2019 Team Preview #14: Oakland Athletics

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On to the preview!

Last Year

2018 Record: 72-90, 4th Place AL West, 30 Games Back.

The 2018 was pretty underwhelming for the A’s and their fans. They had hoped that having spent the preceding off-season making solid additions and gaining experience for their younger core, they could make a step up to the next level and compete for the post-season. It wasn’t meant to be as they found themselves quickly buried in the West, finishing 25+ games back for the 5th straight season. Will history repeat itself in 2019, or is this the year things start to come together?

Key Additions

SP Juan Oramas (MIN via Trade)
1B Ike Davis (FA)
C Joe Mauer (FA)
RP Sammy Conner (FA)
C Steve Clevenger (FA)
RF Avery Barnes (LAD via Trade)
CF Desmond Henry (CHW via Trade)
SP Joe Austin (TOR via Trade)
SP Carlos E. Martinez (TOR via Trade)

Key Losses

SP Matt Moore (MIN via Trade)
RP Chad Bettis (Waivers)
C Juan Carlos Estrada (LAD via Trade)
RP Shawn Kelley (FA)
1B Paul Goldschmidt (FA)
RP Mike Dunn (FA)
RP Manny Banuelos (FA)
RP Derek Law (CHW via Trade)
RF John Drennen (FA)
RP Trevor Rosenthal (FA)
CF Jeremy Sullivan (TOR via Trade)
RP Nick Robison (TOR via Trade)

Lineup/Rotation Projection

The A’s ran out a pretty pedestrian offense in 2018 – basically a tick below average. One would think that having dealt All-Star, Gold-Glove, Silver-Slugging CF Jeremy Sullivan would severely dimishing their prospects at the plate. That isn’t necessarily the case. The team instead used that capital to improve at a number of positions. Joe Mauer (28 2B) will be an upgrade behind the plate. Ike Davis (18 HR) should upgrade at DH. On-base machine Avery Barnes upgrades RF (.416 OBP) and while new CF Desmond Henry (.276, 25 SB) isn’t Sullivan with the bat, he provided Gold-Glove defense. Those newcomers will join holdovers Lucas Edgar in LF (22, .804 OPS, 28 SB), 3B Taylor Sparks (.289, 17 HR) and 1B William Beckwith (14 HR). Up the middle we’ll likely see a pair of glove-first 21-year-olds in 2B Luis Seda (.239 in 100 PA) and SS Edgardo Cortez (.938 OPS in A Ball)

In the rotation, the team brought in a pair of great starters to join last years Ace, Sonny Gray (15-8, 3.44 ERA). Juan Oramas (20-5, 3.35 ERA) and Carlos E. Martinez (15-7, 3.06 ERA) are both stout options in their own right. That trio will be supplemented by a trio of young arms in Jeremy Benson (22 years old, 8-15), Tyrell Jenkins (3-0 in 4 GS) and former Rays prospect Tracy Mass (3.27 ERA in AAA). Things get a bit messy in the pen where they have only 2 pitchers who threw 50+ innings in 2018, CL Jon Dixon (3.43 ERA) and Brian Edelen (4.94 ERA). It will be a group effort to get through the middle innings, but contenders to see a lot of work are Josh Edgin (8 Holds), Roberto Chavez (4.26 ERA in AAA), Tanner Peters (4.24 ERA in 23 IP) and the odd-man-out from the rotation battle.

Outlook

Honestly, I love the A’s off-season. Dealing a player like Sullivan is always a hard call, but it could be a scenario where they sold high on him. Joe Mauer should be an asset, even at 35, both in the lineup and managing the pitching staff. Barnes and Henry should capably set the table for Sparks and Davis. The rotation is also deeper, with 3 real tough starters at the top and the potential for great outings from the back-end. The pen though, is a bit of a shitshow. They went from possibly one of the leagues best closers last year, to guys that I haven’t ever heard of.

Ultimately, I think the A’s are in for a very nice bump in wins this year, but it will be that pen which keeps them from really being in the thick of the playoff hunt. They’ll be in 3rd in the AL West, at 83-79.