.

It’s time the Oakland front office take a good, hard look at Melvin’s future with the A’s. So far this season, he has not yet put out a duplicate lineup from a past game (i.e. not the same lineup once at all). His bullpen moves have been questionable to say the least – Casilla is not the answer for the 9 inning spot. Madson has performed very well with a sub two ERA this season and has experience in the ninth for multiple playoff teams. Why he hasn’t strongly considered moving him to the closer role is mind boggling.

In the A’s road stand this past week, they only mustered 2 wins again. Another 2-5 road trip… bleh.

No bright spots this week. Just shitty, shitty baseball. Also I’m strapped on time to go into extensive detail of A’s baseball this past week. I’ll be returning to my normal blogging routine and perhaps some more after finals week is over.

Next Up:

Luckily for the A’s, they’re returning to the comforts of home next week. First off for Oakland, they face Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals in an interleague matchup and the following three game series will be against the Toronto Blue Jays who are starting to wake up after a very slow start to the 2017 season.

Update 5: A’s Break Out the Bats (May 15 – May 21)

Record: 20-24 (4-3), 4th place in AL West, 9 games back of Houston

With the Rangers surging up in the standings with their 10 game win streak and Houston soaring high, it was obligatory of Melvin and Co. to pick up the pace a little bit.

Time flies when you’re playing mediocre baseball, we’re already a quarter of the way through the season (44 games played by the Oakland Athletics) and the A’s are not on pace to meet their season ending goal set by me: play  a little above .500 ball.

In order to meet that goal, you gotta beat up on teams in the cellar of your division. Dropping two out of three to the last place Mariners is absolutely unacceptable. They’ve made it obvious; the Oakland A’s are a totally different (terrible) team away from their comforts at home. Here’s the splits:

Home: 14-9

Road: 6-15

On the road, the A’s pitching staff gives up an average of five runs a game.

To start the week, the “Baby Giraffe”, Sean Manaea had another five inning start *surprise, surprise*, walked five batters  *surprise, surprise* and gave up four earned runs in the A’s 6-5 loss to the M’s. The A’ did rally however with a couple of Stephen Vogt and Khris Davis homers only to be let down by a bullpen appearance from Liam Hendriks who let up a two-run bomb. Liam Hendriks is also the guy who’s been quoted by A’s pre/postgame host Brodie Brazil by saying in response to his mindset on the mound, “I’m going to embarrass his (batter’s) family.” That’s problematic, Liam. In your past two relief outings, you’ve given up three runs. Triggs pitched in game two and put up another solid six innings for Manager Bob Melvin, only allowing one run. Triggs left the game with a 4-1 lead and was in line for the win but Ryan Dull and the rest of the bullpen was right on cue. Dull: two runs, Coulombe: one run, Madson: one run (with the blown save) and Casilla with a run to cap it off. Despite the bullpen collapse, the A’s won this game 9-6 in dramatic fashion. Oakland put up a five spot in the top of the ninth after trailing 5-4. Matt Joyce put the A’s up with a two run, go-ahead homer and Mark Canha shortly followed with a two-run bomb himself. Canha must have had a revelation down in Music City playing for the Sounds because since his time back up, Mark has been tearing the cover off the ball. The Mariners and no-name Christian Bergman shut down the A’s offensively in the last game of the series, holding Oakland to two hits in a shutout.

The Boston series took many, including me by surprise. Especially after the A’s were outscored 40-19 by the Red Sox last year. In probably the A’s best game all year, Sonny Gray shined despite letting up a two-run homer to Mitch Moreland. Moreland always kicks the A’s ass. He’s taken Sonny yard four times and has a career batting average of .300 against the Oakland ace. Gray threw 103 pitches over six innings and racked a season high eight K’s while earning his first win of the year. Sonny got a lot of support from the Oakland lineup for once, exiting the game with eight runs of support. Two of those runs coming off the bat of up and coming Oakland sensation Chad Pinder. There’s something about Pinder I like. Scratch something – there’s a lot I like about Pinder. One of those things being that he kinda looks like Christian Laettner but he isn’t an asshole. Pinder grinds out there on the field. Keep in mind when watching these A’s games that Pinder is not a right fielder but he’s very expendable, very Brock Holt-like. You put him anywhere, Pinder works his tail off, trying to earn his stripes in the Bigs. I’m calling it now, folks: Pinder is the next big face of the Oakland Athletics franchise. He displays a lot of pop in his bat (as you’ll see later), he’s a scrapper and whenever he comes up to bat or there’s a liner to right field, I’ve got my eyes glued to the TV screen, wondering what the youngster will do this time. I cannot be any higher on Pinder than I am now. If I could describe him in word it’d be: GRITTY. He’s the FUTURE. Keep doin’ your thing Pinder, green collar baseball is loving it. But anyways, Plouffe had a solid day with an RBI double and Davis is starting to enter a slugging streak again with another homerun in game one. A’s win 8-3 as the bullpen doesn’t allow a single run. In game two of the four game series, Graveman had another quality outing of six innings and two runs coming off of a – you guessed it – a Mitch Moreland homerun ball. But the A’s were able to oust the BoSox again in the run and hit category, putting up three on the day and one big run in extras. After a Khris Davis RBI double in the 6th, there wasn’t any scoring on either end till Mark Canha grabbed a bat in the bottom of the 10th. Already with a two-hit game, including a double and a RBI triple, Canha walked off the A’s with a line drive, rocket over the left field wall, sending the A’s faithful home happy. He ended the day a single short of hitting for the cycle. Game three of the series would decide if this was a successful homestand for the Athletics. Luckily for Manaea, there was a plethora of run support again and his five inning start was enough for the win. After Boston got out to a quick 2-0 lead in the second, the A’s bats were quick to change that and with a couple of hits, walks and a throwing error from the Boston catcher it was all knotted up. This was the first time all year I’ve had confidence when watching the A’s down on the scoreboard. Everytime this team takes the field at home, there’s an aura of confidence, believing that they’re going to take away a win from the opposing team when leaving the ballpark. The 5th inning was a doozy for the Red Sox. The inning consisted of three homers, each one going further than the last. The first by Canha, then Khris and Pinder with a 483 foot moonshot to cap it off. That 483 foot bomb is the longest so far this season and Pinder earned some airtime on ESPN as a result… good to get the name out there. Two of the homeruns sent in another run with them, putting the A’s up 7-3. Lowrie would tack on with another homerun of his own to give the A’s the final score of 8-3. But success can only last so long for these Oakland A’s and they were in for a blow out in the series finale. Triggs allowed a season-high six runs in the 12-3 loss to the Red Sox. Five runs were allowed by reliever Josh Smith in the ninth who was kept out there to just mop up the 9th inning but ended up making a bigger mess.

Positives:

Mark Canha: Canha’s been a man on a mission since returning from Triple-A Nashville. This last week, he’s hit six extra base hits, three of those homeruns and two of them doubles. He’s averaged a .368 batting average while discovering a credence at the plate. Good to see an option to the minors affect a player’s personality and mindset positively.

Chad Pinder: Pinder has been playing great baseball for the past two weeks now and I think it’s safe to say that he’ll be playing at the major league level for the remainder of the season. Over the last seven days, Pinder has sent three homers over the fence and has a .286 batting average on the year while playing some tenacious defense.

