This offseason Billy Beane and the A’s have pushed their chips into the middle of the table and are all-in for the upcoming 2014 season. If the following five keys happen, the A’s will have a great chance of hoisting a shiny trophy in October.
5. The Bullpen-This handful of arms are the strength of the Athletics. If they falter however, the season could be a lot longer than expected. The A’s have too many solid arms, particularly Cook, Gregerson, Doolittle and Johnson to go into a prolonged slump collectively. Every pitcher struggles at some point in a given season, it’s just a matter of them not all sinking at the same time, especially in October.
4. Sonny Gray/Jarrod Parker’s Development-These two arms are projected at the front of the rotation for 2014. This means that those two get to face the other team’s best pitchers more often. The challenge for these two will be developing as pitchers, as well as not getting down on themselves and letting a couple losses in a row snowball into a lost season. The A’s need these two to be stoppers. If they can develop into legitimate aces, the A’s could be looking at 100+ wins this season.
3. Josh Donaldson-Josh Donaldson came out of nowhere last year to be a legitimate MVP candidate. He finished with 24 HRs, 93 RBIs and a .301 Average. Prior to 2013, he had struggled in the majors, but something clicked the last time he was called up and he has been putting up great numbers since. If he progresses like he did last season, the A’s are Championship contenders.
His biggest area of improvement was his walk to strikeout ratio. In 2012, he walked 14 times, while striking out 61 times. That is a ratio of 4.36. In 2013, he walked 76 times and struck out 110 times. The ratio here is 1.45. In this instance, the lower ratio is what we are going for. A realistic goal for Donaldson in 2014 would be for this number to be an even 1, or an equal number of Ks/BBs. There is still worry in Oakland that he will follow in Josh Reddick’s footsteps and drop off after a great season because the other teams in the league have adjusted to him. Even if Donaldson does take a step back at the plate, the A’s have other facets to their offense to lean upon, and Donaldson’s glove will make up for a potential lack of production at the plate.
2. Overall Health-The health of Crisp, Lowrie and Jaso are integral to the team achieving what they are capable of. Crisp is the team’s heartbeat. If he goes down, the blood doesn’t flow. Crisp sets the table for the hitters behind him, mainly Jaso (suffered a concussion last season) and Lowrie (history of injuries). Jaso is a master of getting on base any way he can. Lowrie is a logical fit in the 3 spot. He is a gap hitter, which allows Crisp to run the bases and get the A’s on the board early. If the bullpen is as effective as expected, an early lead can deflate the opposing team.
1. Yoenis Cespedes-Cespedes finally putting together all of the talent he has shown, but on a consistent basis could be a difference maker this season. He has shown flashes, sometimes even for whole months, but has yet to put together a whole season on both offense and defense. In the field his mind seems to wander now and again. At the plate, he seems to be trying to put on a show with every swing. Against Detroit in the 2012 ALDS, Cespedes stole 2nd and 3rd bases and I was excited to see some of THAT Cespedes in 2013. Instead, he regressed and aimed for power numbers. If he can have a consistent approach at the plate and showcase his speed and pick his spots, he could be the feared hitter the A’s have been desperately seeking.
Tags: Oakland A's