A's In 2012: Changes In the Outfield?

With the World Series now officially behind us, we can turn our attention to the offseason. The A’s, a team that failed to impress in 2011, head into the offseason with several question marks regarding their status in the outfield for 2012.

Oakland is expected to lose outfielders David DeJesus, Coco Crisp, and Josh Willingham this offseason. While both Crisp and Willingham could return, their days in Oakland appear to be numbered. Both Crisp and Willingham should generate some interest this offseason, especially Willingham, who set career highs in home runs (29) and RBIs (98).

The A’s, who are still waiting for MLB’s decision regarding their request for a new stadium in San Jose, are likely going to enter the offseason with a strict financial budget. Until MLB releases their decision about Oakland’s proposed stadium, that is.

If Oakland is granted permission to “invade” the Giants’ territory in San Jose, it’s expected the team will cut back on free agent spending in order to turn their focus on beefing up their farm system. If the A’s fail, however, to gain approval from MLB, it’s expected the team will actually increase spending as a way to make the franchise more appealing to future buyers.

Despite all of this uncertainty surrounding the A’s stadium situation, one thing appears to be certain: the team’s starting outfield will look much different in 2012. Oakland, even with an increased budget, will likely lose Willingham this offseason. 

The departure of these veteran guys, however, opens the door for the younger guys looking to establish themselves on the big league level. For a guy like OF Michael Taylor playing time isn’t really available, but if Willingham, Crisp, and DeJesus all leave Oakland, the young player could find himself starting in 2012.

Newly appointed manager Bob Melvin underused Taylor during the final month of the season, which resulted in a poor offensive showing for Taylor. The small sample size resulted in a .200/.314/.300 slash line from Taylor. Taylor is considered to have the potential to be something pretty special for the A’s, but he’ll need his share of at-bats in order to put his talents on display.

The A’s also have Ryan Sweeney to consider as well. Sweeney, who lost his starting job this season after the A’s acquired DeJesus and Willingham, is a candidate to start in Oakland’s outfield next year. He doesn’t offer much power, something the A’s desperately need, but he usually posts a pretty solid batting average. In 264 at-bats (108 games) this year, Sweeney hit .265/.346/.341 with a home run and 25 RBIs. His defense isn’t too shabby either.

Don’t forget about Chris Carter. Many view Carter best suited as a designated-hitter or as a first-baseman, but he’s played in the outfield as well. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Carter’s career, as he was once viewed as Oakland’s best young prospect. His future, as of now, remains shady at best. The A’s still like the kid, but his future is still undecided. It should be noted, however, that the A’s started Carter in 11 games (out of 15) at first base.

One of the guys many people are excited to see is Michael Choice. The former 2010 first-round pick is a solid young prospect with a lot of potential as a big league hitter. He’s, in my mind, at least, Oakland’s best young hitter and should make his way onto the scene in another year or two. Nathaniel Stoltz and the rest of the staff at FanSided’s minor league site, SeedlingstoStars.com, discuss Choice’s skills as well as potential as a big league hitter. It’s a great read worth checking out. He’s currently ranked #70 out of 100 in the site’s Top 100 prospects for 2012.

Overall, a lot of changes are in store for the A’s this offseason. Part of me hopes the team is able to hang onto Willingham, and possibly even Crisp for the 2012 season. But another part of me wants them to go so that the younger guys can have a chance to prove themselves. It’ll be interesting…



Tags: 2012 AL West A's AL AL West Baseball A's Chris Carter Coco Crisp David DeJesus FanSided Josh Willingham Michael Choice Michael Taylor MLB Oakland A's Oakland Athletics Ryan Sweeney Seedlings To Stars

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