2018: 97-67, 2nd in AL West, lost in AL wild card game to New York Yankees
The Oakland Athletics. You know, the team that assembles a team of misfit toys, shrewd trades and the occasional elite prospect to ascend to under-the-radar brilliance on a 2018 opening day payroll less than half of that of the Angels’? Yeah, them.
Were they even good last year?
Certainly. While an extensive injury list to the rotation forced them to roll with a ragtag team of musketeers, the impact was offset by a terrific defense and a strong bullpen. Matt Chapman proved himself to be the real deal, and Jed Lowrie lambasted his peers with a five-win season. Khris Davis, Matt Olson, and Stephen Piscotty provided all-important thump, and Blake Treinen is consistently nasty. Still, the team shouldn’t have been nearly as incredible as they were last year, as everything went right and little went wrong.
What did they do this offseason?
Losing Jed Lowrie, Kendall Graveman, Shawn Kelley, Familia, Emilio Pagan, and Trevor Cahill is quite the blow to the squad’s talent base, and the plethora of buy-low candidates in Marco Estrada, Robbie Grossman, and Jerry Blevins isn’t nearly enough to fill the gap. Oakland’s hallmark trade for this winter was acquiring former top-prospect Jurickson Profar from Texas, who is somehow just 26 years old and posted 2.9 fWAR last season, a nice Lowrie replacement if performance holds. Joakim Soria helps replace relief pieces who didn’t return to the organization. Nick Hundley is a fine yet underwhelming seasoned catching addition on a minors deal.
2019 Projected Lineup
Stats and info courtesy of FanGraphs
The heart of the A’s lineup is stacked with power, no doubt, but it’s the getting on-base that could be a problem without Jed Lowrie. Surely, Piscotty or Profar will step up to fill the role but I’m skeptical such large shoes can be filled. This is a nice lineup overall, though the bottom has much to be desired — keep in mind that this will be improved through use of platoons.
Not a lot of confidence to be inspired in these pitchers whose best days have been had long before. The A’s are banking on defense and large AL West parks to outperform their pitchers’ true talent level and have starters produce enough volume to be competitive. Furthermore, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, and Jesus Luzardo are all on the shelf, three MLB-quality starters. Top prospect A.J. Puk isn’t on the roster, either.
Treinen has the ability to wipe out the best of hitters. We all know how good Joakim Soria is. Liam Hendricks and Lou Trivino have found considerable success, and Buchter presents a unique look from the left side. Old friend Yusmeiro Petit is still at it with his deception, too. This is an okay group as a whole, but it’s nothing special and the additions aren’t nearly enough to make up for the talent that was lost this offseason. If their starters can’t go three times through the order, they could be in big trouble this season.
What is their strength?
Defense, defense, defense. Matt Chapman is a stalwart on the left side, as is Matt Olson at the opposite corner. Marcus Semien improved considerably last season (9 DRS, 8.3 UZR), an incredible plus considering poor defensive ability nearly derailed his career before it even took off.
What is their weakness?
Starting rotation depth definitely exists, but is lacking in talent. Jesus Luzardo has the tools to be one of the better starters in the league and Manaea has shown flashes, but the rest of the group leaves much to be desired in aggregate. It may not hurt the A’s so much in their home ballpark, but it will be exposed in road games against the Astros. Furthermore, I am not convinced the team has the necessary table-setters it needs to win games by considerable margins, despite packing a punch with the long-ball.
So, what can we expect?
I expect an A’s team with their typical modus operandi. They’re going to scratch and claw and fight in every game, and make it close. It’s what they do, and it’s what they’ve always done. But there’s little doubt that the team massively overperformed last year, and hasn’t done nearly enough to add more talent to offset that which was lost. I see a third-place finish for the A’s in the 84-88 win range, and definitely threatening for playoff time in September.
What’s the most accurate song representation for this team?
Goofy Goober Rock from the Spongebob Squarepants movie, because they simply don’t know how to quit.