Home Ballpark: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
2014 Finish: 88 – 74 · 2nd AL West
Over/Under Wins in 2015: 82.5 · Under
What We Love:
Starting Pitching Depth: Despite losing three starting pitchers from their 2014 rotation (Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzjia and Jason Hammel) and having one of the more mediocre batting orders in MLB, this is an A’s team that could remain in the postseason picture based on the strength of their pitching staff alone. The 2015 version of the A’s will head into battle with a starting rotation consisting of: RHP Sonny Gray, LHP Jesse Hahn, LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Kendall Graveman and LHP Drew Pomeranz. Meanwhile 2014 rotation stalwart, RHP Jesse Chavez, will open the season pitching out of the bullpen as a long reliever/spot starter. Sonny Gray is a legitimate ace in the making and looks to build off of a very successful first full season in the big leagues (14-10/3.08 ERA/183 K in 219 IP). Scott Kazmir enjoyed his first season in Oakland, making an All Star appearance and going 15-9 with a 3.55 ERA over 190 innings. Behind those two, the Athletics will lean on trio of youngsters, two of which were brought in via trades in the offseason (Graveman and Hahn) and another, who split duties between the pen and rotation last season (Pomeranz). If any of the young arms falter or if the oft injured Kazmir breaks down, the A’s have LHP Sean Nolin in AAA, and pitchers Jarrod Parker and AJ Griffin returning from Tommy John surgery at some point during the season.
- The acquisition of the Zorilla: super utilityman, Ben Zobrist, comes over to the A’s after spending nine seasons with the Rays franchise.
- The possibility of a Pat Venditte sighting: Venditte, who is an ambidextrous pitcher, was signed to a minor league deal in the offseason.
- The 70’s and 80’s throwback jerseys: Perhaps the best in MLB.
What We Hate:
Billy Beane out Billy Beane-ing himself: I want to start out by saying that this is by NO MEANS an attempt to “hate on” the A’s GM; merely a “what was/is he thinking?” piece. Similar to the Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski trading SP Doug Fister to the Nationals for a pair of LHP prospects (Ian Krol and Robbie Ray) and a utilityman (Steve Lombardozzi), sometimes GM’s over think trades/signings and wind up regretting them later.
At last season’s Trade Deadline, Beane and the A’s were the clear cut winner, when they decided to acquire ALL OF the pitching (seriously). In two separate July trades, the A’s acquired RHP Jeff Samardzjia and Jason Hammel from the Cubs in return for a pair of prospects (SS Addison Russell, CF Billy McKinley) and a pitcher (Dan Straily), then they picked up LHP Jon Lester and OF Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox in exchange for OF Yoenis Cespedes. In making those trades, the A’s were banking on making the World Series on the strength of their pitching staff.
Unfortunately what the A’s weren’t expecting was for their offense to completely dry up once they traded Cespedes. The A’s struggled down the stretch, lost the West to the Angels, and were bounced by the Royals in a (memorable) Wild Card game. So clearly, you would believe that Beane would be shopping for offense in the offseason? Nope. It was quite the opposite actually.
After signing free agent 1B/DH Billy Butler in late November, the A’s stunned their fans and players by trading 3B Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays for 3B Brett Lawrie and a trio of prospects (Nolin, Graveman and Franklin Barretto). Just over a week later, Beane shipped 1B/OF Brandon Moss to the Indians for a prospect (Joe Wendle). For a team that struggled to score, it was a bit of a head scratcher to see the A’s trade their two biggest run producers. Beane wasn’t done there though. The following day after trading Moss, Beane sent Samardzjia to the White Sox for a handful of prospects (Chris Bassist, Marcus Semien and Josh Phegley).
The A’s would then take a week off before making their next deal, this time they sent C Derek Norris to the Padres for a pair of pitching prospects (Hahn and RJ Alvarez). I should also mention that the A’s acquired UTIL Ben Zobrist and SS Yunel Escobar from the Rays for C John Jaso and a pair of prospects (Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell), before flipping Escobar to the Nationals for RP Tyler Clippard.
With that hectic offseason, it has been hard to get a feel for what the A’s are going for this season. Despite the signing of Butler, the trades of Donaldson, Moss and Samardzjia, made it appear that a rebuild was about to take place. Yet the acquisitions of Zobrist and Clippard make it seem that the A’s are at least going to be competitive.
- Lack of power in the lineup: Will anyone hit more than 20 HR in this lineup? Only three players penciled into the starting lineup have had a season of 25+ HR (Billy Butler, Ike Davis and Josh Reddick) and none of them have done it more than once.
- Everything about the Oakland Coliseum: An aging, decrepit stadium that features the second lowest seating in MLB and a penchant for sewage flooding. Sounds like a great fan experience!
- Catching depth: The A’s had three catchers on their roster in 2014 (John Jaso, Derek Norris and Stephen Vogt). This season only one of the three remains (Vogt).
- Coco Crisp’s injured elbow: The 35yr old CF will miss the first two months of the season after reportedly needing surgery on his elbow. Crisp’s injury, adds more offensive woe to a lineup that was already looking to struggle putting up runs.
Player to Watch: SP Sonny Gray. Gray had a fantastic first full season in the majors in 2014. The diminutive starter used his mid 90’s fastball and filthy curveball to strikeout 183 batters and notch 14 wins a year ago. Last season, Gray made 33 starts and pitched 219 innings for the Athletics. This season, he is the de facto ace of this pitching staff and could be in line to surpass his numbers from a year ago.
Top Pitching Prospect: Dillon Overton · LHP · MLB ETA: 2017
Top Positional Prospect: Matt Olson · 1B · MLB ETA: 2016
Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=oak
Final Prediction: 3rd AL West