This will be a recurring series outlining the different aspects of the A’s roster. I will preview what the outfield, infield, catching, bench, starting rotation, and bullpen will look like culminating in a preview of what the opening day roster might look like. This series will use the currently active 40 man roster with any updates at the time being taken into account. I will post the links to previous parts of the series here (1,2,3,4).
The A’s current 40 man roster contains a number of pitchers that could be considered for the bullpen. There is probably a set group manager Bob Melvin has in mind going into spring training, but obviously things change. So for this post I will look at who I think will be in the bullpen opening day and then mention a few candidates who could see some time at the Major League level.
A team’s bullpen usually consists of seven to eight relief pitchers. The A’s have an enormous amount of talent and depth in the bullpen making spring training a crucial time to prove what you have. There are of course a few pitchers who have their spots solidified barring something unthinkable: Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Jerry Blevins, and Pat Neshek. Balfour projects to be the closer with Cook and Doolittle as set up men. Blevins will be the lefty specialist and Neshek will be the righty specialist.
With those five penciled in that leaves two or three open spots in the pen for someone to take a hold of. There are many options to fill these voids, including: Evan Scribner, Chris Resop, Jordan Norberto, Travis Blackley, Pedro Figueroa, Andrew Werner, Michael Ynoa, Brad Peacock, Arnold Leon, Jesse Chavez, and quietly Bartolo Colon. Out of this group the first five are the most likely scenarios. Resop, being acquired early this offseason, will probably make it, along with Blackley. Depending on how Melvin wants to set up the roster he may only carry seven arms in the pen. However, if he does choose to go with eight relief pitchers Norberto seems to be the obvious choice.
The players with the most to prove: Pedro Figueroa and Brad Peacock. Figueroa has slowly made his way to one of the top replacement relief pitchers in the A’s organization. This means that when a pitcher goes down and the A’s need to make a roster move he is usually the one called upon. Look for him to see a good deal of time with the big club this year. Brad Peacock struggled mightily early on last season at Triple A Sacramento but improved over the course of the season. He is a very talented pitcher so look for him to rebound this season and possibly be a spot starter at some point.
The players with the most to gain/lose: Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle. Cook and Doolittle burst onto the scene last season ultimately ending up in set up roles (Cook even saw time at closer). Arm fatigue could be a factor with them this year though considering last season was their first taste of the Major Leagues. If they are to fall off it may be a long ways down. Therefore they need to make an impact early on in the season and prove that they can continue to handle the roles they are in.
Players that may see time this season at the big league level: Ynoa, Werner, Chavez, Colon, Leon, Peacock, and Evan Scriber.
The A’s bullpen has a ton of depth. In fact it is probably one of the deepest in baseball. This bodes well for a September and October run. Relief pitchers are crucial to a team’s success and effectiveness throughout the course of the season so the A’s will need their bullpen to remain rock solid just as it was last season.