A’s in 2010: Team Preview

Well, it’s almost here. Opening Day is fast approaching, and I’m taking one more look at the Oakland Athletics and their chances at making some noise in the American League West in 2010. Included in the team preview are some responses from some of the most respected A’s writers/bloggers that I’ve had the chance to work with. Hopefully, you’ll find the team preview to be extremely insightful and enjoyable!

A’s Offense:

We all know about Chris Carter and Michael Taylor. And we definitely know what kind of impact they could potentially make on offense. However, what we don’t know is when the two will arrive on the big league stage. The A’s struggled last season on offense, as they hit .262/.328/.397 and scored 759 runs. The A’s were 14th on the year in OPS (.328) and 12th on the year in SLG (.397). If the A’s are to win the American League, they will have to improve upon their 2009 numbers.

However, the A’s did manage to steal 133 bases, which was good for 4th best in the AL. Rajai Davis, who saw significant playing time after the Matt Holliday trade, stole 41 bases in just 125 games. He also hit .305 for the year with 3 HR and 48 RBIs. In 2010, Davis should be able to swipe anywhere between 50-60 bases for the A’s.

In reality, though, the A’s success hinges on whether or not they can stay healthy all season long. A’s six-time Gold Glover, Eric Chavez, has made the move over to first-base after three seasons riddled with injuries. Chavez, who has managed to stay healthy all spring, will spend his final year of the six-year, $66 million contract he signed in 2004, as a utility player. If healthy, Chavez should make a positive impact on an A’s offense that managed to hit just 135 team homeruns last year.

Another impact player this year could be newly-acquired Kevin Kouzmanoff. Kouzmanoff will be the A’s new starting third-baseman, taking over for Eric Chavez. While filling the shoes of Chavez might seem like a daunting task, Kouzmanoff should do just fine over at third. Last season for the Padres, Kouzmanoff hit .255/.302/.420 with 18 HR and 88 RBIs.

The one player I’m looking forward to see playing again is Kurt Suzuki. Last season, the product of CSUF, hit .274/.313/.421 with 15 HR and a team leading 88 RBIs. Suzuki is perhaps the next best catcher after Joe Mauer. Suzuki played exceptionally well last season, despite being moved up and down Bob Geren’s lineup all season long. This season, Suzuki will be hitting in the fifth spot, and should have no trouble generating some runs.

Here’s the A’s projected Opening Day line-up:

1 CF Coco Crisp
2 LF Rajai Davis
3 RF Ryan Sweeney
4 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
5 C Kurt Suzuki
6 1B Eric Chavez
7 DH Jack Cust
8 2B Mark Ellis
9 SS Cliff Pennington

Eric Chavez will try to contribute in 2010 (Photo: Courtesy of Yardbarker.com)

Final Say:

The A’s will have to score some runs in order to keep pace with the rest of the pack in the American League West in 2010. The A’s will need solid seasons out of Ryan Sweeny, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Kurt Suzuki. If Eric Chavez proves to be healthy, he should be a very productive utility player in 2010. A’s fans, however, will be looking for Chris Carter and Michael Taylor to contribute at some point during the season. I’d expect the two to come up later in the season. Possibly if the A’s deal Crips and Sheets at the deadline.

Here are my predictions and early pre-season awards for the A’s:

Kurt Suzuki will continue his success and represent the A’s this year in the All-Star game.

Jack Cust will not hit more than 25 homers in 2010.

Rajai Davis will steal 55 bases in 2010.

Mark Ellis will hit 14 homers in 2010 (extending his five-year streak to six years)

Eric Chavez will manage to stay healthy in 2010, and will finally be able to contribute in some capacity.

Top Offensive Player in 2010: Kurt Suzuki

Most likely to surprise: Daric Barton

Most likely to disappoint: Rajai Davis

Now, here’s what Nathaniel Stoltz (A’s Featured Columnist on Bleacher Report/Padres Lead Blogger on FanSided) had to say about the A’s offense, “Offensively, I think that Barton and Pennington could surprise, Kouzmanoff improves a bit on his SD numbers, Ellis flops, Suzuki and Sweeney continue to be solid, Crisp contributes more than people would think, Davis regresses. Eric Patterson is a guy to watch if he gets playing time, and could unseat Ellis at second.  Defensively, every starter is above average except Pennington, who is about average at short. The outfield and Suzuki are the biggest standouts. I think Carter and Taylor will come up in August, after Crisp is likely traded and Cust is benched or traded. Carter could produce similarly to the Padres’ Kyle Blanks, a similar player in a similar situation last year (.250/.355/.514 in 54 games in LF after the trade deadline, with below-average but acceptable defense in left). Taylor is a bit more difficult to project, but I see him being a solid hitter by August as well. He’s also a plus defender in left. Down the line, they could be a fearsome middle-of-the-lineup combo.”

A’s Pitching:

Pitching seems to always be the strength of the A’s, and this year is no different. The A’s put a lot of pressure last year on their young pitching staff, and as a result finished in last place of the American League West. Their young pitching experienced their share of up’s and down’s, but in 2010, the A’s should boast a pretty impressive starting rotation. A’s GM, Billy Beane, finally brought on board an established ace in Ben Sheets (at the price of $10 million). Sheets will lead a rotation that also includes Justin Duchscherer, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill.

