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Playing Pepper 2012: Oakland Athletics

Posted on March 16, 2012 at 9:00 AM
Filed Under: Oakland A's | Playing Pepper
In 2009, I decided to get a feel for other teams around baseball by asking bloggers for those teams some questions about their squad.  Not only has this series been very popular, but it spawned the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With camps opening up again and spring training getting into gear, it's time once again to play a little pepper.

Oakland A's
74-88, third in the AL West

Well, at least they had Moneyball.

The A's finished 22 games out of the lead last season and spent an active offseason getting even younger.  The heady days of the early part of last decade are well in the rear view mirror and the club seems stuck until and unless they get to move up to San Jose and a new ballpark.

Until then, the A's continue to rely on the fact that Billy Beane hasn't lost his touch and that he's positioning this club for another run.  That's what today's bloggers are holding on to, at least.

David Wishinsky writes a mouthful-of-a-blog The Todd Van Poppel Rookie Card Retirement Plan, named after the can't-miss pitcher that missed.  You can also find him on Twitter at tvprcretireplan.

Jason Leary can be found over at Junk Ball, writing about what's going on with the guys in green.  He's on Twitter at JunkBallBlogger.

Bee Hylinski is the proprietor of Contract Year and she also has a book coming out soon by the same name.  Bee is the president of the Oakland BBA chapter.

Coming up, we talk about the Oakland offseason and about an old Cardinal farmhand.

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C70: What was your opinion of the team's offseason?

TVP: I really liked the first half of the offseason. The trades of Gio Gonzalez in particular, but also Trevor Cahill brought in a ton of talent. While I am not so enamored of the Bailey trade it still ends up being a plus for the club. Come January, aside from the Colon move (that thankfully forces a young arm to start in AAA protecting them) the moves have been bewildering and have blocked so many prospects that the A's really don't have any clear sense of what they can expect from the likes of Michael Taylor or even Brandon Allen.

JB: The offseason was a mixed bag but it was anything but dull for the A's who shifted into rebuilding mode with their sights set on fielding a contender in San Jose in several years ... if they ever get approval from Major League Baseball to move from the East Bay to the South Bay. It was hard to see power hitting outfielder Josh Willingham leave as a free agent and even harder to see All-Star pitchers Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Andrew Bailey traded for prospects. On the other hand, it was exciting to see the A's come from out of nowhere to sign Cuban free agent slugger Yoenis Cespedes and I think they got a really strong return in each trade. 

I can see the logic in dismantling 2011's disappointing team and digging in for some lean seasons while developing young players who have the potential to be something special in a few years. 

Of course, the A's also acquired mature players like Jonny Gomes, Seth Smith, Bartolo Colon, and Manny Ramirez and they reportedly have an interest in acquiring middle-aged relievers Koji Uehara and Michael Gonzalez so at the moment they're giving fans a youth movement that isn't 100 percent youthful.

CY: It was full of surprises! First, Billy Beane traded our three best pitchers (Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey). I'm especially going to miss Gio Gonzalez, whom I got to know last year. But the good news is they got some top talent in return. They should all make an impact in the next 3 years. In fact, depending upon whose rankings you look at, 4 or 5 of the top 10 prospects are in the A's organization. It bodes well for the future. I think the 2012 A's will pleasantly surprise the fans.

C70: In your opinion, what player will take the biggest step forward?

TVP: I think Scott Sizemore will be much more valuable. He proved a quick study at third base and was second on the club with respect to wRC+ only to Josh Willingham. That said, if you talk year over year improvement, I expect it will come from Daric Barton who certainly can't do any worse than he did last year.

