A's 2012 Team Preview

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OFFENSE:

The A’s do not feature a very potent offensive unit. Bob Melvin will likely rely on what the A’s do have: speed. Along with Crisp, the A’s will likely plan on using Jemile Weeks and SS Cliff Pennington to round out their No.1-3 spots in the lineup this year. By doing this, the A’s will have an easier time “manufacturing” runs this year.

This style of offense, as most of you probably know, goes against everything we’ve read in Michael LewisMoneyball. The A’s hated stealing bases back in the day, but there are no Jason Giambi‘s, Eric Chavez‘s, or Miguel Tejada‘s to hit the home runs anymore. So, the A’s are changing things up a bit. It’s a change that the A’s are hoping will work for them in 2012.

Another glaring problem for the Athletics this year is their situation over at third base. No more Eric Chavez to handle the hot corner. In fact, since the 2006 season, the A’s haven’t had much success when it comes to their third base situation. The A’s will need to decide who will man the hot corner for them this year now that Scott Sizemore is no longer an option.

A lot of media attention will likely be focused on Cespedes, who will have to adjust to life in the major leagues after dominating in Cuba. The A’s have a lot riding on Cespedes and are hopeful that the four-year deal pans out to their liking. He’s got the kind of power the team has been trying to reel in via free agency in recent years (Adrian Beltre, Lance Berkman, anyone?), but they’re taking a huge risk with the 26-year old outfielder.

The A’s have a few guys who might provide a little pop aside from Cespedes this year, though. Among those likely “power” hitters are catcher Kurt Suzuki, who hit 14 HR last year, OF Josh Reddick, OF Seth Smith, and Ramirez, who if he completes his 50-game suspension, could make a nice impact on the green-and-gold this year.

Bottom line, Melvin will need to be extra creative this year if he wants to score runs. The A’s just don’t have many options on offense to be considered real threats to the Angels or Rangers this year.

PITCHING:

The starting rotation is headed by the dynamic duo of McCarthy and Colon. That’s a powerful combo, to say the least, isn’t it? All kidding aside, the A’s starting rotation isn’t on the same level of the Angels or Rangers this year. Beane did an excellent job at revamping his farm-system with pitching heavy talent in the likes of Parker, Peacock, Milone, and A.J. Cole, but the A’s won’t rush any of those young guys for the sake of trying to win it all in 2012.

Truth of the matter is, the A’s need to take it slow with some of their younger guys this year. 2012, in my mind, at least, should be a year of development. The team isn’t expected to contend, so why put added pressure on guys like Parker, a top prospect with an injury history, to perform early on in the big leagues? Take it slow, Beane. This inconsistency to stay true to the “youth-movement” has hurt the Athletics tremendously, but hopefully the A’s will stay the course this year.

With McCarthy and Colon taking the No.1 & No.2 spots, that leaves three-fifths of the rotation up for grabs. Melvin will likely roll out with a rotation looking like this, though: McCarthy, Colon, Milone, Tyson Ross, and Graham Godfrey. Last year’s rotation included Cahill, Gonzalez, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, and McCarthy.

The inexperience at the back-end of Oakland’s rotation just screams out at you, but the team is seemingly confident in their young hurlers. The same goes for the team’s bullpen, too. Led by Aussie closer Grant Balfour, the A’s ‘pen looks to match the rotation’s level of confidence this year. The A’s have a little more of a veteran presence in the ‘pen as Balfour and Brian Fuentes lead the pack of A’s relievers this year.

The youth-movement, however, will eventually catch up with the A’s. The rotation will likely transform once again when guys like Parker, Peacock, Sonny Gray, and A.J. Cole get more pitching experience under their belt. The ‘pen, meanwhile, will likely undergo a transformation as well, as Fautino De Los Santos looks like the team’s future closer.

The pitching will be interesting this year, but it certainly projects to be less productive than last year’s squad. I could be wrong, but the A’s will likely find it much harder to boast one of the AL’s best pitching staffs this year.

OVERALL PLACE IN THE WEST:

The A’s don’t have much of a chance this year in competing for a playoff spot out West. The Angels and Rangers are just too good and the A’s are just too plain and mediocre. That’s not to say the A’s are talent-less, it’s just that the A’s aren’t built to win this year. In a few years, though, the team may surprise a few people. Guys like Michael Choice, Grant Green, Parker, Cole, and a few others will rise up through Oakland’s farm-system and lend a helping hand to the green-and-gold…eventually. Until then, third place never tasted so good. 

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