Health, however, is a big question for the A’s ace. If Sheets is healthy, the A’s rotation is among the best in the American League. Sheets is a four-time NL All-Star, who has compiled an 86-83 record and a career ERA of 3.72. He’ll probably be a little rusty to start the season, but he should come around as the season progresses. While many writers/bloggers are saying Sheets is this year’s Matt Holliday, you never really know what Billy Beane is going to do.

But aside from Sheets, I think Brett Anderson is going to be the A’s most reliable starter in 2010.

Anderson was quite the surprise in the second half of 2009. He opened up the month of July with a complete game shutout in Boston against the Red Sox. In that game, Anderson showed flashes of his potential as a big-league starter. So without question, Anderson was the A’s most intriguing rookie-starter. Despite stumbling out of the gates (5.46 ERA in first 3-months), Anderson rebounded and pitched dominantly in the second half (2.93 ERA). Anderson’s most impressive month was in fact July when he went 2-1 in five starts. He raked up the K’s with a 33K/9BB ratio, and had an ERA of 1.87 in July. Anderson’s strong second half is clearly an indication of his big-league potential. Anderson’s K/BB ratio during the season was an impressive 150/45. Despite all of his success, Anderson only wound up with 11 wins—thanks to his anemic offensive cast. In 2010, however, Anderson should build upon his strong rookie campaign and emerge as a top-10 pitcher in the MLB.

Here’s a look at the A’s projected rotation in 2010:

Dallas Braden should win 10 games in 2010 (Photo: Courtesy of Yardbarker.com)

1   RHP   Ben Sheets

2   LHP   Dallas Braden

3   RHP   Justin Duchscherer

4   LHP   Brett Anderson

5   RHP   Trevor Cahill

The A’s starting rotation should be pretty solid if they manage to stay healthy. Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer are two proven All-Stars who should be able to take some of the pressure off guys like Anderson and Cahill. In short, the A’s success this year will hinge on how well the A’s staff performs.

The A’s bullpen, however, will be the A’s biggest strength heading into 2010. 2009 ROY, Andrew Bailey leads a staff that includes Michael Wuertz, Craig Breslow and newly-acquired Chad Gaudin, among others. Make no mistake, the A’s have one of the most effective bullpens in the American League. Here’s a look at the A’s projected bullpen:

CL RHP Andrew Bailey
SU RHP Brad Ziegler
SU LHP Craig Breslow
SU LHP Brad Kilby
MI RHP Chad Gaudin
MI RHP Edwar Ramirez
MI LHP Jeremy Blevins

Predictions/Pre-Season Awards:

Brett Anderson & Trevor Cahill will combine to win 25 games in 2010.

Ben Sheets will win more than 10 games in 2010.

The A’s bullpen will lead the league in strikeouts in 2010.

Andrew Bailey will save 30+ games in 2010.

Nathaniel Stoltz had this to say about the A’s pitching, “like Anderson and Gonzalez on the pitching staff, along with basically the entire bullpen.”

Robert Slye Jr., an A’s Featured Columnist on Bleacher Report, had this to say about Ben Sheets, “I think Sheets will spend the first month to month and a half shaking off the rust of having not pitched since 2008. His numbers up until that point will be mediocre with maybe one or two really good outings as a flash as to why the A’s signed him. After May, Sheets will be back to his outstanding self and have other teams foaming at the mouth hoping to acquire him before the trade deadline.”

He also wrote that Brett Anderson is due for a breakout season, “Anderson is a special pitcher. One game this Spring, Ray Fosse was sure Anderson will win a Cy Young Award. I think Anderson will continue to develop this year, maybe gain all-star consideration, but it will be 2011 when Anderson starts regularly getting Cy Young consideration.”

A’s in 2010:

The A’s will have to rely on solid pitching and near-perfect defense in order to make some noise in the AL West. Personally, I see the A’s missing out on the playoffs for a fourth-straight year, but I know that they’re getting closer to becoming perennial contenders again. I see the team finishing third, just ahead of the Texas Rangers. I picked Seattle to take the division in 2010, meaning that the Halos’ reign in the AL West is just about over. I feel that the Mariners, A’s and Rangers have improved and that the AL West should be the toughest division in 2010. I see the A’s winning anywhere between 82-85 games in 2010.

In addition to my own prediction, Robert Slye Jr., had this to say about the A’s chances in 2010, “I’m gonna say 85-77 will be the A’s record this year. There’s going to be substantial improvement, but the A’s won’t be playoff contenders until they get some serious threats in their line-up. In a talented AL West division 85-77 will get the A’s a third place finish.”

Well, there you have it. The A’s team preview is finally complete! Feel free to leave comments, whether you agree or disagree with me. Thanks again for all your support this month! Let’s Go A’s!

Topics: 2010, Andrew Bailey, Ben Sheets, Brad Kilby, Brad Zeigler, Brett Anderson, Chad Gaudin, Cliff Pennington, Coco Crisp, Craig Breslow, Dallas Braden, Eric Chavez, Fantasy, Jack Cust, Justin Duchscherer, Kurt Suzuki, Mark Ellis, MLB, Oakland Athletics, Opening Day, Prediction, Preview, Projection, Rajai Davis, Ryan Sweeney, Spring Training, Team, Trevor Cahill

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