Trevor Plouffe: Plouffe was very hot coming into this week and has cooled off a bit but you can’t keep expecting a player like him to have game after game of two-hit, multi-RBI performances. Nonetheless, he’s hit for a .313 average since the beginning of the Seattle series and has been getting on base for his teammates to knock him in.

Khris Davis: After a little cold spell at the plate (which means not hitting homers), KD has put on a power show at the dish these past couple of days with a few bombs. He still needs to cut down on the strikeout total – seems like he either hits a ball 450 feet and trots 360 feet around the bases or walks 45 feet back to the dugout. Power hitters, especially him, tend to go on spurts of homeruns and it appears that he’s starting to enter into one as we speak.

Andrew Triggs: Although he gave up five earned in the Boston finale, Triggs is proving himself to be the best pitcher in the A’s rotation this year, coming out of nowhere. In Triggs last start against Boston, the Oakland defense of old returned with three errors. Despite those errors, Triggs was able to work out of multiple jams and get his team back into the dugout.

Negatives:

Yonder Alonso: Alonso missed the past four games with a bothersome knee. He should be back in the lineup for this upcoming Marlins series.

Sean Manaea: I know I’m expecting a lot from a guy in the bottom of our rotation in Sean Manaea but for his progression, he obviously needs to perform. So far this season, it’s been a miracle if he gets through the sixth inning. Start after start, it’s a five or five and a thirds inning game with three or four earned runs allowed. Knock the pitch count down, quit walking batters and get through those late innings and we’ve got something cookin’.

The Road: As you saw above, these A’s can’t play confidently when leaving Oakland. Playing .285 baseball anywhere is unacceptable and all good ball clubs obviously don’t perform like that on the road. If anything, I’d rather see better baseball on the road – it’s a challenge to get things done on lengthy road trips and plane rides.

Next Up:

The Marlins come to town for an interleague, two-game matchup which starts today, Tuesday, May 23. Don Mattingly and Co. will be facing the strongest part of the A’s rotation in Hahn and Gray. It’d be a sweet little treat to see the A’s take two from Donny Baseball. Oakland then starts a seven day road trip, going to New York to face the Yankees and then to Progressive Field to battle the reigning AL Champs.

Update 4: A Bullpen Implosion (May 8 – May 14)

Record: 16-21 (2-5), 5th place in AL West, 9.5 games back of Houston

Today, I’m sitting in front of my computer looking at the AL West standings, seeing that the A’s are 9.5 games back of first place and it’s just mid-May. Some would say that the most complicated mathematical equation is Goncharov’s polylogarithms which is a 17 page expression. I’d say it’s whatever the hell the Oakland A’s front office drew up on their whiteboard to build a sustainable bullpen and a lineup that is apt enough to put up more than two runs a game.

Turns out they still had one more walkoff in them, courtesy of a Jed Lowrie solo homer to right. The rest of the homestand was not too pretty, especially for Jharel Cotton. Cotton was sent down to Triple-A Nashville after giving up seven earned to the Angels’ lineup. Despite the lackluster performance from Cotton, Alonso tacked on another homerun to his season total which is taking everybody by surprise. One of my favorite players to watch this season is Andrew Triggs. It seems that every time he’s taken the mound this year, you can already etch in six innings and no more than three earned runs into the stat book. He did just that in the series finale with the Angels, turning in six innings, one earned and four strikeouts. Surprise, surprise, the Oakland relievers didn’t allow a single walk or run, helping Triggs to his fifth win of the year. Chad Pinder’s two-run home run was all Triggs needed to lift Oakland to its 16th win. A’s take two out of three from the Angels.

The story of the year for the A’s has been how terrible and gut-wrenching the bullpen has been on the road this year. I’m not sure what it is about Globe Life Park in Arlington but that jet stream going into the gaps of left and right-center field seem to be more accentuated whenever the green and gold take the field. The Oakland A’s starting pitchers all turned in three quality starts only to be let down, disappointed, off the hook for a possible win. The Oakland Athletics bullpen was responsible for this sweep by the Texas Rangers and it’s time that manager Bob Melvin start to take some heat for this. “We still like our guys (relievers), it was just a bad series for our bullpen… We used all our best guys and couldn’t come away with a win,” said BoMel. Well hell, BoMel. I could’ve done just as good as Casilla and Ryan Dull out there. You can’t be telling me that this is just a temporary thing. They’ve proved time and time again that they don’t have the stuff or the mental toughness to get out of those late inning jams. Jams? Wait, what jams? Ryan Dull came into relief for Jesse Hahn who just threw seven innings, allowing only one earned. Dull proceeded to hold the Rangers offense off, that is until the ninth inning. Casilla who was in for the save, looked like he had much more confident body language than in the past. But before you knew it, Casilla allowed the first two batters he faced on through two singles and after a Napoli sac-fly, it was all knotted up at 2-2. Another blown save. But Casilla wasn’t done imploding just yet. A moonshot from Texas slugger, Joey Gallo gave the Rangers a walk-off victory for the second straight night. But let’s be honest here, the A’s offense needs to produce more than two runs to allow their pitching staff some more breathing room. Joyce’s two run homer was not enough. A’s lose 5-2. You couldn’t of asked for more from Sonny Gray in just his third start of the year. He stuck it out for five innings and for what took many by surprise, Melvin sent him to the mound for one more inning. That inning was huge in Sonny’s progression back to stardom and towards his normal pitching self. Gray ended his day with 106 pitches in six innings, allowing only two earned. He was in line for the win with his team up 4-2 in the seventh. That is until Ryan Dull toed the rubber, looking for a hold. Dull gave up a four spot which included two walks and three hits while only completing a third of an inning. And just like that, the Rangers seized their opportunity and held control for the rest of the game. Alonso homers again in the A’s 6-5 loss. Another great start from Graveman came in the final game in the Rangers series. Graveman was sent to the showers in the seventh inning after nearly completing the inning. He was responsible for two runners that were left on base. Surely Ryan Madson could be Graveman’s savior and keep the A’s lead in tact? But, no. Right out the gate, Madson served up a big ole meatball right over the heart of the plate for a double to Elvis Andrus. Tie game 4-4. And just one batter later, the tie game was gone after Nomar Mazara knocked in Andrus. Texas sweeps the A’s after a 6-4 win.

At one point in each game of the Texas series, Oakland held a multi-run lead in either the sixth or seventh innings. You could say that the A’s should be a game over .500 right now and in sole position of second place. You need to capitalize on the performances from these starting pitchers, not pull a Sandy Alomar and spit in their faces. The Oakland faithful and its ball club are starting to lose their faith in one another. Good teams don’t allow go-ahead RBIs to Pete Kozma. Who the hell is Pete Kozma? It’s getting tougher and tougher to watch A’s baseball. This fan base doesn’t deserve this roster, this managerial execution and below .500 baseball.

 

Positives:

Sonny Gray: Inching back towards midseason form, Sonny is tacking on higher pitch counts in each outing, and that’s a good thing. In his start against the Rangers this week, Sonny worked himself into a few too many full counts but only gave up a few walks. To get back to being the Sonny we all know and love, he needs to have more stress-free innings. When Gray pitches at ease, there’s nothing more entertaining to watch. Keep on racking up those innings, Sonny. The strikeouts will come… maybe not the run or bullpen support, however.

Matt Joyce: This week, Joyce exhibited what he’s capable of. He ended the series with the Rangers with two home runs and was the only sign of life along with Yonder Alonso.

