Dan and Chip are taking a look at the Astros’ AL West competition over the next several days. Last week, Dan started things off with the Mariners. Today, Chip takes a look at the Athletics’ chances against a toughening western division.
Oakland A’s. Entering their 49th season in Oakland.
2016 Record. 69-93, 5th in the AL West
Last Playoff Appearance. 2014.
World Series Appearances/Wins. 6/4. Last appearance 1990.
Best Franchise Season. 104-58 (1988)
Worst Franchise Season. 54-108 (1979).
Manager. Bob Melvin. Entering 6th full season with A’s (462-447)
GM. David Forst, 17th year with A’s, second as GM.
2016 Payroll (from spotrac). $61.4 million (27th in MLB).
2017 Payroll (projected by spotrac). $73.1 million (27th).
2016 Offense. 653 Runs (15th in AL), 169 HRs (12th), 50 SB (14th), .246 BA (14th), .699 OPS (15th)
2016 Starting Pitching. 4.51 ERA (14th), 1.34 WHIP (9th), 464 BBs (9th best), 1188 Ks (13th), .263 BAA (13th best), .744 OPS against (9th)
2016 Bullpen. 4.01 ERA (10th), 1.27 WHIP (6th), 42 Saves (10th), 23 Blown Saves (3rd most), .245 BA against (7th) .694 OPS against (6th)
While the A’s appear to be mired in a rebuilding stretch, the organization should never be counted out of reach of competing as long as Billy Beane is around. But it’s difficult to place the team higher than the cellar with an ever-strengthening division at hand. But bless their hearts, Beane, Forst and Melvin will have their work cut out for them if they want to even sniff 70 wins, much less contend.
Infield. The Athletics had the worst fWAR in all of MLB in 2016, and between poor base running and fielding, 2017 doesn’t appear to yield much improvement there. Essentially, the left side of the infield (3B Ryon Healy and SS Marcus Semien(.238/.435/.735) could help determine the success of failure of the A’s season. The A’s know what they’ve got in 1B Yonder Alonso and 2B Jed Lowrie, a former Astros’ player who has not played a full season since 2013.
Outfield. You think the Astros’ have had an interesting list of no names, resurrection projects and revolving door? Try Jake Smolinski, Brett Eibner and Matt Joyce. But the signing of Rajai Davis for CF last month may be a game-changer for the A’s in the OF. This is the depth chart as it stands now, but Melvin is quite certain to juggle, flip and platoon his way to multiple OF assignments before the start of the season. the likelihood of any of those three lasting the season is small. Khris Davis may see some time in LF, but he is seemingly headed for most of his time at DH. See below.
DH and C. Khris Davis (.247/.524/.831) will serve as DH for the A’s. He had a career year in ’16 with 42 HRs and 102 RBI. Steven Vogt is a decent bat, but horrible catcher and he could be pushed by NRIs Bruce Maxwell and Josh Phegley.
Starting Rotation. The rotation may rise and fall on the success of RHP Sonny Gray‘s effort to return from an injury-plagued 2016. If he’s back to his 2015 All Star form, he could once again be dangerous. LHP Sean Manaea could eventually surpass Gray at some point as the team’s ace and very well could be poised for a breakout season after making his debut last April. Kendall Graveman will eat plenty of innings and Jahrel Cotton and Andrew Triggs will fill out the rotation.
The ‘Pen. There isn’t star quality here, but the A’s should be solid with closer Ryan Madson leading the way. Santiago Casilla, who was originally signed by the A’s in 2000 but spent the last seven years in San Francisco, is back in an A’s uniform at 36 and should help solidify the pen.
Prognosis. It will likely be another long year and the A’s will likely be the first team out of the AL West race. A Gray rebound and some quality seasons from players like Rajai Davis and Healy could soften the blow of an otherwise cellar-dwelling season. Projection: 65-97.