The Oakland Athletics had a few questions that needed answering this Spring Training. A lot revolved around how players were going to perform. We are now more than half way through Spring Training, and a little less than two weeks before opening day comes around. That means we can start to more properly evaluate these player performances and start to answer some questions. Here are some player updates to answer those questions.
1. Will Josh Donaldson be able to repeat his 2013 season?
Josh Donaldson had a breakout 2013 season, in which he batted over .300, the only player on the team to do so. He was in the running for MVP as well for the All-Star game. He was one of the main reasons they were able to win the division despite having bad seasons from Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes. Many speculate that he will need to repeat that if the Oakland A’s are to win the division for a third time in a row.
Donaldson hasn’t been too hot this Spring. He is doing well, but he isn’t performing like his 2013 self. He is batting for a .235 average in 34 at bats with 2 home runs. It may just be that he just needs to have time to warm up, which is the point of Spring Training. What is encouraging is his OBP of .341. He is still getting on base often, it just isn’t always a big flashy hit. He will be able to get more hits and raise his average from .235 before they leave Arizona. I think it is fair to say that Donaldson will be good to go for the 2014 season and will be able to repeat if not improve upon his performance from last season.
2. Will Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick return to their 2012 form?
In 2012, Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick were huge contributions to the division title. In 2013, they both struggled for the entire season, and only had few flashes of their 2012 form. They both had low averages and they also moved down from their normal lineup spots. So how have they been doing? Well there’s good news and bad news.
We’ll start with the bad news. Yoenis Cespedes still continues to struggle. He is batting for a .140 average over 43 at bats. That’s a fair enough sample size to say that he is still not improving too much. He does have 8 RBI’s, which means even though he doesn’t hit the ball often, when he does it gives results. Which makes it that much more frustrating knowing his potential if he hit it more often. He gave people hope when he said he had been working on his swing, but so far he is struggling with it. That is understandable, considering he is trying to change a life long habit. So Cespedes is still looking like his 2013 self, but the season is long and hopefully he gets going at some point or another.
The good news is about Josh Reddick. In his 36 at bats, he has a .333 average. That is very encouraging to see. Reddick was injured last season very early on and he couldn’t recover from the mental challenges as well as the pain in his wrist. It had affected his swing. But after surgery and a fresh clean slate with a new season on the horizon, Reddick has truly come back to his 2012 form, so expect to see him getting more hits, more RBI’s, and best of all, more home runs.
3. Will Sonny Gray be able to continue on his fantastic breakout rookie season?
Sonny Gray was on fire after hitting the big leagues as a part of the rotation last season. He got the nod in game 5 of the ALDS, showing the confidence the team has in him. With his first full season ahead of him, many wonder whether or not he will be able to keep that hot streak going. The answer to that question is mixed.
It is fair to say that pitchers need to get back into the rhythm of things before getting back to how they truly pitch. So having Sonny Gray struggle early on should be understandable. On the other hand, there are other pitchers who are already on fire, so some wonder why Gray can’t do the same. The answer to that is that every pitcher is different. Look at Jarrod Parker last season. He struggled early on in the season, having an ERA over 6.00, but after he started getting into his rhythm, he went on a hot streak of 19 undefeated starts, a feat no Athletic pitcher has accomplished since Lefty Grove in 1931. So the same can happen for Gray. This question remains unanswered. It will be answered after he get deeper into the season when we have more time to evaluate him. For now, it would be unfair to evaluate Gray as not performing up to par in these player updates.