There is no question about it, the Oakland A’s will be a young team in 2013. The youthful A’s charged into the post-season as AL West champions last year thanks to a sweep of the Texas Rangers during the final days of the regular season, but did so with the help of gritty veterans like Jonny Gomes and Brandon Inge.
But gone are Gomes and Inge as well as fellow veterans Brandon McCarthy and Stephen Drew. The A’s enter this year without a clear clubhouse leader. Last year it was the vocal duo of Gomes and Inge, but this year the A’s are on the search for a new emerging leader to help guide the youth movement set out by General Manager Billy Beane.
Among the candidates are the players who helped the team reach the post-season for the first time since 2006. Guys like Yoenis Cespedes, the A’s team MVP, and Coco Crisp are easily two likely leaders to help guide the A’s again in 2013. Other players like a Josh Reddick, Brett Anderson, and Grant Balfour are also potential team leaders.
The A’s enter this year with a different attitude. Different expectations now surround the defending AL West champions and the A’s know that repeating as the division’s top team will be a challenge in itself. Bob Melvin and Co. are gearing up for the new season with the usual sense of calmness, but the team would be lying if there’s some added pressure this year now that they’re expected to compete this year.
Oakland boasts a ton of added depth this year and the team’s pitching figures to keep them in the thick of things out west this year. The youth-movement in Oakland is far from over and if the A’s are to compete again this year they’ll need a few players to step up and accept the role of clubhouse leader. Here is my list of three potential clubhouse leaders for the A’s in 2013:
- Brett Anderson: Anderson, 25, enters the year as the team’s ace. The rotation is shaping up to feature Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, and Dan Straily to open the season. Anderson, who is incredibly young himself, is going to be an important piece of Oakland’s rotation. The A’s are expecting the young lefty to help anchor a staff that was extremely young, but extremely effective in 2012. Growing pains are expected in a rotation that features so many young arms, but Anderson, who went 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA over six starts in an injury-depleted 2012, should help stabilize the rotation. Once Bartolo Colon‘s suspension is completed, the A’s rotation will see a bit more of a veteran presence, but 2013 will belong to Anderson. If Anderson stays healthy, the A’s rotation will be a very interesting one to watch, especially when you consider Parker and Milone’s own development. A combination of Anderson-Parker could pack quite a punch. Anderson isn’t much of a vocal guy, but rather a lead-by-example kind of player. The youthful A’s should keep an eye on Anderson in ’13 and so should their fans.
- Coco Crisp: Crisp, 33, was the center of criticism last offseason when the A’s brought the outfielder back for two more seasons for the price of $14 million. The deal seemed too outrageous, especially for the penny-pinching Athletics, but the deal proved otherwise. The A’s outfielder got off to a rather slow start, hitting .236 in April and .132 in an injury filled May, but once summer came rolling around Crisp took off like the rest of the A’s. He finished the year with a .259/.325/.418 slash line along with 11 HR, 46 RBI, and 39 stolen bases. Throughout the A’s impressive summer-long run, Crisp and his crowd favorite “Bernie Lean” helped lead the A’s. Crisp was a crucial member in Oakland’s clubhouse last year and an important piece of the team’s talented outfield. This year the A’s are expected to boast one of the more impressive outfields in the game with a Cespedes-Crisp-Reddick trio, but more importantly the team is expected to do plenty of Bernie Leans in 2013. Crisp is a veteran guy who plays the game hard and the A’s will be relying on him for some crucial veteran leadership in ’13.
- Josh Reddick: Reddick, 26, was another key member of Oakland’s impressive run in 2012. The A’s outfielder led the team in HR with 32 and won a Gold Glove for his work in right-field. The arm of Reddick alone is enough to qualify him as a potential clubhouse leader for the A’s in ’13. The A’s won big on the deal that shipped Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney to Boston in exchange for Reddick, and the A’s can only hope the winning continues for years. Reddick should emerge as a clubhouse leader early on and if his spiderman suit, beard, and wrestling belt are any indication, he’s certainly the type of character to lead a young, loose, fun-loving A’s clubhouse in ’13.
The A’s have placed a great deal of faith in their depth this year and their success this year will depend on whether or not that investment pays off. Still, leadership plays a role in a team’s success and if last year was any indication of the importance of leadership, the A’s will surely be on the search for a potential clubhouse leader this year. Guys like Anderson, Crisp, and Reddick are just a few of the players qualified to be clubhouse leaders. Cespedes and Balfour are two other players very capable of stepping up and leading the team into October baseball again this year. The thing about depth is that there are plenty of players who can step up this year and lead the team to another post-season run.