A's Look to Surprise in '10

Can Chavez contribute in 2010? (Photo: Courtesy of Yardbarker.com)

Without any big bats in their lineup, can the Oakland Athletics make noise in a very competitive American League West?

Probably not. But since I’m an A’s writer, and a fan, I’ll be a little biased in this post. Last season, the A’s acquired slugger Matt Holliday in a trade that sent Huston Street, Greg Smith and Carlos Gonzalez to Colorado.  The trade in my mind seemed okay at first. However, after further evaluation, the A’s didn’t get much out of Holliday to make the deal a win for the A’s. The A’s last season decided to try and contend while rebuilding; needless to say, it did not work out.

The A’s struggled immensely during the first half, despite having Holliday and Jason Giambi in the lineup. After the disappointing first half, the A’s turned it up a notch; coincidentally after they traded away slugger Holliday, and released Giambi.

Throughout the second half, the A’s looked like an entirely different team. They actually stole some bases and learned to “manufacture” runs. They definitely did not look like the “Moneyball” teams of the early 2000’s. No longer did they rely on the two-run homer. The reason for this change of philosophy is simple: they no longer could wait for the two-run homer.

During their aggressive second half, the A’s managed to play .500 ball and finished the month of September with a record of 17-10. Their strong finish last season still has me convinced that they’ll be a contender in the near future.

Unlike last season, the A’s will not feature star sluggers like Holliday or Giambi. No, instead they’ll feature speedy guys like Rajai Davis (41 stolen bases in ’09) and Coco Crisp. And while the A’s are considered an anemic offensive club, they still might be able to generate enough runs to keep up with the Mariners and Angels.

Eric Chavez, who enters the last year of his six-year contract, appears to  be healthy and that’s definitely good news for the A’s. Expected to fulfill the role of utility player, Chavez should be able to see enough at-bats to contribute on a consistent level (that’s if he’s healthy).

Jack Cust, who led the A’s last season in HR with 25, should be a safe bet to hit 20 bombs again in 2010. However, I wouldn’t expect to see more than 25 out of Cust in 2010, since his numbers have been on the decline recently.

The A’s could also see a power boost from new 3B, Kevin Kouzmanoff, who was acquired via trade with the San Diego Padres. Kouzmanoff, who hit 18 HR and drove in 88 runs last year, should produce similar numbers this year for Oakland.

And who could forget about Kurt Suzuki? Suzuki was unbelievable last season, considering it was just his second-full season in the big leagues. Considered a cornerstone of the 2010 squad, Suzuki should come close to repeating his numbers of 2009 (15 HR, 88 RBIs). Suzuki is expected to hit fifth in the A’s lineup this year.

And while the A’s may not be ready to contend in 2010, they still have enough talent to surprise a few people this year. A strong, young pitching staff should only get better this year and a strong bullpen should close out tight games. Like I’ve been saying all spring, the A’s may not have the best offense around, but they sure have a lot of pitching. And pitching wins games in the long run.

Tags: 2010 Angels Brett Anderson Bullpen Coco Crips Eric Chavez Fantasy Jack Cust Kevin Kouzmanoff Kurt Suzuki Mariners MLB Oakland Athletics Padres Pitching Preview Projection Rajai Davis Rotation Trade

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