Yonder Alosno: Speaking of only signs of life, I don’t think Alonso has ever been more alive. The homerun he hit on his birthday a few weeks back must’ve been a sign of good luck for the rest of the year. He’s not pressured into a role of a power hitter like he was in San Diego and like I mentioned in my last article, he’s a lot more comfortable in the batters box. Alonso’s average is currently .297 accompanied by a career high 12 homers. Three of those homeruns coming this week. It’s looking like Alonso will be the only all-star in the A’s lineup this year.

Starting Pitching: The one thing that the A’s can hang their hat on this year is that their starting pitching has exceeded expectations. Andrew Triggs had to claw his way into the rotation and landed a spot in the back end due to injuries. So far this year, Triggs has a 5-2 record, a 2.21 ERA and has pitched 40 and two thirds innings while appearing to be the most confident Athletic whenever he’s on the field. Reliability is what Triggs has brought to the table at a potluck full of lazy bums. Jesse Hahn is a guy who profited through the failures of prospect Raul Alcantra. Hahn this year in six starts has put up a 2.74 ERA in 42 innings and has gone deeper into a game than any other A’s starter. Once, finishing eight shutout innings against the Angels and just this week, pitched seven stellar innings with only one earned. A couple of diamonds in the rough. Kendall Graveman has been no slouch either this year. Sure, he’s come back to earth after his brilliant start to 2017 but he is still putting up quality start after quality start whenever he goes out there. You know you got a shot with Kendall on the bump.

Negatives:

Bullpen: I don’t know if I can be any more clear about how unreliable this bullpen is. It’s time to send Dull and Casilla down to Nashville. They aren’t ready to pitch for a big league team. Casilla looks like a deer caught in the headlights in each outing and appears to always have the thought of another blown save in the back of his head. The only piece that I thought was solid was Ryan Madson and he laid an egg against Texas when in relief for Graveman, blowing his 4-2 lead. Bobby Wahl looks like he’s got some good stuff, throwing in the upper 90s but he’s very hittable with his 1.36 WHIP and ERA in the high 4s.

Khris Davis: KD has fell off the map. Homeruns do come in bunches but to have virtually no hitting from Davis is unacceptable. In these past seven days, Davis has a .050 average (only one hit in 20 at bats).

Hitting with RISP: With runners in scoring position, the A’s have the second worst average (.211). Can’t leave those opportunities out there, especially with our erroneous bullpen and when our lineup can only produce so many runs.

Next Up:

The A’s head up north to Seattle for their first away series against the Mariners. Then the Boston Red Sox and faithful will come to O.Co for a four game series.

Update 3: A Terrible Road-Trip Sweetened by a Couple of Walk-Offs (April 24 – May 7)

Record: 14-17 (4-9), 4th place in AL West, 6.5 games back of Houston

Listen, the A’s are making it really hard for me to bash them on their abysmal nine-game road stand they had to conclude their month of April after those 2012 season-like back-to-back walk-offs against Detroit.

Oakland faced the Angels and Astros for two series on their road trip. The A’s desperately needed to win at least half of those games in the series for it was a great opportunity  to make up some ground and stay in contention in the early portion of the season. But, instead they ended up shooting themselves in the foot.

In game one of the Angels series you could not of ask for more from righty Jesse Hahn. He pitched eight dazzling shutout innings, allowing only one hit and two walks. This starting pitching staff is doing much more than expected and it’s time for the lineup to pickup their end of the bargain. And of course, Santiago Casilla, the game blower, was right on cue, tensing up and blowing a save after a heroic go-ahead pinch-hit Josh Phegley solo homer in the top of the tenth. A’s drop game one 2-1. Game two gave the A’s another great opportunity to utilize the MLB’s new toy this year: the 10-day DL. Manaea left the game with some shoulder discomfort in the third inning – no timetable on his return. In his brief outing, Manaea gave up three earned runs and the bullpen collapsed as well. Specifically Ryan Dull. Fast forward to now – it seems that every time there’s a tie game, Dull trots to the mound and craps an egg each and every opportunity he gets. A’s lose game two 8-5. Our ace 2.0, Kendall Graveman pitched in the series finale. Surely he could salvage game three and give the A’s something to hold their head high about going into the red-hot Houston Astros series. Right……? No. Well, sort of. Graveman put forth another quality outing for the Athletics (6 IP, 2 ER and a helluva unassisted double play) but again, the run support became an issue and vacated him. Oakland again could muster up only one run off of an Alonso single. A’s get swept by the Angels of Anaheim after another 2-1 loss.

Khris Davis’ two-homer game in the ‘Stros series opener was not enough motivation for the A’s dugout or pitching staff for that matter. A’s lose 9-4 after Jharel Cotton served up ten hits accompanied by three errors from the Oakland infield. Andrew Triggs earned his fourth win of the year in another great start, going seven innings and striking out nine. Triggs was helped with another Davis homer (back-to-back games) and a Lowrie solo-shot. Casilla also notched his fourth save of the year. Get Triggy with it, Oakland. A’s take game two, 2-1. In the rubber match, I’d say Hahn pitched well for being a back-of-the-rotation guy. Jesse went six innings, allowing four runs, three of them earned. Flamethrower Frankie Montas threw the possibility of an A’s comeback out the window after serving a meatball to Marwin Gonzalez for a three-run homer. However, the A’s did strike for a run in the eighth with a Chad Pinder RBI single. Pinder has taken the call-up opportunity and ran with it. I really like what I’ve been seeing from the 25-year-old utility man. A’s lose 7-2.

He’s baaaAAAack. Sonny Gray, that is. Despite the fact that the A’s lost the opener against Minnesota in a 9-1 blowout, it’s great to have our ace back on the mound. In his outing, Sonny’s pitches were sharp, his curveball and slider both breaking and looking like the Sonny repertoire of old. His fastball maintained a steady velocity of between 92-94, touching 95 occasionally throughout the course of the ball game. Gray left some pitches up in the zone which were gobbled up for three home runs, one coming off the bat of the cuban slugger, Miguel Sano. Sonny finished the game with 88 pitches over six innings. Cesar Valdez came into relief for Gray and like his outing in Los Angeles, it was not pretty. In just one inning of work, Valdez gave up another three home runs. The A’s were able to tack on one measly run thanks to a Yonder Alonso homer. Alonso would take his bat and his power-hitting ju-ju into the rest of the week. A’s lose 9-1. Graveman toed the rubber for game two. Before this game, Graveman had allowed only five walks in his first four starts of the year. Kendall Graveman, you are now entering the Twilight Zone. He only pitched into the fourth inning while putting four runners on base via the walk in the process.  Graveman would see his ERA skyrocket after opening up the flood gates for six earned runs. The A’s would try to keep it close with a pair of doubles from Pinder and Matt Joyce and another Alonso big fly. Oakland and Jharel Cotton bounced back in game three. Cotton put up a quality start of six innings with three runs, two earned. Montas then proceeded to try to waste Cotton’s performance by serving up a two-run home run. Offensively, the A’s bats woke up from their deep slumber and struck for three doubles, a home run from the recently slumping Healy and a triple from none other than Stephen Vogt. Casilla closing games in the ninth is always nerve-racking to watch. Like standing on pins and needles. Casilla was able to load the bases with two walks and a hit by pitch before finally getting the monster Sano to go down swinging. A’s win 8-5.

