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2018 AL West division preview: The Athletics are trying to be relevant again

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The Bay Area’s favorite team to forget is trying to build around their young core

Tampa Bay Rays v Oakland Athletics Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Oakland Athletics (A’s)

Who?

The forgotten Bay area team. Billy Beane’s experiment. The team who can’t find a home. The list goes on and on. Billy Beane, has been trying to build around a young core of players which seems to be working (at least the young part). Just over half (13) of the projected 25 man roster is age 27 or younger.

Were they even good last year?

That’s like asking if kale is any good. No. The A’s lost 87 games last year and while it was an improvement from their prior two years, it hasn’t helped attendance which has steadily dropped since their 2,000,000 in 2014. Last year, the A’s had just under 1.5 million fans come through their gates. This year they are pulling out all stops (besides winning) to get fans to the game, including “Choose your ticket price” on Wednesday nights and a FREE game on April 17th.

What’d they do this offseason?

The A’s were moderately busy, after all, Billy Beane, needed something to do. They traded for Stephen Piscotty (OF) who just turned 27 and is hoping to be something closer to his 2.7 WAR form from 2016 and sent two prospects to the Cardinals in return. They also signed very capable catcher Jonathan Lucroy to a one year deal. Several moves were made to shore up their bullpen including trade for Ryan Buchter and Emilio Pagan, and the free agent signing of Yusmeiro Petit (much to many Angels fans chagrin). These moves were all good ones and definitely add to the potential of this squad.

Projected Lineup:

  1. Marcus Semiem (SS)
  2. Matt Joyce (LF)
  3. Jed Lowrie (2B)
  4. Khris Davis (DH)
  5. Matt Olson (1B)
  6. Stephen Piscotty (RF)
  7. Matt Chapman (3B)
  8. Jonathan Lucroy (C)
  9. Dustin Fowler / Boog Powell (CF)

Projected Rotation:

  1. Kendall Graveman
  2. Sean Manaea
  3. Daniel Mengden
  4. Andrew Triggs
  5. Daniel Gossett

Waiting in the wings is Paul Blackburn (forearm strain) who could have bumped Gosset from that list until he strained his forearm. Also absent is Jharel Cotton who could have made a big impact for the team this year but went down with TJ surgery.

Projected Closer:

Blake Treinen (Career 3.21 ERA in 4 seasons with 16 saves last year in 21 attempts)

What is their strength?

Being sneaky. This A’s team is better this year but we aren’t sure how much yet. They might even crack .500 for the first time in years. They’ve got youth, big bats, solid defense and some decent pitching with an improved bullpen. So far this spring, the A’s have the 6th most home runs in MLB and last year they were 5th overall.

What is their weakness?

Lack of experience. The A’s are building their core but don’t have a lot of those go-to guys on the team. The addition of Lucroy in the all important catcher spot definitely helps bolster that experience, as does Joyce and Lowrie. None of their starting pitchers are older than 29 which is bad AND a good thing (especially in the years to come), and none of them really stand out either. The team is a bit unbalanced overall with a lackluster rotation, spruced up bullpen, and a bit hit or miss through their lineup.

So, what can we expect?

The Angels were 12-7 against the A’s last year so they SHOULD account for more wins than losses again this season. Neither of the two guys (Graveman and Manea) at the top of their rotation were all that effective against the Angels in 2017 which bodes well. All that being said, the A’s have the makings to be unpredictable if their young players kick and they could play spoiler in the AL West though I would still except them to finish last. Best case scenario for them may be a .500 finish.

What’s the most accurate representation of this team, in GIF form?