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.