Last season’s success was largely on the shoulders of young talent. That’s not breaking news. The team had a rotation entirely of rookies down the stretch, and had major contributions from rookies throughout the roster. But they couldn’t have done what they did without the strong veteran leadership the team had as well. That leadership came from veterans such as Brandon Inge, Jonny Gomes, Coco Crisp, Brandon McCarthy, and Grant Balfour. The problem there is that Inge, Gomes, and McCarthy are gone so there is something of a leadership void left in Oakland.
Coco Crisp will undoubtedly maintain his role as the leader of this clubhouse at least from the position player standpoint, nobody on this roster has the accomplishments to their name that Coco has to his. But he can’t do it himself. Grant Balfour will continue to be the leader of the bullpen, but that may not translate to the starting staff. It’s a completely different animal to be in the bullpen as opposed to in the starting rotation. So there are some definite openings for team leaders and there are a few who can and must step up in 2013.
With Crisp remaining in the fold there isn’t as much need for any of the outfielders to take on a leadership role in terms of the positions themselves, but the likes of Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes can emerge as emotional leaders in the clubhouse, which can definitely be of great importance. Newcomer Chris Young will take some time to adjust to a new team, a new league, and pretty much a new everything, but once he gets comfortable he will be a very important presence for both Cespedes and Reddick to rely on. Needless to say the nucleus of this team in a leadership sense will be in the outfield.
Brandon McCarthy took all the young starters like Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, and Dan Straily under his wing throughout the regular season last year, but without him there anymore the rotation is left without an anchor like him. Jarrod Parker seems like the obvious choice to succeed McCarthy in that role considering his performance in 2012 and the expectation that he’ll continue to emerge as one of the top young arms in baseball in 2013, but he’s still just in his 2nd season. This is where someone like Brett Anderson will really come into his own as a Major Leaguer. After his Tommy John surgery, the hope is that his injuries are in the past and he can continue his own emergence as a top starter in the AL. If he does that, he’ll be the bonafide leader of this pitching staff, if he doesn’t the A’s may have to look to Bartolo Colon. Colon’s situation is completely unique though, he was suspended last season after testing positive for synthetic testosterone, and will have to finish his suspension this season before joining the rotation. Upon his return he will be an important presence for all the A’s starters, Brett Anderson included.
The infield will be an interesting aspect of the team to watch. There is no true veteran presence in the infield at this point. Josh Donaldson is entering his second season, Hiroyuki Nakajima is adjusting to a new continent, and Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks will be battling for playing time at second base. Brandon Moss seems like he may be the only one who can step forward as a leader in the infield. But he has to perform in order to do that. His breakout season in 2012 was extremely impressive, but for someone at his age a breakout like that can either be a sign of a late bloomer or a flash in the pan. If Moss is the former, he’ll be the perfect leader for the Athletics infield.
The baseball season is full on unpredictability, so its crucial that players take leadership roles on the team to make sure everyone is able to weather the storm. Those are the kind of acts that make a team successful, and those are what the Athletics need to do in 2013 to defend their AL West title.