Welcome back friends for a little preview of what to look for this Spring as our awesome Athletics approach another anecdote-filled, asthma and arrythmia-inducing annual adventure, after another agonizing and afflictive avenue of annhilition adduced by Minnesota.
Fresh of their 107-55 Season 3, AL West Champions The Oakland Athletics have quite a few questions heading into Season 4. Quite a few players have left via Free Agency, leaving some holes for some new faces to fill. Some of those leaving include SP Chief Shuey, Setup Man Hugh Purcell, CF Gabe Hunter & DH Sherm Tapani. In line to take their place will be another outstanding crop of youngsters, chomping at the bits to get their crack at the ML roster.
As far as filling out the Rotation is concerned, Shuey's place can taken by one of many options down at AAA, including Top- Prospects: Pedro Eusebio, Bob McFarlane, Spike Shannon or Fernando Rosado. There could also be a surprise candidate or two, depending on what Rico Rijo, Sting Peterson and last year's Rule 5 pick Francisco Beltre have to say about things.
The Bullpen, already young & solid, can be shored up with live arms like Albert Mota, Jay McNeil and last year's 1st Round pick for Oakland Fonzie Wayne. The bullpen was a very interesting spot for Oakland last season as they ran with no true Closer, and may plan to do the same this season continuing to mix & match depending on matchups. It worked out quite well with only a couple of disasterous outings mixed in last year.
The bigger questions, however, lie in the lineup. Oakland's farm may be stacked with pitching that is ready to go, and it's also stacked with some nice Position Players....that aren't quite so ready. However, ready or not, a few will be getting their chance this season much like last year's influx of ROTY-quality youngsters. Mo Springer hopes to lead this group, making an effort to march right into the Starting CF job in Oakland. He's got the talent, but is he ready for it? His .333/.402/.788 line in AAA at 21 years old last year say he's ready, with the only question being his hands on defense. The range is there, but he has his fair share of misplays due to some "rough" hands still.
A good competition will be brewing for the DH job in Oakland with several young mashers trying to force their way onto the big league club. Charley Jameson, Derrick Juden, Vince Morris, Bud Hogan, Ronald Traynor and last year's compensation pick in the draft, Miguel DeJesus all would love to start raking for the ML squad, however with Bryant Browne deeply entrenched at first, leaving only DH open, one or more of these guys may have to find a new home to find a chance to start.
One competition that could prove to be a good one is happening over at 3rd Base, were Piper Ross & Stuffy Karsay may be forced to platoon, or one of the two may have to be moved. Also, coming up fast behind them is Kent Lewis, another hot prospect that will be extremely versatile in the field. Worse case scenarion happens with Springer, and any of these guys could step in and help at CF as well.
SS will have to wait another season or two before the arrival of uber-prospect Jeff Zambrano, as his glove definitely needs some work if he's to have a chance of sticking at SS. For the most part, the rest of the roster seems to be stacking up much the same as last year, with the only competition seeming to be for that 4th/5th OF spot.
We'll bring you more from Oakland as we get more, and until then, patience prevails until the start of Spring. Until then, thoughts of reaching 115 and a WS title this year, as it can be done with this much talent & depth around. Of course, that's just one man's opinion, fella' name a' Smitty, first name Word.