Oakland Athletics 2019 season preview

Yusmeiro Petit

                 Every die-hard baseball fan knows about moneyball, the book and movie based on the Oakland Athletics of the early 2000s. Well, A\’s fans almost got a moneyball sequel this season, when the A\’s surprised everybody by making it to the playoffs. They were built off of a strong bullpen and two star corner infielders. The A\’s enter 2019 as playoff contenders, but they are far back of some of the teams in the league.

                 Offseason additions: INF Jurickson Profar, RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Joakim Soria, OF Robbie Grossman, C Nick Hundley, LHP Jerry Blevins

                 Offseason subtractions: INF Jed Lowrie, C Jonathan Lucroy, RHP Jeurys Familia, RHP Trevor Cahill, OF Matthew Joyce, RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Emilio Pagan, RHP Kendall Graveman, RHP Santiago Castilla, LHP Danny Coulombe, RHP Chris Hatcher

The biggest question mark going into the wild card game last year and now into 2019 was the Oakland rotation. Sean Manaea was the ace of the rotation, with a 3.59 ERA in 27 starts, but missed most of the second half due to shoulder surgery, which will also limit him this year until after the all-star break. 2018 trade deadline acquisition Mike Fiers was brought back, after allowing 22 runs in 53 innings (3.74 ERA) with the team. Marco Estrada has had two horrid seasons in a row with Toronto, and signed with Oakland this offseason. But, his first two seasons in Canada, 2015 and 2016, were very good. They are the only definites. Rotation candidates Paul Blackburn, Daniel Mengden, Andrew Triggs and Daniel Gossett won\’t make the team (Gossett is hurt, the other three were optioned). Veteran lefty Brett Anderson struggled in 17 starts last year, and on average, didn\’t make it to the fifth inning. Chris Bassitt is the favorite for the fourth spot. He had a 3.02 ERA in 11 games (seven starts) last year. The fifth spot will likely go to the bullpen, as the A\’s have jumped on the opener bandwagon. They used Liam Hendriks to start games, and did that in the wild card game. Frankie Montas (who could also make real starts), Hendriks, and maybe even Lou Trivino, who started one game, could get opener duties. We could also see 21 year old top prospect Jesus Luzardo sometime this year.

The A\’s got to the playoffs mainly because of their bullpen. While Jeurys Familia went back to the Mets, the A\’s brought in Joakim Soria as the set-up man. Soria has closed for many teams, including Chicago for the first half of 2018 before a trade to Milwaukee. Another man who has closed for multiple teams, Fernando Rodney, re-signed after a 3.92 ERA for the A\’s last year. Rodney enters this season at age 42, and has played for seven different teams since the start of 2015. Closer Blake Treinen didn\’t just save 38 games. He struck out 100 batters in 80.1 innings, with a 0.78 ERA. That 0.78 ERA was the best in history for a pitcher with at least 80 innings pitched. But, it rivals his teammate, Rodney, who in 2012 had a 0.60 ERA in 74.2 innings, and finished 5th in Cy Young voting as a reliever. Treinen finished sixth. Yusmeiro Petit was a workhorse, with a 3.00 ERA in 74 games, and 93 innings. Lou Trivino had a very impressive rookie season, with a 2.92 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 74 innings. Lefty Ryan Buchter stranded 93.33% of inherited runners in 2018, which was highest in the league for pitchers that inherited at least 30 runners. But Buchter, who pitched in just 39.1 innings in 54 games last year, will be hurt by the 3 batters rule in 2020. The final spots go to Montas and Hendriks, who are openers and relievers. Ryan Dull has been on the team since 2015, and JB Wendelken had a 0.54 ERA in 13 games last year.

The A\’s have just one catcher on their 40-man currently. It is Josh Phegley, Oakland\’s backup catcher with a .255 OBP in each of his last two seasons. Nick Hundley is in camp on a minor league deal. He has hit 39 home runs over the last four seasons as a backup catcher, which is good. He\’s an upgrade compared to Phegley.

The A\’s were powered by their young corner infielders, Matt Chapman and Matt Olsen. They both won Gold Gloves, had an OPS over .800, and hit well over 20 home runs. Second baseman Jed Lowrie is gone, but in comes Jurickson Profar, who hit 20 home runs in a breakout 2018. Shortstop Marcus Semien went from defensive liability to Gold Glove finalist, and hit 15 home runs with 14 SBs. Franklin Barreto is the backup.

Stephen Piscotty hit 27 home runs in his first season in Oakland. Center field goes to Ramon Laureano, whose defensive play last year caught many\’s eyes. The wild card\’s starting left fielder was Nick Martini, who will miss the first month. Power hitting outfielder Mark Canha will play left in the present.

No surprises, Khris Davis once again hit .247. But Oakland fans will be more focused on his 48 home runs, a career high. He is one of the few guarantees for 40 home runs in the majors. Chad Pinder can play seven positions, and hit 13 home runs last year. Also on the bench is Barreto, Phegley and Robbie Grossman, an outfielder with a .751 OPS for Minny last year.

SS Marcus Semien
RF Stephen Piscotty
1B Matt Olsen
DH Khris Davis
3B Matt Chapman
2B Jurickson Profar
LF Mark Canha
CF Ramon Laureano
C Nick Hundley

Mike Fiers (R)
Marco Estrada (R)
Brett Anderson (L)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Frankie Montas (R)

Blake Treinen (R)
Joakim Soria (R)
Fernando Rodney (R)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)
Liam Hendriks (R)

C Josh Phegley
UT Chad Pinder
OF Robbie Grossman
INF Franklin Barreto

                       Additional Information
Ballpark: Oakland Coliseum
Manager: Bob Melvin
GM: David Forst
World Series Championships: 9
2018 record: 97-65

                      Steal of the Decade
Looking for bullpen help, the Washington Nationals acquired Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from the A\’s for Blake Treinen, Jesus Luzardo and Sheldon Neuse. While Madson was ok with Washington and Doolittle is still their current closer, the return is what matters. Treinen had one of the best seasons ever for a reliever, with a 0.78 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 80.1 innings. While Luzardo and Neuse haven\’t made the MLB yet, Luzardo is Oakland\’s top prospect, and the MLB\’s top left handed pitching prospect. He can make an impact this year.

The A\’s have a decent team. But, not a great team. They aren\’t a favorite in the American League, and are apart of a race for the wild card spot.

Published by carterhud

Carterhud.com. SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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