As I have previously stated, I don’t think the Rangers are going to win the division this year. That statement has as much to do with how good I think the A’s will be as it does with anything the Rangers have going on. I think the A’s, despite not being a very flashy group of players, have what it takes to win over 90 and take the divisional crown from Texas yet again.
Usually I start with the hitters, but the A’s have, of late, been all about their young starting pitchers, so let’s just start with them. Like the Cardinals and the Rays, the A’s seem to have planted a field of young starting pitching, and the crops have been good the last couple of years. In 2012, they debuted Jarrod Parker (pictured at the top of this post), A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily (OK parker did make one start for the Diamondbacks in 2011, but that barely counts). Tommy Millone made five starts in Washington in 2011 before joining the A’s in 2012. Last year, they debuted their next big thing, Sonny Gray, who put up a 2.67 ERA in 10 starts. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s five very young, very solid starting pitchers that have been in the rotation now for at least two years. These are all guys that have shown they can win, and should be in someone’s rotation every fifth day. Unfortunately, they have been hit with some injuries this spring. Parker is headed for what will be his second Tommy John surgery, so I guess we’ll see him in 2015 sometime. Griffin, meanwhile, will miss a few weeks with some tendinitis. Tack on some time to get back into game shape, and we should see him around May sometime.
The youth in the rotation makes this off-season’s signing of Scott Kazmir to a two year, $22MM deal a little puzzling. I understood why they kept Bartolo Colon around after last year. A, he was very good, but most importantly, it’s important to have a veteran presence when you have a bunch of rookies and sophomores in your rotation. I feel like signing Kazmir is a waste of money for this team. Kazmir had a very nice bounce back year last year, after losing a couple of years to injury and ineffectiveness, but are they really investing their resources (of which they famously don’t have much) in a broken down lefty when they have five guys ready to go, most with at least two full years in the bigs? Of course, now with all the imjuries, they’ll need Kazmir and someone else to boot. Either way, it was an odd deal. If Kazmir pitches like he did last year, it will be fine, but I’d hate for the team to be crippled by that kind of contract if Kazmir gets hurt or regresses.
The bullpen will have at least one new face, as the A’s traded bust-on-the-verge Jemille Weeks to the Orioles for their famed fireman, Jim Johnson. Johnson racked up the saves in Baltimore the last couple of years, topping 50 in both 2012 and 2013, so he will be a welcome addition for the A’s, who lost former closer Grant Balfour to the Rays (almost the Orioles but for a bad physical). They also lost Pat Neshek (Cardinals) to free agency and traded Jerry Blevins to the Nationals, but they return some good arms to the pen from last year though, like Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle Dan Otero and Jesse Chavez. They also added Luke Greggerson and Fernando Abad via trades with the Padres and Nationals, respectively. They should be alright.
Can They Hit Too?
On paper, the A’s don’t seem to have a really intimidating lineup, but they do the small things right, which helps them boost their run production. That being said, they do have some guys that can hit the ball out of the yard. Brandon Moss had a career year in 2013, blasting 30 homers, and Yoenis Cespedes hit 26 and won the All-Star Game Home Run Derby. Josh Donaldson acted as the cleanup hitter for most of the year and hit. 301 with 24 homers, and even Coco Crisp hit 22 dingers for some reason. Josh Reddick battled injuries all year long and was limited to only 12, but he’s a guy that has hit 30 in the past, so if he can rebound, the A’s should be able to put some runs on the board in 2014.
One guy I really like on the A’s is Jed Lowrie. The former Red Sox prospect has really came into his own since joining the A’s prior to last season. He finally stayed healthy, and hit .290/.344/.446 with 45 doubles, 15 homers and 75 RBI in 2013. Jed, a shortstop, is a free agent at the end of the year and could be on the short list of guys I wouldn’t mind the Yankees taking a crack at to replace Derek Jeter. He’ll be 30 in April, so should still have a couple of prime years of production left in his system. Who knows what will happen between now and the beginning of next season, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he was the Yankees SS in 2015.
I think the Rangers are slowly slipping out of contention, but I don’t think they’re quite ready to bow out completely. The A’s, meanwhile, have a solid lineup and some of the best young pitching in the league, which I think makes them a lock to win the AL West this year. The Angels might rebound, but I don’t think they’ll be making too much of a splash. Maybe this year, Oakland finally gets another ring. They’re good enough.
On offense, you can’t go wrong with Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Jed Lowrie (premium position boosts his value) and Brandon Moss. Coco Crisp showed great value with his power surge last year, but I wouldn’t count on that happening again. Josh Reddick is definitely a candidate to bounce back to his 2012 form, so I would take a last round flyer on him.
You can’t go wrong with any of their starting pitchers, unless Kazmir’s injury history comes back to haunt them, and Jim Johnson should be among the saves leaders too. Having lot’s of A’s on your team this year won’t be a hinderance to your title hopes, that’s for sure.
Featured image courtesy of: Getty Images
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