In the second installment of the “How the A’s Stack Up” series, where I compare the A’s in various facets of the game to all of their AL West rivals, we’ll take a look at the heart of the order of each of the team’s projected lineups for 2013 (Thanks to the incredible MLBDepthCharts.com for the assist). Typically the Athletics would have found themselves far behind every other team in the division if this were done in years past, but this time around the A’s have some guys who can swing the bats, and it’s no coincidence that’s what helped lead to a return to prominence for the green-and-gold.
For this piece, I’ll limit the “heart of the order” to the guys projected to bat in the 3-4-5 slots in the everyday lineup. Those guys are the meat and potatoes of any well balance lineup, and without them well… you’d lose a whole heck of a lot of games.
The Angels failed to retain starter Zack Greinke, so they poured the money set aside for him into more offense. This type of strategy was perennially used by the Texas Rangers in the early 2000’s and it was rather unsuccessful. If both Pujols and Hamilton are at the top of their game, they’ll have a one-two punch perhaps only rivaled by Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder of the Detroit Tigers. Both of them are in their early 30’s now, presumably on the backside of their prime, but until they show true signs of regression they still make for the best power trio in the division along with Mark Trumbo. Make no mistake about it though, this is all about Pujols and Hamilton.
This 3 headed monster is more like a 4 headed monster with the platoon of Moss and Carter expected at first base, and it should be very potent in 2013. Yoenis Cespedes has all the potential in the world, and he showed signs of that in 2012, with a year of experience under his belt now we can expect to see big improvements in his game. It’s hard to say for sure what to expect from Brandon Moss after his breakout 2012, but the power he showed cannot be faked, it is undoubtedly legitimate. Chris Carter needs to recapture the discipline he showed shortly after his call up from Sacramento last year, he reverted to many of his old habits and now needs to prove to the A’s that it was just a slump and that he can continue to adjust. I’ve been pretty rough on Josh Reddick for his lack of production in high leverage situations, but that said he proved that he’s got some real good pop in his bat and I expect that to continue.
I’d be lying if I said I thought this was a spectacular heart of the order for the M’s, but Kyle Seager proved that he can be a solid Major League third baseman, and Jesus Montero has shown flashes of the power that made him so appealing to many teams while with the New York Yankees. Kendrys Morales is a nice pickup and should provide a significant upgrade over Justin Smoak at first base. The Mariners aren’t likely to be contenders in the AL West, but with these three they should be able to score a few more runs.
It’s amazing how different this lineup looks without Josh Hamilton parked in the 3 spot. Adrian Beltre is no slouch, but there’s a question as to whether he can be the big offensive threat in the lineup with a lot less help than he had before. David Murphy is a nice outfielder, a complementary player that just about any team would like to have, but he is not a number 3 hitter on a team that expects to contend. The Lance Berkman signing was a bonafide head scratcher in my mind, more because of the $10 million he received. He should be able to hit fairly well in Arlington, but at his age his body is breaking down and I have doubts that he’ll be able to hold up for the season.
This trio includes a former Athletic, a former Athletics prospect, and Justin Maxwell. Brett Wallace has not shown the ability to hit at the Major League level that enticed the A’s to send Matt Holliday to St. Louis in 2009, but he’s been entrusted with holding down the 3 spot in the Astros lineup. Carlos Pena pretty much either swings and misses, or hits a home run. He’s the poor man’s Adam Dunn. Justin Maxwell has a career slash line of .217/.310/.427, and he’s projected to hit in the 5 spot, I think that says it all.
The AL West will in all likelihood be a total slugfest in 2013, it’ll take some fantastic pitching along with some serious offensive firepower to win the division. I think it will come down to the A’s and the Angels, which makes sense then considering they have the two top sets of 3-4-5 hitters in the division. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the foundation of the bullpen, the ones who don’t get all the glory but play a very important role, the middle relievers.