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Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 Oakland Athletics team preview

2009 Record: 75-87   .463

Run Differential: -2

Everyone knew the A's were in full rebuilding mode after trading away rotation stalwarts Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, and Rich Harden in 2008. So when Billy Beane pulled the trigger to acquire Matt Holliday in the last year of his contract the baseball world was in shock.  Beane sent Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Smith, and Huston Street to Colorado in exchange for the Rockies top player.  Holliday was to be the missing piece for offense as the A's attempted to reclaim their position atop the American League West.  But like most bold moves this one failed.   Injuries and an inept offense were the main culprit but it clearly wasn't the pitching staff's fault.  Players who lost significant time due to injury were: Justin Duchscherer, Joey Devine, Eric Chavez, Mark Ellis, and Jason Giambi.  Key offensive contributors Jack Cust and Giambi proved they are now similar players--each incapable of playing defense--who can no longer be counted on to hit for average and whose power is inconsistent at best.  Matt Holliday got off to an awful start not helping matters.  By the time he got going it was too late and he was flipped to St. Louis for hot prospect Brett Wallace.  The good was found in the young pitching. Rookie Brett Anderson struck out 150 batters in 175 innings while posting a 4.06 ERA, delighting not only A's fans but also management.  After closer Joey Devine blew out his elbow in April, the closer's job was up for grabs.  Another rookie, Andrew Bailey, eventually won the job and American League Rookie of the Year honors.  The bullpen as a whole turned out to be very good giving Oakland a young, cheap, reliable portion of their squad to rely upon in 2010.
So, after last season's failure to develop into a contender, Beane would admit the team's not ready and continue the rebuilding process, right?
Think again. The 2010 A's know a sorry offense can't offset good pitching leading me to believe they are banking on having a great defense.  In the offseason Beane traded outfielder Scott Hairston and young pitcher Sean Gallagher to San Diego for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.  Coco Crisp was signed to provide elite defense in center field, while Jake Fox and Adam Rosales were acquired to strengthen other weaknesses (Fox for offense, Rosales for a decent hitting RH shortstop).   But the big move, the one that shows Beane is now a gambling man, was the signing of free-agent pitcher Ben Sheets.  Sheets missed the entire 2009 season after suffering a biceps tendon injury late in 2008.  Though his contract is a big one, many scouts believe the year off was good for Sheets since it should theoretically have allowed all his little nagging injuries to fully heal.  If this signing works out Oakland finds themselves in a no-lose situation. Sheets will either help lead them to the promised land or someone else though he won't come for free.  Other things to look forward to are the continued emergence of young players like Daric Barton, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and the bullpen. This is a team where if everything breaks right, they'll not only be in the playoffs, they'll be the team no one wants to face.  In the end I just don't think the offense is ready but I'll happily admit I'm wrong if it is.

If he's healthy one of two things will happen: 1) He'll help 
lead Oakland to the playoffs or 2) He'll net the A's
prospect/picks by leaving as a FA/trade. Nice signing.

Likely Opening Day Roster:
My Two Cents
Kurt Suzuki
Increased his SLG by .050 last season but his walks went from 44 to 28.  My favorite A.
Landon Powell
Finally got in decent enough shape for the A's to take him seriously. Is a pretty decent backup
Daric Barton
If he puts it all together don't expect many home runs.  50 doubles could happen though.
Mark Ellis
Definitely labeled as injury prone these days but still plays good D. Likely last season in Oak
Kevin Kouzmanoff
Leaving Petco for Oakland may not seem like a gain but I expect people to notice his power now
Cliff Pennington
A solid backup infielder who will be forced to start.  Could Oak platoon him and Rosales?
Rajai Davis
Who saw this coming? .305 avg with 41 SB on the A's?  It probably won't happen again
Coco Crisp
Missed most of last season with injuries. Oakland expects .350 OBP with gold glove D
Ryan Sweeney
Only 12 HR in 948 career at bats and his OBP is about .330. Plays everyday because of great D
Jake Fox
Doesn't play defense, doesn't run well, doesn't walk. All he does is rake.
Adam Rosales
The A's liked him enough that when they traded for him they agreed to take Willy Taveras, too
Gabe Gross
Good defender can hit with medium power but lack of contact in '09 is worrisome
Jack Cust
This will be his last season in Oakland as his peak is over. It was fun while it lasted
Ben Sheets
O's have good OF defense but hitters park likely spells doom for this guy
Justin Duchscherer
Injured last season with elbow soreness and later clinical depression. A duplication of '08 = $$$
Brett Anderson
 Increased velocity on his fastball have changed expectations from good to consistent All-Star
Dallas Braden
Although he doesn't use it much, is the proud owner of an effective screwball 
Trevor Cahill
Walk and strikeout rates need to improve if he's to be successful.  Good news is he's only 22
Andrew Bailey
Last year's AL Rookie of the year, should be a very good closer for a while 
Michael  Wuertz
Swiped from under the noses of the Cubs organization, delivered 0.95  WHIP in 78 IP
Brad Zeigler
Side-arming righty had another nice season. Not a disappointment even though he lost closer job
Joey Devine
Missed last season due to TJ surgery but should be OK for opening day. All-Star talent
Jerry Blevins
Throws hard but lack of consistent breaking ball prevent him from becoming LOOGY. 
Craig Breslow
Journey man free agent had career year.  Don't expect a repeat but should still be good
Brad Kilby
Was last year for real?  Gets a chance to prove himself as last man on roster.
DL: Eric Chavez - I think he'll either be placed on the DL or released. Sad.

Say Hello To: Ben Sheets, Jake Fox, Coco Crisp, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Adam Rosales, Gabe Gross, Dallas McPherson, Jason Jennings, Brett Tomko, Michael Taylor

Wave Goodbye: Adam Kennedy, Bobby Crosby, Santiago Casilla, Scott Hairston, Aaron Cunningham, Nomar Garciaparra, Tommy Everidge, Jeff Gray, Jay Marshall, Dana Eveland, Brett Wallace

Rookies: Michael Taylor - Swapped for Brett Wallace in the offseason, should see the bigs next season and could become a 30-20 player.

Potential Breakout: Daric Barton - Why can't he turn into Wally Joyner?

Welcome to Earth:  Rajai Davis - There were never hints he could do what he did last season.  The speed and baserunning are real but Coco Crisp was brought in to take his place in center. I guess the A's agree with me here.

Likely to Rebound: Trevor Cahill - I believe he'll improve upon his walk rates from last season which should enable him to make strides in his overall effectiveness.

Top 3 players: Brett Anderson, Ben Sheets, Kurt Suzuki

Top Prospect: Michael Ynoa - 17 years old. Largest international signing bonus ever. Has never thrown a pitch in a professional setting. A's are still believers he'll be great.

Prediction: 79-83  3rd place AL West
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