Monday, February 8, 2010

2010 Year in Preview: Oakland Athletics

My preamble on the A's is going to be pretty short, this team was fairly pathetic last year and I don't see their fortunes changing much this year. They have a lot of young talents, and they made some small waves in free-agency during the off-season, but the talent they have is mostly raw and unproven.

2009 Record: 75-87, 22GB the Los Angeles Angels (last place, AL West)

Key Departures:
There is no one who departed who could be considered "key." Here are the names of those who left who you might recognize:
-Dana Eveland (SP) - traded to the Blue Jays for PTBNL
-Bobby Crosby (INF) - lost via free-agency to the Pirates
-Scott Hairston (OF) - traded to the Padres

Key Additions:
I can't help but just a bunch of also-rans when I look at the group of players the A's added during the off-season. Here are the bigger names and a brief thought about each.

Ben Sheets (SP) - The one thing that could keep the A's mildly competitive this year, is their starting staff. Sheets had a pretty decent year last year and if he can stay healthy, would be good for 10-15 wins. With Sheets, Duchscherer, and Anderson heading up the rotation, they have a solid 1-2-3 that could prevent extended losing streaks.

Coco Crisp (OF) - The journey continues for this guy who is playing for his 3rd different team in the past 5 years. Crisp provides some solid D, but a middle-of-the-road bat at best.

Jake Fox (INF/OF) - I was really confused when the Cubs traded this guy. Fox was a .293 hitter in 2,636 minor league plate appearances, plus he has power and can play several positions (not very well, though). At 26, he's still young and given regular playing time, I think he'll be a decent player. Apparently, he agrees with me.

Kevin Kouzmanoff (3B) - Kouz is an intriguing player who has gotten better in each of his 3 previous ML seasons. He's not gonna wow anyone by getting on base all the time, but he's a timely hitter, sporting an average of 91RBI every 162 games. One thing that really improved last year was his defense, with only 3 errors in almost 1,200 innings at third.

Talent En Route:
Oakland seems to have quite a bit of depth in their farm system despite how many rookies they've brought up over the past couple of years. Here are two of their prospects that Baseball Prospectus considers to be 5-star prospects.

Chris Carter (1B) - With Daric Barton being the guy who stands in between Carter and a ML gig, I think it we will be seeing this kid in short order. Carter has led the minors in total bases the past two seasons, he's a natural power-hitter, and has apparently reduced his strike-out rate which led Baseball Prospectus to say the following about him:

"He made impressive adjustments against more advanced pitching to close up some holes in his swing, reducing his strikeout rate as the season wore on, leaving most to believe he'll hit for average as well. Combined with a good feel for the strike zone, he could put up big numbers in all three triple-slash categories."

Michael Taylor (LF) - Like Carter, Taylor has very shallow talent in between him and a starting-gig with the A's. Taylor is a contact hitter, producing a solid average, he's very athletic, and throws well. BP calls him an unorthodox hitter, mostly because of his size, 6' 6", 250lbs. Taylor has hit well at all levels of the minors so far and mostly likely will get a chance to play at the major-league level this year.

2011 Free Agency and Salary Outlook:
The Athletics are one of the smaller market teams in MLB considering their total team salary heading into 2010 is $62.3MM. Because their team is so young, they have 1+ years of arbitration left on many of their players, and as for the other ones (Chavez, Sheets, etc), seeing them go after another year or so would not be the end of the world, especially given that Duchscherer and Anderson are really the core of your staff going forward.

The Future of the Athletics:
I'd say the future of the Athletics is bleak. They were last in attendance last year, there is talk of them being sold and/or moved to San Jose, and for as brilliant as Billy Beane is, the Athletics simply cannot consistently compete with such a low payroll. With Seattle re-tooling this off-season, and the Rangers seemingly building into a consistent contender as well, I think Oakland will continue to be the red-headed step child of the AL West.


  1. your analysis is respectable, but I would say that you don't seem knowledgeable enough about the "raw" and "unproven" depth of the organization to make such broad generalizations about the future of an organization.

  2. 2009 Record: 75-87
    2008 Record: 75-86
    2007 Record: 76-86

    I made no assessments about the future of the Athletics in terms of their prospects. In fact, I said they have "quite a bit of depth" in their farm system. The two main concerns that I would have as an A's fan would be #1) Attendence and the propect of being sold; #2) cheap management that wants to try to get by with a low payroll. Those two things combined will keep an organization on the downward track (think Padres, Pirates, Nationals, etc).

    Read the article thoroughly before you make such broad generalizations about my assessments.

  3. Any time you're dealing with an abbreviated "Year in Preview", you have to make generalizations and assumptions. I think AK is recognizing, correctly, that the As have to grow quite a bit more before they're ready to compete in the AL West.

    I'm a bit more bullish on the As, because I love Anderson and I think they have some great SP talent in Cahill and Mazzaro, and I'm still a fan of Gio even though it seems like he's been around forever (still young), but I do think you have to wonder about the impact bats in that lineup. Sure, there's a ton to love about Taylor and Chris Carter, but its completely legitimate to question the strength of the MI (esp. in 2010). Jemile Weeks is injury-prone and still quite a bit far off; Grant Green is looking at A ball to start the year; and Cliff Pennington's bat hasn't really ever shown significant thump.

    Are there reasons to be excited? Yes. The pitching staff is cool. Sheets/Anderson/Mazzaro/Duke/Cahill/Gio and Braden are a talented bunch with plenty of upside. And you have Michael I(y?)noa. But there are also plenty of holes, and Texas and Seattle are stronger than ever.

    Can't ever write off Beane, I suppose, so I'm interested to see what kind of adjustments they make going forward. Do they think they can contend in 2010? Are they shooting for 2011? Did they sign Sheets as an attempt to take advantage of a more equalized AL West, or because they got pressure from MLB to spend the revenue sharing money? I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays itself out.