You could say that Triggs was due for a poor outing after his amazing start to the 2017 season. Although he was not aided by two errors from Plouffe and Rosales, Triggs ended his day with five runs, three earned and five and a thirds innings pitched. The only runs, and you guessed it, came off of an Alonso two-RBI double. A’s lose 7-2. Now I get to the fun part of A’s baseball. After Montas came into the dugout once he concluded a scoreless top of the ninth, he was greeted by teammates saying, “We’re gonna get you your first major league win.” And who better to do it than Adam Rosales. I was in the rain at my local junior college on my nightly run listening to Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo call the bottom of the ninth. Already two outs in the inning, Bruce Maxwell worked a full count, A’s down to their final strike. Surely he was going to strike out on a ball in the dirt or swing at something eight inches outside the zone. But no, he gets a walk and we have the tying run on base. Maxwell isn’t the fastest guy but Melvin’s got no one in the dugout who can run. With no hesitation, Matt Joyce swings at a first pitch fastball and belts it down the right field line but Maxwell’s legs aren’t fast enough to pedal his way home. Runners on second and third, two-out rally still alive. The spark plug of the A’s lineup, Adam Rosales steps into the batters box and on a 0-1 count, singles to left field to knock in the tying and winning run in the bottom of the ninth. A’s win in dramatic walk-off fashion 6-5. End Scene. Side note: Alonso had the first two home run game of his career.

Next scene. Heralded closer Francisco Rodriguez makes his way to the mound looking to recuperate after a blown save last night. Tigers lead 6-5. Speedster Rajai Davis starts off the bottom of the ninth by working his way on base via a full-count walk. Jed Lowire lines one into the left-center alley and doubles home Rajai. TNT by ACDC is cued over the PA system and the Oakland faithful are on their feet. Tie game 6-6. We’ve got something cooking. After a Khris Davis line out, Ryon Healy is up to hit, much needing to get something to cheer about after his defensive struggles as of late. And he did just that. Healy popped a ball up to high left field, looking like a routing fly out but the Oakland wind kept carrying his ball into the left field bleachers. Healy celebrated is way to home plate and was trounced by his teammates. The only worries he has is getting lemon-meringue pie out of his nostrils and about the seagull he almost hit with his moonshot after the two-run walk off blast. A’s win 8-6. Side note: Alonso went deep again today.

So since my last article, the A’s have swapped a winning streak for a couple of losing streaks and then redeemed themselves with back-to-back walk offs to end the first month of May.

Positives:

Yonder Alonso: The most home runs Alonso has hit in a single season is nine. He’s at eight already, and it’s the seventh of May. Four of those home runs came this past week. Yonder has hit for a .421 average while knocking in eight RBI’s over the past seven days. Yonder looks so much more comfortable and relaxed at the plate than he did last year, he’s really coming into his own in 2017. I guess I’d feel good about myself too if I had a .311 batting average.

Ryon Healy: Healy has been pretty hit and miss this season, never really able to find his rhythm. It’s possible, and probably is due to his playing time in the field compared to his time spent in the DH position. You can tell in his body language and certainly in his postgame interview after his walk-off homer that it’s affecting his psyche. Hopefully the two-run homer will be a reversal of fortunes for the promising youngster. We can’t do it without him.

Chad Pinder: As I mentioned earlier, Pinder has been turning some head in the A’s clubhouse. Currently sporting a .308 average, Pinder doesn’t look at the scoreboard and clock out when he got up to the plate in blowout games. He’s take advantage of his time spent in the lineup and making it obvious he’s not wanting to go back down to Nashville. He looks like a real gritty player out there too, almost Dustin Predoia-like. I like his animosity and I look forward to seeing how and how much Melvin chooses to utilize him.

Sonny Gray: He may not be performing like he did a couple years ago but by the end of May, I expect Sonny to be back to regular mid-season form. You’ve got to admit, whenever Sonny takes the mound, it’s something all A’s fans can get excited about. Glad to have you back Sonny and keep the curveballs down.

Andrew Triggs: Forget his last start. Triggs has been absolutely dominant this year. His demeanor on the mound and his confident charisma really show whenever he’s on the bump. After he strikes someone out, he’s got a little strut he does and is like, “Yeah I sent your ass down on three pitches. And I’ll do it again.” You could argue that with Graveman, Triggs and Gray once he’s back to normal, the Oakland A’s have the best top-three starters in the AL West and Hahn’s no slouch either. Triggs this year posts a 2.34 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.

Negatives:

In my last article I was just talking about how the A’s have improved their sloppiness on defense. Well, they’ve reverted to old habits with several multi-error games that automatically hand-cuff their pitchers from the get-go and eliminate any possibility of a comeback. Over the past 12 games, Oakland has had 13 errors and has 28 for the whole year. With the amount of run production (or lack thereof) from the Oakland lineup, we can’t afford to be giving opposing teams free runs.

Bullpen: It’s always the bullpen… Montas, Dull and Casilla need to get their act together. Altogether, Oakland’s relievers have a 4.60 ERA and the only reliable arm for BoMel has been Ryan Madson although Casilla seems to be Melvin’s go-to in the ninth.

Next Up:

The A’s with their late-inning heroics will host the Angels in a three-game series for the second time this year and will then leave for a six-game AL West road trip, facing Texas and Seattle.

 

Update 2: Back Above .500 (April 17 – April 23)

Record: 10-9 (5-2), 2nd place in AL West, 3 games back of Houston

Bob Melvin can thank beloved Athletic Adam Rosales for the five-game winning streak this past week and for how well his team has been playing on both sides of the ball as of late.

After dropping the first game of the Texas series in which A.J. Griffin blanked the A’s through 6 innings on Monday, Oakland was able to recoup and salvage the remaining two games to kickstart a little win streak. Andrew Triggs continued his dominance on the mound in game two, keeping his perfect ERA and record of 3-0. The A’s were lifeless throughout much of the game, especially after Texas put up two runs in the top of the sixth. However an unlikely hero came up to the plate, a hero that got to showcase his renown, Adam Rosales homerun trot after hitting a two-run shot to left field which essentially put the A’s offense into a groove for the rest of the week. It wasn’t till game three that the Oakland bats really came alive, sending three balls over the fence. A four run first inning was just enough for the A’s and they didn’t look back once. A’s win 9-1 and take two out of three from the Rangers.

The A’s took that energy into the Seattle series the very next day. What I saw that most impressed me this week was watching Melvin and Co.’s will to not give up despite the balance of the game not being in their favor. Everyone seemed to pick up after each other if something went haywire. This was showcased in the series opener. The Mariners jumped out to a 3-0 lead but rather than throwing away any chance at winning the game, the A’s put together a rally with three consecutive singles (one from Rosie) and a double from Healy, knotting it up at 3-3. The Mariners came roaring back as well later on in the 6th to tie it up 5-5 but a Trevor Plouffe three-run jack put it out of reach, eventually winning 9-6. This constant fighting back reminded me a lot of the 2012-2014 teams. Those teams went to the ballpark every day expecting to win, not hoping and that is huge for any ballclub. Manaea had a much needed bounce-back performance in the second game of the series, allowing one earned in six innings. Getting through those six innings was huge in building up Manaea’s confidence according to Manager Bob Melvin. “Still a bit spotty with the command…” said BoMel when referring to Manaea’s three walks. Trevor Plouffe also achieved a nice little milestone as well: 100 career homeruns after his solo shot in the fifth. Manaea would earn his first win of the year as the A’s defeated the M’s 3-1. Cotton also improved on Saturday since his last outing in which he rendered five earned runs to Texas. Another quality start for the Virgin Islands native with six innings and two earned runs. Can’t ask for more than that. And just when the Mariners were getting into striking distance, Jed Lowrie was able to get into scoring position from another Healy double which allowed Khris Davis to knock the short-tempered second baseman into score. A’s win 4-3 in a nail biter. Triggs didn’t have the pinpoint command in the series finale in which we were accustomed to seeing in his first three games. Taylor Mother, the Mariners young shortstop with the flow of golden hair, dealt a heavy blow to Triggs with a grand salami in the third inning, extending the Mariners lead to 6-0 en route to a 11-1 blow out.

