MADISON, March 20, 2014 — Over the next few weeks this column will unveil MLB Power Rankings starting with the weakest team and working towards the strongest. Today the process continues by looking at number eight, the Oakland Athletics.
2013 Record: 96-66 with a +142 run differential.
Key Additions: LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Jim Johnson, IF Nick Punto, OF Craig Gentry, RHP Josh Lindblom, RHP Luke Gregorson, OF Billy Burns and LHP Eric O’ Flaherty
Key Losses: IF Scott Sizemore, RHP Bartolo Colon, LHP Brett Anderson, C Kurt Suzuki, OF Chris Young, IF Jemile Weeks, OF Michael Choice, OF Seth Smith and LHP Jerry Blevins
Projected 2014 Lineup:
OF Coco Crisp
3B Josh Donaldson
SS Jed Lowrie
OF Yoenis Cespedes
1B Brandon Moss
OF Josh Reddick
2B Alberto Callaspo
DH John Jaso
C Derek Norris
Projected 2014 Rotation:
AJ Griffin/Jesse Chavez
Best Case: After seeing Jarrod Parker undergo his second Tommy John surgery the club stays healthy with Coco Crisp, AJ Griffin and Jed Lowrie all maintaining solid health after Griffin’s early health scare. Managements plan to use platoons and versatility pays off as manager Bob Melvin puts the players he’s been given in the best position to succeed. Josh Donaldson follows up his breakout 2013 with a year of similar production posting a .290/.375/.475 slash line and great defense.
Josh Reddick bounces back from an injury plagued 2013 to hit 25 HR’s. Sonny Gray follows up his late season heroics by providing 190 innings with an ERA+ of 125. The A’s bullpen is absolutely lights out effectively shortening games as Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook all post ERA’s in the 2.00 to 3.25 range. The A’s continue their run and win the AL West for the third year in a row.
Worst Case: It begins with Jarrod Parker undergoing his second TJ surgery in Spring Training and the injuries never really stop for Oakland. Jed Lowrie and Coco Crisp miss the bulk of the season with various injuries eating into the production and depth of the everyday players.
Griffin’s flexor tendinitis that derailed his spring leads to other things that sideline him longer than anticipated. Scott Kazmir’s 2013 appears to be an illusion as his velocity slips and it becomes more clear why he was out of MLB in 2012 making the decision to replace Colon with him questionable. Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick both struggle with their contact rates, which limits the production of the bottom of the order. The A’s slide to 85 wins and finish third in the AL West.
Prospect Watch: The A’s farm system, apart from SS Addison Russell, seems rather bare. Russell is one of the top prospects in all of baseball and among a wave of shortstops who will be invading the majors over the next couple of years. Russell will likely spend the year at AA with a chance to have an impact in 2015 after posting a .275/.377/.508 slash line at high A last year. Those numbers are likely inflated by the Cal League, but Russell should be able to stay at SS and has good plate discipline.
After Russell the top two prospects in the system are a pair of players drafted in 2013 in Billy McKinney and Bobby Wahl. Both players spent last year in short season ball and as a high school bat McKinney is a few years off, but if the club leaves Wahl as a reliever he could potentially move through the system quickly.