Re-Opening Day Preview: Oakland Athletics 2012
With the Re-Opening Day of the Oakland Athletics finally here, we at BayAreaBall thought it would be good to have a little Opening Day preview for the A’s. I’ll be taking look at the roster, the pitching rotation, who you should be looking at to have a break out season, who might be disappointing, and finally some final thoughts on where the A’s will finish this year in their division and what their record may look like. So as the twitter hashtag would denote, #LEEEHHHGOOO
The Oakland Athletics will probably only go as far as Yoenis Cespedes takes them this season. That may be a lot of pressure for the newly signed Cuban Outfielder, who will replace Coco Crisp in Centerfield, but he more than seems up to the challenge. You must remember that even though Cespedes is considered a rookie by MLB standards, he has more than enough experience in international play to make him anything but a rookie. Cespedes is currently batting .333 with 1 HR, 2 RBI’s along with a 1.000 SLG%, 1.429 OPS, and .429 OBP. Needless to say seeing Cespedes face consistent MLB pitching will be the true test considering that it is a couple notches above any international pitching and will truly test his ability at adjusting once other teams have some tape on him.
Here is how the rest of the Outfield will round out.
Coco Crisp: Left Field
Josh Reddick: Right Field
Back-Up Outfielders: Jonny Gomes, Seth Smith, and Collin Cowgill.
During the off-season, the Outfield for the Athletics was a big question mark with the loss of Josh Willingham and Ryan Sweeney the outfield was in flux. But with the trading of Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, the A’s were able to get back some seemingly serviceable outfield help in the form of Reddick, Cowgill, and Smith. Then the A’s went out and signed bay area native Jonny Gomes, who will most likely battle for DH time along with platooning in the outfield. The A’s will need all the help that they can get in terms of offensive run support from their outfield and hopefully Crisp and Cespedes can provide the bulk of that pop.
Jemile Weeks is the Athletics best & most talented infielder and I don’t see a sophomore slump type of let down for the second year second baseman. Yes I know he is only hitting .125 right now but I expect that average to go up once the season truly starts and he knocks the Japanese rust off. Having Jemile and Coco Crisp at the top of the line-up may hopefully mean that under Bob Melvin the A’s will run a lot more this year even though it goes against the organizations Moneyball mantra of not giving up outs. Weeks will have to be a table setter for the A’s offense if this team has any plans of staying competitive in the now deadly AL West but if he can duplicate his rookie campaign, the A’s offense will truly benefit.
Here is how the rest of the infield shakes out:
Cliff Pennington: ShortStop
Eric Sogard: Third Base
Brandon Allen: First Base
Kurt Suzuki: Catcher
Utility Infielders: Kila Ka’aihue (1B/DH), Josh Donaldson (3B,C), Anthony Recker (C)
The A’s have had some bad luck with the infield coming into this season after losing Scott Sizemore to a season ending ACL injury and Daric Barton still being on the shelf from shoulder surgery. In particular, with Barton still out, that means that the A’s have no choice but to give Brandon Allen playing time and hopefully he can deliver on the flashes of power that he showed towards the end of last year. The one question mark will still be Cliff Pennington and his inability not to boot the ball everywhere on the infield. He was 4th in all of MLB in most errors committed with 22 and a -5.2 UZR rating at SS. Needless to say, the one big hole the A’s will have on defense will be Cliff Pennington but with no better options currently the A’s will have to make do. Then we have the situation at 3rd base where Eric Sogard aka the Harry Potter of the 3 Bag, will be getting starting duty at 3rd but Josh Donaldson will be nipping at his heels all season. Hey if the A’s need to Sogard can move over to SS and Donaldson can play 3B if Pennington decides Errors and offensive production aren’t going to be part of his repertoire.
Brandon McCarthy comes into this season as the defacto Ace of the staff. After 1 start in Japan, McCarthy is 0-0 with an ERA of 1.29, 3 K’s, & a WHIP of 0.86. The main issue for McCarthy is to be able to stay healthy even though his health track record makes that a legitimate concern. Last year, he started 25 Games while going 9-9 and throwing 170 innings with an ERA of 3.32, WHIP 1.13, 123 K’s and a Batting Average Against of .258. If the A’s are going to compete at all this year in the AL West McCarthy is going to have to be better & get to at least 13-15 wins this season. That is a reasonable goal for the Ace of the staff and very attainable if the Athletics offense can give him some run support. The other wild card for the A’s will be what they can get out of Bartolo Colon who looked really good after his first start in Japan. He threw 8 strong innings allowing 1 earned run and showed glimpses of the old Bartolo, which is what the A’s will need to get out of him this year if they plan on contending for just the wild card spot. Here is the rest of the A’s pitching staff, 11 pitchers in total:
Tommy Milone: 3rd Starter
Graham Godfrey: 4th Starter
Bullpen: Grant Balfour (Closer), Brian Fuentes (Set-up), Fautino De Los Santos (Set-Up), Ryan Cook (RHP), Jerry Blevins (LHP), Jordan Norberto (LHP), and Andrew Carignan (RHP;Rookie).
Pitchers on DL: Dallas Braden (Shoulder Strain), Joey Devine (Righ Bicep Tenditnitis), Brett Anderson (Elbow Surgery)
Grant Balfour will be the A’s closer coming into this season after being their set up man last year and is looking forward to the challenge. De Los Santos is most likely the closer in waiting but still needs to work on his control and harness his fastball. The one break out start of this rotation has probably been Tommy Milone who was acquired in the Gio Gonzlez trade and has locked up the 3rd starter role after a decent Spring Training. After just 5 major league starts under his belt from last season with the Washington Nationals, Milone will be tested early and often as the A’s number 3 starter let’s just hope he can withstand the pressure.
The 2012 Oakland Athletics literally have no expectations on them this year to compete in the stacked AL West. With the moves that the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this off-season, why should there be? For that reason alone, the A’s will come out this year and be a competitive baseball team despite Lew Wolff and John Fishers objections. They won’t be the best team but because of their youth, Jemile Weeks, and the Cuban Missle Crisis,Yoenis Cespedes, they will be fun to watch. I have no false hope that the A’s will come out and win 95-100 games this year. But I will bet that they far exceed expectations and finish the year at least 5 games over .500. Bob Melvin will have a lot to do with that and will not cost the Athletics games due to managerial decisions like Bob Geren did for the past 3 years.
Athletics Final Record: 86-76
AL West Division: Finish 3rd in division but make a late push for 2nd wild card spot & ultimately fall short.
Oh and one more thing, LET’S GO OAKLAND!!!
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