The winning streak was nice while it lasted. What can we take away from this third week of A’s baseball?

Positives:

The Defense: Before this week, the A’s were on pace to commit 198 errors. But thanks to a 45-inning errorless streak the Athletics have put together, the stat sheet doesn’t look so bad and we can put that to rest for now. Who woulda thought… when you don’t give up unearned runs and you don’t let your pitcher work out there for longer than he needs to, you win games? Yeah, you do. You can really see this play transition into the dugout as well. I noticed a lot more lively and happier faces.

Graveman and Sonny: Earlier this week Graveman was sent to the 10-day DL with a minor right shoulder strain but is on track to return to the rotation in Anaheim next week. “I felt great,” said Graveman after throwing a successful bullpen on Friday. And some even better news is that Sonny twirled a great game in his rehab outing for Single-A Stockton by throwing five shutout innings and striking out six. “I feel really good,” said Gray. “We got everything we wanted to get accomplished accomplished… It’s a good step forward for sure.” That step forward will be on Thursday when Gray toes the rubber for 75 pitches at Triple-A Nashville. I think Graveman wearing his jersey on Saturday was just the amount of luck Sonny needed. The 27-year-old ace and the solid 2-man, Graveman, should both be back in the A’s rotation by the end of next week to wreak havoc on the AL West.

XBH: Lots of doubles and home run balls for the A’s as of late. This week the A’s had 9 home runs (Rosales and Plouffe both had a couple of their own). The Athletics sit atop of the American League with 61 extra base hits and are third in home runs with 24.

The Closer: Without a fixed closer, it’s sometimes difficult to shut down close game in the ninth inning. During this week relievers have stepped up when it counted the most, 3 for 3 in save opportunities. Two of those saves came from Santiago Casilla which was just what he and the A’s needed; to get a little confidence under their belt for the veteran Dominican right-hander. Ryan Madson also continued his dominance so far in this young season, lowering his ERA to a minuscule 1.23.

Rosales: The spark plug of the A’s offense is what I’d like to call him. Not only did Rosie break his home run “trot” record this week but he also inspired the bats of his teammates. Rosales caught many off guard with his two homers this week… maybe this is a sign for more to come? Let’s go Pizza Boy.

Plouffe: Trevor has found himself this week, just crushing the ball. His .226 average doesn’t speak volumes but it seems that every time he’s came up to the plate he’s had longer at bats and has been more of a challenge for pitchers.  The home run stat may not be most important in determining Plouffe’s success for the rest of the year, but perhaps in how many games he ends up playing.

Lowrie: Every time that Lowrie has stepped up to the plate over the year, especially when he’s in a slump, he always takes exception to ball/strike calls and gets irritable. This week the hot head has really settled down and hasn’t been getting to amped up at the plate. Jed’s worked his way on base via the walk and has been hitting the ball more square, sporting a .276 average with two doubles over the last 10 days.

Healy: 6 RBIs, .524 average (11 for 21), 4 doubles, a couple of walks and a solo blast puts a big ole smile on the faces of A’s hopefuls. Ryon has been on a tear these past seven days and is getting into a groove both offensively and defensively. Watch out AL West, Ryon Healy is coming and only at the ripe age of 25. Does this guy have a nickname yet?…

Hahn: Jesse Hahn has turned Bob Melvin’s head this year at the bottom of the rotation. First by dealing out of the bullpen in a long relief outing. Then by having success in his first start of the year after filling in for Alcantra. And again by churning another quality start for the A’s and earning his first win of the year by allowing one run in six innings. It’s gonna be tough to kick him out once we get Sonny back…

Rooted in Oakland: Dave Kaval and the Oakland Athletics organization teased fans by announcing on Twitter that by the end of the year the A’s will announce a plan for a new ballpark site IN OAKLAND. As you can imagine, the rowdy members of the right field bleachers and fanatics such as myself are stoked to see what will be happening!

Negatives:

Long list of positives this week and hopefully that will be a recurring theme throughout the year.

The DL: Marcus Semien was sent to the 60-day DL after fracturing his wrist last week. It’ll be tough to make up for the offensive production he puts out but it looks like Rosie already has a head start on making his absence not as painful as it might’ve been.

Alcantra: This guy does not have it. I don’t know what else BoMel has to see to finally take in the fact that he is not big league ready. Alcantra was given the the priority to mop up some innings for the A’s in the final few innings of the M’s series finale but decided to go Rick James out there and shit out five runs in three innings.

“I’m Rick James, bitch.” – Raul Alcantra probably

My best bet is that they’ll send Alcantra and Cesar Valdez down to Nashville once Sonny and Graveman return.

Things are looking up Oaktown!

Next Up:

The A’s take to a nine-game road trip this next week and a half and will face off against Houston and Anaheim for the second time this year in two three-game series.

Update 1: Two Weeks of A’s Baseball in the Books (April 3 – April 16)

I’ll be doing two-week updates for the A’s throughout their 162-game season from here on out.

Record: 5-7 (5-7 past 2 weeks)

Oakland took on the Angels for their first three games of the year. For Opening Day, A’s starting pitcher Kendall Graveman powered through the Angel lineup to give the A’s their first W of the year behind two Khris Davis homeruns (4-2). In game two, Ryan Dull and the Athletics suffered a bullpen malfunction to put them to 1-1 on the year following a 7-6 loss. Hopefully not a sign of more to come. The Angels and A’s would end up splitting the series two games a piece, the other Oakland win coming from an unexpected stellar performance form Andrew Triggs.

The Rangers were the next AL West opponent to face the A’s. With faulty outings from rookies Jharel Cotton and Sean Manea, the Rangers would take two out of three games from the A’s. The other? Kendall Graveman pitched his heart out for seven innings, losing a no-hit bid in the 7th, giving the A’s their third win.

Further east, we go to Kansas City, Missouri for three games. Cotton had a bounce-back start, striking out six batters in seven innings to earn his first win of 2017 with help from a two-run bomb from none other than left fielder Khris Davis. Triggs twirled another gem in game two, shutting out the Royals’ bats for six innings. Triggs was helped by quite the offensive showing from his teammates including three RBIs from second baseman Jed Lowrie and a couple of hits from Rajai Davis for a 8-3 win. The A’s were later dominated in game three by Jason Vargas, losing 3-1 but took two out of three.

