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2017 AL West division preview: Know your division rival - The Oakland Athletics

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How does the Billy Beanne assembled team look for the 2017 season. Should Angels fans be worried?

MLB: Spring Training-Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Indians Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Thankfully, the Angels don’t have to face the guy on the right in the above picture. I mean sure, Maldanado and Perez are some of the best in the AL at throwing out runners, but Ricky Henderson? Let’s take a look at how the A’s shape up for 2017 and check in to see if they have any Ricky-like players in their ranks.

Who are they?

People who don’t know baseball, know the A’s as the lovable team of patchwork players weaved together by Brad Pitt in Moneyball. People who DO know baseball know that the A’s are the hapless losers who often are the tail end of the AL West and were unstoppable in the early 70s. But this isn’t the early 70s anymore and the A’s have finished more than 20 games out of first place 5 times since 2008. Eternal GM Billy Beane has never met a player he wouldn’t trade and keeping track of who’s in and who’s out on the squad is a full time job.

Were they good last year?

Hahhahaha. Oh wait. Serious topic. Answer: No. However, sadly, the Angels battled the A’s for the cellar dweller award a few times over the course of 2016. In the end, the Angels finished 5 games ahead of the A’s and the A’s failed to win 70 games for the second straight season. They didn’t have a single regular who hit over .290 and they had the fewest runs scored and OPS in the American League. Their pitching staff didn’t fare much better with a league leading ERA and home runs allowed and closer Ryan Madson blew 7 of his 37 save opportunities. They did get a good partial year out of Rich Hill before Beane sent him to the Dodgers.

What are their strength(s)?

This is a tough once since there’s not much that stands out here. Khris Davis hit 42 home runs in 2016 so that gives them some pop in the 4 hole. They also have some good young pitching candidates in Sean Manea, Jharel Cotton, Daniel Mengden, and Frankie Montas. Ryan Dull was the best pitcher the A’s had outside of Ryan Hill an he will be back. Last year, Dull had a 2.42 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 74.1 IP.

If having good Hall of Famers counts as a strength, they’ve got that going for them as well :)

What are their weakness(es)?

Weaknesses are a bit easier to pinpoint for the A’s. Their outfield after Khris Davis was filled with the aging (and Halos Heaven punching bag) Matt Joyce and Rajai Davis. Both are coming off pretty good seasons, but there’s also a good chance neither of them lives up to the 2016 campaigns.

While their pitching staff is young, it may not be fully matured and expectations are hard to nail down for them. Sonny Gray is the ace of the staff, but he will have to bounce back from a very disappointing 2016 and he’s currently out with a lat strain. Closer Ryan Madson has some question marks as well since he’ll be turning 37 during the season and blew his shares of saves last year.

What can we expect in 2017?

The A’s were pretty active in the off season but didn’t really make a huge impact on their bottom line. We can expect more more bombs from Khris Davis (42 last year) and Marcus Semiem (27 last year). We can also expect to see some rookie call ups as the A’s have plenty of those. If Sonny Gray and Steven Vogt perform well, don’t be surprised to see them flipped at the deadline. The A’s did bolster their bullpen a bit with the acquisition of Santiago Casilla and Sean Doolittle should be solid for them once again.

Rajai Davis will bring an injection of speed into the lineup and newly acquired Trevor Plouffe brings a steady and solid presence at third base which was lacking in 2016.

Once again, the A’s should land at the bottom of the division and probably end up with around 70 wins.

Most accurate representation of the team in gif form: