Thursday, March 23, 2017

Oakland Athletics 2017 season preview

     With a record of 69-93, the Oakland Athletics, or A's, finished last in the AL West, 26 GB of the first place Texas Rangers. The A's are rebuilding, and want to exit the hard years either this year or next year. To do that, GM Billy Beane needed to do things in the offseason. Let's look at what Beane did.
      Key additions: 3B: Trevor Plouffe, RP Santiago Casilla, OFs Rajai Davis, Matt Joyce, Alejandro De Aza, SS Adam Rosales, C Ryan Lavarnway, 1B Chris Parmlee.
      Key subtractions: 3B Danny Valencia, OF Brett Eibner, SS Arismendy Alcantara.

      Biggest move: The A's signed a couple of players to cheap, one year deals to try to find a steal. The biggest name is 3B Trevor Plouffe who was signed to a one year, $5.25 million deal. Injuries forced him to 84 games, but he hit 22 HRs and 86 RBIs the year before. It's a real solid pickup for Oakland.
      X-factor: With the biggest bounce back (below) starting the season on the DL, SP Kendall Graveman was named opening day starter. Graveman finished last season with a 4.11 ERA in a career high 186 IP. He had some really bad months, like May (5.87 ERA in 30.2 innings), and some where he looked like an ace, like July (2.68 ERA in 37 innings). It would be nice for Graveman to have a really good 2017.
     Biggest bounce back: 2016 was only his third full year in the MLB. In '14 and '15, he had an ERA of 3.08 or lower in 200 or more innings. Injuries limited him to just 117 IP in 2016, and he had a bad ERA of 5.69. His name is Sonny Gray. He'll start the season on the DL (that's why he's not mentioned in the rotation in the roster part below), but the A's will need Gray to bounce back in 2017.
      Biggest breakout: In 269 ABs last season, his first taste of the MLB, Ryon Healy played really well, with 13 HRs and 37 RBIs, along with a .305 average. With the A's roster not as good as it was years ago, Healy can crack the starting lineup as a part time DH. I'm sure he'll excel there.
      Guaranteed star: A year ago, I would have picked Gray here. But LF Khris Davis hit very well in his first year in Oakland. He had career highs in ABs (555), HRs (42) and RBIs (105), just to name a few. He can put up at least 30 HRs in 2017, and remain a star.
      The A's' lineup should look like this.

1. CF: Rajai Davis
2. SS: Marcus Semien
3. LF: Khris Davis
4. C: Stephan Vogt
5. 3B: Trevor Plouffe
6. 1B: Yonder Alonso
7. DH: Ryon Healy
8. 2B: Jed Lowrie
9. RF: Matt Joyce
          Their rotation will probably be this.

1. Kendall Graveman
2. Sean Manaea
3. Jharel Cotton
4. Jesse Hahn
5. Chris Bassitt

            SS Adam Rosales, C Josh Phegley and 1B Mark Canha will be on the bench.
            Sean Doolittle will be their closer, with Santiago Casilla and Ryan Madson setting him up.

            Finally, for my prediction. I think the A's will finish last in a half good, half bad AL West division. As long as they can have a developing year for youngsters, they can take a step closer to being contenders again.

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