In game one, Kendall Graveman took the mound for what was a three-game series against Houston Astros. After blanking the ‘Stros for five innings, Graveman was forced to leave the game after “never really getting warmed up” according to Manager Bob Melvin. Plouffe’s two throwing errors and the A’s bullpen allowing 5 runs helped the Astros to a 7-2 win. Manaea went 5 innings, not allowing a hit but ran into trouble de to the amount of runners he put on base. The Oakland bullpen was never able to bail him out. Astros win 10-6. Game 3 was postponed to September 9th due to a rainout.

The A’s should be 7-5 right now but first let’s look at some bright spots that Manager Bob Melvin has had so far this young season.

Bright Spots:

Khris Davis: Emphasis on the second and third letters of his name. Davis picked up right where he left off from last season and has gotten off to an even better start than his 2016 campaign. Four players are currently tied for first in homeruns (6) and Davis is one of them. Two of which came on Opening Day on ESPN. Khris Davis leads the A’s in all major hitting statistics which includes a .340 batting average.

Kendall Graveman: Despite leaving his last outing in the 5th inning with some forearm discomfort, Graveman has lived up to expectations and much more. With Sonny Gray going down on the DL, someone had to fill in for the number one spot and be the team ace and boy-oh-boy did Kendall step up. On Opening Day Kendall showcased a lot, allowing only two earned runs over 6 innings, the runs coming off the bat of a Mike Trout 2-run bomb. Graveman would earn the win and take that into his next start against the Rangers. The only blemish on the stat sheet in Arlington came in the 7th inning which would be a solo homer which was also the first hit allowed in the game by Graveman. What’s impressed me about Kendall has been how much his velocity has improved from 2016. I remember watching him have a solid 92-94 mph fastball, occasionally hitting 95 but now he’s really pumping it in there, touching 98 at times and averaging 95-96. Graveman has an ERA of 2.00 and has struck out 12 in 18 innings. Keep it up buddy.

Jharel Cotton: So far in the battle of rookies Cotton has clearly taken the upper-hand. After his rough first outing of 2017, Cotton bounced back against the Royals and showed he is here to stay. Cotton blanked KC for seven innings, sending six batters back to the pine shaking their heads, getting his first win of the season in the process.

Sonny Gray: How great is this? Melvin earlier this week announced that they expect Gray to be back by the end of April, the very worst being May 1. On April 13 Gray threw a bullpen of 45-50 pitches and will be making his first Minor League Rehab Assignment soon. By the time he enters back into the rotation, he’ll be built up to throw at least 90 pitches.

Mark Mulder: So former member of the original “Big 3”, Mark Mulder is now in the booth with Glen Kuiper on Fosse’s many off days. Great move by NBC Sports California to get Shooty Babbit out of there. Mulder has offered some excellent pitching insight while not overstepping the air-time boundary of a color commentator.

Negatives:

Sean Manaea: Manaea’s problem has been his ability to locate his pitches. In his last outing against the Houston Astros, Manaea covered up the fact that he walked five batters by no-hitting them through five innings. Three of those walks coming in the 6th. Manaea currently has a 5.51 ERA and will look to knock that down against the Seattle Mariners next week.

Ryan Dull: Although Dull was not aided by Manaea walking the bases loaded in the 6th, you could say he is the reason why the A’s don’t have two more wins under their belt. Dull suffered a heartbreaker after giving up a three-run homer to Angels second baseman Danny Espinosa after the A’s lineup had already fought its way back to take the lead. Hopefully Dull will be returning to 2016 form sometime soon…

Ryon Healy: Healy hasn’t looked all that sharp through mid-April either. After getting his feathers ruffled by a high and inside heater from Kansas City starter Jason Vargas, Healy was sent down on strikes twice. This sparked an unfortunate trend for Healy, striking out twice or three times over the next couple of games. A.J. Griffin will be 60 feet 6 inches away from Healy who takes a .170 batting average into game one of a three-game series with the Texas Rangers. Find your groove Healy, find your groove.

Marcus Semien: Although not doing much more than Healy, shortstop Marcus Semien suffered a right wrist contusion and is now on the 10-day disabled list. Semien however did do his job by getting on base, currently second in the AL in walks. A fundamental piece of our infield will be replaced part time by Triple-A Nashville call-up Chad Pinder. In Spring Training Pinder was nothing special but he did make his MLB debut last season, ending the season with a .235 average in 22 games. The 25-year-old Pinder was sporting a .324 batting average in nine games with Nashville. Let’s see this trend continue. This is a good chance to see what Oakland has grooming in its farm system.

The Bullpen: Saturday’s game against the Astros was not pretty for anyone down the third base line. Liam Hendriks, Sean Doolittle, Frankie Montas and Santiago Casillas all gave up two earned runs each en route to the 10-6 Oakland loss to Houston. I think Casillas still has a bad taste in his mouth from his 2016 September. It’d be huge for him to put his best foot forward to put those negative memories behind him. The Athletics’ bullpen posts a 4.31 ERA.

Other Notable Highlights:

Jaff Decker made his 2017 debut, donning the green and gold for the first time. Decker worked hard all Spring Training and got the call up just a week and a half into the season to fulfill for the slumping and erroneous Mark Canha. Decker took advantage of the opportunity by delivering a three-hit day which included a triple, RBI and stolen base. Hopefully Decker will become a platoon fixture for Melvin.

Next Up:

The A’s will make up their rainout on September 9 in a double header. Oakland will be continung its 10-game home stand against the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners over the next couple of weeks.

24 games in the month of April have been or will be against AL West opponents which serves as a great opportunity for Oakland to get out in front of its divisional rivals early. Let’s see Oakland take advantage and at least go .500 over this stretch.

AL West End of Season Predictions

I firmly believe this is the Mariner’s year they take over. They have arguably one of the best infields in the whole league featuring star second baseman, Robinson Cano and slugger Nelson Cruz. Along with that, the Mariners made one of the best free agency moves, bringing in outfielder Jarrod Dyson to add some speed to the lineup. The Mariner’s problem hasn’t been whether or not they can get runs on the board, but if they can prevent them. With King Felix and Iwakuma leading the way, I think their starting 5 is posed for quite the year in 2017 including flamethrower James Paxton and an offseason acquisition in the talents of Yovani Gallardo. The bats in the Mariners lineup are too much for any team in the West to handle.

Competing for the second place spot are the Texas Rangers and Astros. The Rangers seem to have some C+ pitching like they always do. Cole Hamels is getting too old and I think this is the year that he implodes. Darvish is going to be above average and A.J. Griffin will be a solid 4 man. The Rangers have a nice bullpen in the works headlined by Jeremy Jeffress and Matt Bush. Texas has a solid middle infield combo with the likes of veteran Elvis Andrus and haymaker-throwing Rougned Odor. Along with the Mariners, there will be a lot of home run balls put over the fence. Bringing in the former Indian, Mike Napoli for his third stint with the team was a great move by the Rangers front office. With his postseason experience, Napoli is guaranteed to provide 20+ home runs by the end of the year. Jonathan Lucroy with his 2016 all-star talents will be continuing his success into 2017 as well.

Although the Astros had some shortcomings in 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are in the mix in September. They addressed those shortcomings this offseason with the signings of Josh Reddick and veteran catcher Brian McCann. The Astros ace, Dallas Kuechel had a surprisingly rough season in 2016 after winning the AL Cy Young in 2015. I don’t expect for this to continue. I hope Kuechel returns to his ace status and proves he’s no joke. An infield led by the speedy, three-time Silver Slugger Jose Altuve still maintains its young components, including rising star shortstop Carlos Correa who put on a show for team Puerto Rico in the WBC. Along with the star-studded double play combo is the power hitting centerfielder, George Springer. In the prime of his career, Springer is ready to produce another 25+ homer season. If the Astros aren’t in the running for the division title this year, they sure as hell will be in years to come.

