The Oakland A’s haven’t won more than 75 games in the last 3 seasons and BeaneBall isn’t working as of late. They add a few more average pieces to the puzzle and trade away Ryan Healy who, at least to the eye, looked to be an exciting piece. They are below average everywhere but will look for Billy’s method to work as they try to just get on base and play small ball to scratch runs together. They have some big boppers in their lineup in Davis and Olson and saw good seasons from Jed Lowrie and a revitalized Matt Joyce. Matt Chapman had an uplifting campaign and maybe someone to build off of moving forward. Those guys mixed with an average rotation of hopeful-ace Sean Manaea, Kendall Graveman and Trevor Cahill will look to make moves up the standings in the AL West.
Trevor Cahill, RHP
Yusmeiro Petit, RHP
Stephen Piscotty, OF
Ryon Healy, 1B
Johnathon Lucroy, C
Why they can win: If BeaneBall works and these guys can get on for Khris Davis and Matt Olson, who combined for 67 HR in under 800 AB, they could form a decent top of the order. If Stephen Piscotty can pan out like they hope and Matt Chapman has a good first full season, that will add good depth. Adding Lucroy will go under the radar and he could be productive behind the plate. In the rotation, they have Sean Manaea who they are hoping can turn a corner, and a bunch of veterans who they hope can eat innings and get to their half decent bullpen and wear teams down to win games.
Why they can lose: Becauss they can’t really “hit.” They can hit homeruns but what team can’t in 2018? They had a below average AVG and OBP in 2017 and then added…Stephen Piscotty? Their lineup has regression candidates like Lowrie, Joyce and Olson who certainly won’t pan out to hit 72 HR like he was on pace for. Lastly, their pitching stinks. They have a nice prospect coming in AJ Puk but they could be at the bottom because of no depth.
Bottom Line: They might be the least known team in the majors and to the average sports fan, you may not know one guy. People probably think Barry Zito is still in the rotation. Khris Davis can murder baseballs but other than that it’s really a pack of guys you don’t know what you’re going to get. Johnathon Lucroy seems to be fading as an offensive impact and don’t see Lowrie as a 3.5 WAR guy, or Matt Joyce being as productive again. I love the upside of Matt Chapman and Sean Manaea but this has the build of a team destined for below mediocrity.
Major4 Numbers Game:
Stud: Matt Chapman, 3B
Chapman made his MLB debut on June 3rd and all he did the rest of the year was strike out, hit fly balls and home runs. He struck out 28.2% of the time, had a ridiculous FB% of 50.5, and 14 HRs in only 326 PA. He could stand to be a little more patient at the plate to be a true three outcome play (HR, BB, K), but he did show promise at the plate that made him a prominent prospect. In addition to an above average debut at the plate (107 wRC+), he flashed a gold glove caliber glove with 19 DRS (in half a season!!) which ranked second among all 3rd baseman. He was just behind Nolan Arenado, in half the innings. That is very impressive and makes him an exciting player going into the 2018 season. This may be a year early for Chapman to be the true stud of the A’s, but consider us bullish on Chappy.
Sinkhole: Whole Starting Staff
The starters for the A’s are far from the days of Mulder, Zito, and Hudson. They expect to trot out Manaea, Graveman, Mengden, Blackburn, and Triggs. Wait, who? Manaea looks more like a solid 3-4 rotation option with a solid swinging strike rate (11.3%), but couldn’t finish off hitters (mediocre K-BB% of 12.3). Graveman can’t miss a bat to save his life (15.8 K%), but his stuff plays up due to a respectable GB-rate (51%), solid defense, and pitchers park. Mengden possessed great control (5.3 BB%), with mediocre stuff (92 MPH FB-velo) and fly-ball tendencies won’t play well in this HR era. Paul Blackburn is another pitch-to-contact specialist, as his hilarious 9.2 K% indicates. And hey, guess what? Andrew Triggs is another pitch-to-contact guy with mediocre batting missing ability (17.7 K%). So basically I could’ve just wrote the identical thing for the #2-5 starters. There isn’t a lot of upside for this staff.
Regression Candidate: Jed Lowrie, 2B
Lowrie had a fantastic season posting a 3.5 WAR, playing respectable defense at second, and his second highest wRC+ of 119. Call us skeptical in repeating arguably his best season at age 34. He found his power stroke again, hitting double digits in HRs (14) for the first time in four seasons along with 66 XBHs, and posted BB% (11.3) and K% (15.5) that exceeded his career averages. His fly-ball rate was actually below his career numbers and he is far from a exit velo darling. Expect him to be more in the low 2’s in terms of WAR. Very solid player, but certainly not a fringe all-star player.
Impact Acquisition: Jonathan Lucroy, C
What a tough year for Lucroy. After being one of the top catchers in baseball for a 4 year stretch, he posted the worst wRC+ since his rookie season (82) and had the worst hard-hit rate of his career (22.3%). On a positive not he nearly walked as much as he struck out, and his contact rates were career highs. After being one of the most undervalued players in baseball on a bargain of a contract, Lucroy was unable to capitalize on his first year as an UFA, as he was only able to secure a 1/$6.5M contract. Hot Take: Lucroy has a bounce back season of over 3 WAR and >110 wRC+ and signs a deal of 3/$45M+.
Major4 Prospects, (Top 100):
AJ Puk, LHP (32)
Jesus Luzardo, LHP (60)
Franklin Barreto, IF (66)
Jorge Mateo, SS/OF (72)
Why We Love Them: Just want to get it out there that Moneyball stinks. No mention of maybe the most iconic pitching trio in the last 50 years? Cmon. Love Chapman and Manaea and the fact that Khris Davis deletes baseballs off the map but other than that, the thing to love most about them is their colors and the fact they wear white cleats.