Here is my list of interesting questions and battles that A’s fans should be aware of heading into Spring Training. Obviously all these questions are barring any major injuries to the Athletics. So, here we go:
Backup First Baseman- In 2013, Freiman was mandated to stay on the Oakland Athletics 25-man roster due to the rule 5 draft. In doing so Freiman put up great numbers versus left handed pitching and emerged as right handed hitting part of the platoon with Brandon Moss at first base. Freiman was injured in late September after straining a muscle in his abdomen. His injury paved the way for Daric Barton to get more playing time in 2013. Barton was more known for his defense than his bat, so to see him have some offensive success was a blessing for Oakland. Barton had a slash line of .318/.403/.439 in September and made the postseason roster for Oakland (he went 0-3 in the ALDS). In 2014, Barton must start the season in Oakland or needs to pass through waivers before reporting to AAA Sacramento. Freiman, on the other hand, can start in AAA without being subjected to waivers. Rumors have swirled around that Alberto Callaspo may be the backup first baseman in 2014. I believe Nate Freiman will start the 2014 season in AAA Sacramento to get more at bats and perhaps recapture his power stroke he was so well known for in the Minor Leagues (131 doubles and 71 home runs in 4 Minor League Seasons). Can Daric Barton make enough of an impact in Spring Training to claim the final spot on the Athletics roster?
5th Starting Pitcher- After signing Scott Kazmir earlier this offseason, the Oakland Athletics have 4 very good starting pitchers (Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray and Dan Straily). Who will be the fifth starter in Oakland? In 2013, both Tommy Milone and AJ Griffin were left off the ALDS roster. Griffin was fighting off elbow tendonitis in October while Milone was not one of the starting 5 in the final months of the season. Milone had thrown just 26.2 innings in August and September. Milone had a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 1.35 and an ERA of 4.40 in that time. Griffin threw in 59.1 innings in August and September and was outstanding. Griffin had a WHIP of 1.17 and an ERA of 3.65. There is only room for one of these two in the rotation.
Left-Handed Bullpen Pitcher- General Manager Billy Beane made it obvious that he was looking to upgrade from a good 2013 bullpen this offseason. Beane acquired pitchers Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Drew Pomeranz, Fernando Abad, and Eric O’Flaherty (among others). Johnson and Gregerson are penciled in to join Sean Doolittle, Dan Otero and Ryan Cook in the bullpen. Assuming the Athletics will carry 7 relief pitchers, there are 4 players fighting to fill 2 spots in the bullpen. Who will be the situational lefty? As I see it, Manager Bob Melvin needs another situational left handed pitcher to compliment Sean Doolittle. This is very similar to the role that Jerry Blevins played last year with Oakland (traded to Washington). The Athletics have 2 good options until O’Flaherty (Tommy John Surgery) can return from his injury. Abad has spent parts of 4 seasons in the Major Leagues for Houston and Washington. He only has 122 innings pitched under his belt, mainly as a reliever. Pomeranz on the other hand has spent parts of 3 seasons with Colorado. He only has pitched 5 of his 136 innings as a reliever. Pomeranz in his career, both starting and relieving, has a batting average against of .165 to left-handed hitters.
Final Piece to the Bullpen- As mentioned earlier if the Athletics decide to carry 7 pitchers in the bullpen then there is one pitcher remaining. Who will be the Melvin’s swingman? A swingman is a pitcher that can pitch as a long reliever if the starting pitcher is taken out of the game early or he can come in and start a game if a pitcher isn’t feeling particularly well that day (but doesn’t need to go on the Disabled List) There are a few candidates to take on this role. Both Pomeranz and Abad have experience as starters and relievers. Perhaps one of them can fall into this role if they aren’t the situational left-hander. In 2013, Jesse Chavez was the Athletics swingman. Although Chavez wasn’t called on to start in 2013, he threw over 3.2 innings 4 times. He gave up one run in these 4 games (17 innings). The final candidate would be Evan Scribner. Scribner, like Chavez, didn’t start a game for Oakland last year but was asked to pitch in multiple innings 8 of his 18 games pitched in 2013. Scribner has a 3.34 ERA in 2 seasons with Oakland.
Michael Taylor- The Athletics have a very crowded outfield this season with Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick figuring to be the starting outfield and Craig Gentry (and Brandon Moss if necessary) serving as the primary backup. Taylor has absolutely crushed AAA pitching (54 home runs, 98 doubles in 4 seasons) but still hasn’t converted that into the Major Leagues yet. Taylor is out of options, which means every Major League team has the opportunity to place him on the 25-man roster if he doesn’t make the Athletics roster out of Spring Training. There are many teams that will take a chance on the 28 year old Taylor if he doesn’t make the roster. Will Billy Beane place Michael Taylor on waivers if he doesn’t have a good spring?
Until next time fans… Lets Go Oakland!