It will be an offensive showdown between these three teams at the top of the West.

The final two spots in the the West are a crapshoot.

The Angels don’t have the pitching depth to be in consideration of the division title. Besides Garrett Richards, the star power declines rapidly from the 2-5 spots. The lackluster bullpen isn’t doing the Angels any favors either.

However on the offensive side of the ball, the Angels can hang with the M’s and Rangers. Having the best player in Major League Baseball helps, with the talents of Mike Trout. The Angels have one of the best hitting outfields in baseball. Maybin and Revere with their speed, and Calhoun with the bat in his hands all provide sustainability. The Angel infield also can mash with their power hitting second baseman, Danny Espinosa and the .280-.300 hitters of Yunel Escobar and Andrelton Simmons.

I don’t know if the A’s have what it takes to win to 90 games or even 80 games. The front office for the A’s seemed to be sleeping this offseason. The A’s have the youngest and most inexperienced starting 5 in the division and their bullpen is lacking a large amount of talent. Their lineup is nothing special. There’s no way the A’s will be making the playoffs this year, sadly. It looks to be a competition for third place for the A’s and if they want to take something good away from 2017, I’d say shoot for a .500 record.

Here’s my end of season AL West standings:

  1. Mariners (98 – 64)
  2. Rangers (95 – 67)
  3. Astros (92 – 70)
  4. Angels (81 – 81)
  5. Athletics (77 – 85)

I have the Rangers clinching a wild card spot in the AL.

What I Expect From the A’s Infield This Year

Headlined by the 2016 free agent acquisition of long-time Minnesota Twin, Trevor Plouffe, and the youngster, Ryon Healy, the Oakland Athletics 2017 infield components are stunningly average.

One of the most questioned moves this offseason was the one-year pick up of 30-year-old Trevor Plouffe when they A’s already had a promising third baseman in the works with Ryon Healy. This is another circumstance when the platooning system will be coming into play.

Plouffe is coming off of an injury-riddled season, playing in only 84 games in 2016 while displaying poor defense. This will not bode well with the already erroneous Athletics infield.

With this move, it’s expected that Healy, Alonso and Plouffe will all be interchangeable pieces at 3B, 1B and the DH positions.

Plouffe will be filling in for Mariners signee, Danny Valencia who fared pretty well at the plate, ending last year with a .287 batting average and 17 dingers. If the A’s are looking to surprise people this year, Plouffe will need to have a career year and pound out 20+ home runs. Plouffe puts up low-caliber numbers on defense with a .958 career fielding percentage. Not the defensive prowess you’d like to see at the hot corner.

Plouffe will most likely be hitting anywhere from 3-7 in the lineup.

2017 season line for Trevor Plouffe: .264 avg., .330 OBP, 27 HR, 65 RBI

Ryon Healy on the other hand needs to prove that 2016 was no fluke and that he’s the real deal with another breakout season in 2017. Ryon Healy had arguably the best season by any Oakland A last year. In his rookie campaign, Healy hit for a solid .305 batting average and 13 home runs in only 72 games. I expect the Oregon alumni to live up to the hype and take the MLB by surprise once again.

2017 season line for Ryon Healy: .294 avg., .340 OBP, 32 HR, 84 RBI

Making our way to the 6 spot at shortstop we have the limp-mitten Marcus Semien and Jed Lowrie. Spending the majority of the time in the first string role is Semien, who is the worst defensive shortstop in the bigs and did not live up to expectations with the bat in his hand, hitting .238. Honestly, you can put up an argument that Semien is the worst shortstop in the majors right now but it should be noted that he sent 27 balls over the fence last year. Dude can’t steal a base either. Literally useless. I get it though, Bay Area kid, has a compelling back story I understand why they would keep him around.

2017 season line for Marcus Semien: .227 avg., 280 OBP, 13 HR, 42 RBI

Hopefully Semien will have to miss some time later on this year and we get to see prospect Franklin Barreto. Earlier this week, Barreto was sent down to Triple-A Nashville. Just 21 years of age, Barreto posses the talent to play both spots of the middle infield. I imagine it was a difficult decision to knock Barreto off the 25-man roster after such an incredible Spring he’s been having, hitting .481 in 16 Cactus League games. Along with the ability to hit the ball, Barreto offers a tool that most Athletics don’t have on this years roster: speed. Barreto at Double-A Midland swiped 30 bags.

However, Barreto has spent limited time at Nashville and I imagine that’s what Beane is waiting to see; if he can succeed at the next level. Most likely the shortstop of the future, Barreto will have to wait till that time comes as Billy Beane has Cleary expressed that Semien is who the A’s will be sticking with. “He only played a month at Triple-A last year. He probably needs some more drills at second base. he seems to be pretty comfortable over there right now. With Marcus at short, it’s probably his quickest path to the big leagues. … Once we get into the season, assuming he continues to improve and play the way he does, he’ll be putting pressure on us,” said Beane.

Looks like Barreto’s path to the bigs will have to be through second base either due to an injury of Semien or Lowrie or by eventual time.

Lowrie is serving as the veteran presence in the Oakland infield with his second tenure and third year on the A’s roster.

Lowrie’s biggest problem is not being able to stay on the field as he hasn’t played in more than 90 games in each of his last two seasons. Getting up there in age, Lowrie’s career is basically done so don’t expect much.

2017 season line for Jed Lowrie: 100 GP, .247 avg., .297 OBP, 10 HR, 28 RBI

Vying for one of the last remaining roster spots is the beloved Adam Rosales. Rosales doesn’t bring much to the table besides his charisma, half-decent speed due to his aging legs and serving as another platoon piece. Rosales has spent each of his last three seasons at every position of the infield besides behind the dish. So far this spring hasn’t been all that great to Rosie, hitting .160 in 25 games.

Later on this year, when the A’s are striving for the 3rd spot in the AL West, I hope to get a better look at Matt Chapman. The 23-year-old, California-born third baseman showed some pop in his bat at Double-A Midland last year with 29 home runs but at the same time had the highest strikeout rate in the Texas League. Seems that not being able to make contact is Chapman’s Achilles heel. It’ll be interesting to see how he improves at Nashville this year, and just maybe he’ll get the call up in September. Just a reminder, there was a third baseman in the A’s farm system about six years ago that had strikeout issues that hindered his call up. He also won the 2015 AL MVP, hitting 41 home runs and 123 RBIs in the process. His name? Josh Donaldson.

Another Oakland youngster is utility man Chad Pinder. Not putting up the greatest numbers this Spring, Pinder, I imagine will be competing as well for one of the final roster spots. Pinder spent some time at the MLB level last year, playing in 51 games and put up some rookie-like numbers with a .235 batting average.

Spending the majority of his time at first base and the DH spot is Yonder Alonso. In what should be the prime of his career, Alonso was nothing special for the A’s last year. For such a big frame, Alonso is more of a contact hitter and works his way on base due to walks. I think this season might be a little different for Alonso. I’m hoping for him to break out of his shell.

2017 season line for Yonder Alonso: .272 avg., .335 OBP, 16 HR, 68 RBI

Oakland’s lone all star last year, and deservedly so, was catcher Stephen Vogt. In the first half of the year Vogt was on a tear, hitting .301. However the last half of his season was not all that glamorous. Entering his final few years as a big leaguer, Vogt will be maintaining the captain role but his play will be less effective as ever.

2017 season line for Stephen Vogt: .247 avg., .299 OBP, 12 HR, 53 RBI

Backing up Vogt will be Josh Phegley who performed exactly how you’d expect someone coming off the bench would. I imagine he’ll be spending a little bit more time behind the plate to give Vogt’s knees a break ever so often.

2017 season line for Josh Phegley: 90 GP, .267 avg., .301 OBP, 5 HR, 17 RBI

Weaknesses: Oakland is lacking a number of solid defenders and that can come back to haunt them as the season goes on. Later on in the season, injuries could become a big factor to a possible A’s failure with both Plouffe and Lowrie spending numerous months on the DL in the past few seasons.

Strengths: There seems to be some very bright, young talent in the works in the farm system and it might be showcased later on in the year.

 

What I Expect From the A’s Outfield This Year

Time to speculate Oakland’s revamped outfield including 2016 World Series woulda-been hero, Rajai Davis. Of course, there will be the signature Bob Melvin platoon method of defense.

There’s something, not a lot, but something to be excited about in what’s brewing on newly named Rickey Henderson Field. “Khris Davis brings the pop, while Rajai Davis provides the speed. The 36-year-old veteran remains one of the biggest base-stealing threats in the game, and will likely be counted on to hit at the top of this Oakland lineup. Rajai Davis hit .249/.306/.388 with 12 homers and an AL-leading 43 steals for the Indians last year,” wrote Jane Lee of Mlb.com.

Matt Joyce: Along with the acquisition of Davis, Oakland inked a two-year, 11 million dollar deal with former Pittsburgh Pirate, Matt Joyce. Joyce will bring a lot to the table and will provide a 2012 Seth Smith role playing in about 120 games, but a vital piece of the platoon system thanks to his right handed hitting specialties. Also Seth Smith-like is the fact that he led the MLB in pinch-hit RBI’s and walks. Entering his age 32 season, hopefully Joyce will help average out the A’s defensive runs saved (Oakland finished dead last in the statistic thanks to shitty performances from Marcus Semien and Danny Valencia). Joyce will also help take the load off of Khris Davis in left field. So far this Spring, Joyce has been tearing the cover off the ball with two homerun balls and a .400 batting average.

2017 season line for Matt Joyce: .267 avg., .398 OBP, 19 HR, 60 RBI

Matt Olson: The young buck and No. 15 prospect ranked by MLBPipeline.com, 22-year-old Matt Olson. Despite his MLB performance in 2016, Olson appears to be a very promising piece of the future puzzle. 6’5″ and 230 lbs., Olson last season in AAA Nashville was on pace for a 20 homer year while maintaining a solid .340 OBP. He’ll probably need a few more years to develop but I see Olson getting a better taste of the bigs and spending half the year with Oaktown. Olson already this Spring has made me want to ship his ass back to Tennessee but… ya know… we’ll see. He made a bobbling catch next to the away dugout that ended up being posted by verified social media accounts so that’s cool I guess.

2017 season line for Matt Olson: .256 avg., .334 OBP, 10 HR, 34 RBI

Mark Canha: Canha-get a witness to what he’s been doing so far in Mesa? Canha’s bum hip sent him to season ending surgery in mid-May last year and a comeback season is anticipated. In fact, I’ll guarantee it. He’ll probably be seen for the majority of the time in left field and platooning in at right field, first base, and maybe a little third base. Canha had a really strong coming out party in 2015 and will have a break out season. In fact, I think if Oakland is in the hunt around mid-August, he’s going to be one of the driving reasons.

2017 season line for Mark Canha: .289 avg., .392 OBP, 24 HR, 81 RBI

Rajai Davis: Donning the green and gold again, bringing Rajai back was the best move the Oakland front office made this off-season. The whole team is loving the move to snatch him up, “He brings a lot of experience and excitement to our team and clubhouse and will help add to a good atmosphere. It’s exciting to have a guy that could steal 40-plus bases. I have always thought he was tough to play against, so I’m excited to have him on our side now!” said Stephen Vogt over a text message to the Associated Press. Davis will be a HUGE upgrade in the fielding perspective of centerfield which was occupied last year by minus defenders Billy Burns, Coco Crisp, and Smolinski. Davis last season led the AL in stolen bases with 43 and will fill in the void for the A’s speed who finished 14th in the AL in the category.

2017 season line for Rajai Davis: .261 avg., .314 OBP, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 50 SB

Khris Davis“KHRis” Davis earned his nickname last year with launching 42 homers over the fence, third in the league. This past winter Davis won his arbitration hearing and resulted in the A’s coughing up $5 million. Overall, a good deal for a guy who hit 40+ HR’s the previous year. Davis spent most of his time last year in the DH spot. Expect for more of the same. All good things come to an end however, Davis’ bat will become minute once the AL figures out how the hell he hit in 103 RBI’s.

2017 season line for Khris Davis: .235 avg., .289 OBP, 21 HR, 67 RBI

Alejandro De Aza: I don’t want to read too much into spring training stats because they mean absolutely nothing for the most part (Cowboys reference warning) but this past NFL preseason some guy named Dak Prescott shocked Dallas but annoyed the rest of the United States. De Aza, 32-years-old, has been playing out of his damn mind this Spring and all signs indicate this will be a comeback season. Reality check: De Aza is gonna play in 50 games this year and shit bricks and 2017 will be his last season.

2017 season line for Alejandro De Aza: .227 avg., .293 OBP, 5 HR, 11 RBI

Jake Smolinski: Another run of the mill, .230 a year borderline major league ball player. Claimed off of waivers from Texas, all he’s good for is the providing of depth in case of an injury down in Nashville.

2017 season line for Jake Smolinski: .219 avg., .238 OBP, 3 HR, 13 RBI

Other Platoon Members: Without a doubt Vogt will be floated into right field at some point for a dozen or so games. Newly acquired Plouffe, who we’ll examine next week, I expect to log some innings out in the corner outfield positions. But there’s someone else we’re forgetting to talk about: Jaycob Brugman.

Jaycob Brugman: Brugman has had Melvin salivating and for good reason. “For anybody in our camp to have some versatility, it works to their benefit, but the fact that he plays center field and plays it well helps,” Melvin said. “We don’t have too many guys that play center field naturally.” Brugman lit up the MiLB pitching he saw in his 2016 campaign, hitting .285 with 12 HR and 87 RBI’s between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Nashville last year. Rajai right now is the only centerfielder on the roster that can play the position well. Expect Brugman to spend sometime out there to give Davis some needed days off.

2017 season line for Jacob Brugman: 60 GP, .256 avg., .301 OBP, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 10 SB

It would’ve benefitted Oakland to go out into the free agency market in search of some better depth in the outfield and perhaps find another speedster like Ben Revere, signed by AL West compatriot, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on a one-year, $4 million contract… I’d say that would’ve been do-able even up to M. Beane’s standards. Or hell, bring back Coco. He’s still unsigned and he was a beloved Athletic. He can provide charisma, a .230 batting average, and 30 stolen bases.

The A’s front office just didn’t try this Winter. Not saying that I know it all but… I know it all.