JB: There's been so much turnover on the roster over the winter that it's hard to make a call on who's the top candidate to take a big step forward this season. Coming into spring training Scott Sizemore was my pick to have a breakout year but now that he's out for the season with a knee injury I'll go with outfielder Josh Reddick. The young outfielder acquired from the Red Sox in the Bailey trade should play every day in Oakland and has the opportunity to hit for a decent average with moderate power and strong defense. Reddick hit .280/.327/.475 last year for the Red Sox which was in line with his career minor league slash line of .278/.332/.500. Overall, I don't expect Reddick to do that well in a pitching haven like the Coliseum in Oakland but I think he could hit close to 20 home runs in 2012 which would be a welcome addition to the A's power-starved lineup.

CY: There are several candidates. Brandon Allen could nail down the first base job if he proves he can hit consistently. Tom Milone could make the starting rotation out of spring training, and could prove to be an impact player. The same could be said of Brad Peacock. Kurt Suzuki has bulked up over the winter and we may see his hitting numbers dramatically improve over his 2011 numbers. And there is always the question mark surrounding Manny Ramirez. If he stays in good shape and his head is into resurrecting his career, he could put up big numbers after his suspension is lifted on May 30th.

C70: How much more time does Daric Barton have to prove himself?

TVP: Daric Barton is not far removed from being a 5+ win player. He ought to be given every opportunity as he is also a plus defender. That said if by midseason he continues to play as he did last year, he will leave the A's little choice but to look elsewhere for 1B help.

JB: With a crowded field of players fighting for playing time at first base I think this is a make or break season for Barton. Brandon Allen, Chris Carter, and Kila Ka'aihue are all in the mix and Barton's slow recovery from shoulder surgery is putting him behind in the race for the starting first base job. I think the front office wants to see him succeed because my gut tells me that general manager Billy Beane and Co. still have a soft spot for Barton's knack for getting on base and playing stellar defense. But if Allen, Carter, or Ka'aihue run away with the job I don't see where Barton fits into the A's long-term plans.

CY: Very little. His shoulder surgery has held him back during spring training, as he hasn't been cleared to throw. He is only DH-ing now. He'll probably start the season at Sacramento (AAA), and he'd better be hitting close to 300 by May or he won't have a chance to get back to the Show, especially if Brandon gets the 1B job and is hitting well.

C70: Is there a prospect that will make an impact on the team this season?

TVP: I think Tom Milone will make the biggest impact this year. He ought to be the 4th or 5th starter from the start of the year and looks to be a very solid pitcher for that role.

JB: After an offseason full of trades for young players, is there a prospect who doesn't have a chance to make an impact on the A's this season? My top picks to make a significant impact this year (in order) would be Cespedes, Jarrod Parker, and Tom Milone. But the possibilities are almost endless considering all the prospects Beane acquired over the winter and the fact that holdover prospects Michael Choice, Grant Green, and Sonny Gray could force their way into the picture at some point in 2012.

CY: If Yoenis Cespedes qualifies as a prospect, he could make a huge impact if he can make a smooth transition to major league ball. As previously mentioned, Tom Milone may make an impact from the get go if he makes the starting rotation. I look for Brad Peacock to make an impact if someone goes on the DL or he goes into the bullpen.

C70: Where will the team finish in their division and what are you most excited about for 2012?

TVP: 4th place. I think it'll be interesting to see the development of our young team and see who will or won't be a part of our club once we begin to contend.

JB: I'm fully expecting the A's to finish in last place in the AL West this year and for the sake building a contender by 2015, the more losses the better. Give me a dead-last finish with some big strides in player development and a shiny Top 10 draft pick as a prize for a long summer of tough losses. Even though I'm expecting the A's to reside in the basement of the AL West I'm still excited to see what young players like Cespedes and Reddick can do with full-time jobs and it should be fun seeing whether second baseman Jemile Weeks can build on a strong rookie season.

CY: I think realistically they will finish 3rd ahead of Seattle. Texas and the Angels added key talent during the off season and will be hard to beat. So the A's will battle it out with Seattle. But they could surprise us, but it's not likely. I am excited by the prospect that Cepedes and Manny on the field might get a few more fans out to the ballpark. If the A's start strong, that would also help. I am really looking forward to the season.

Thanks much to David, Jason and Bee for their answers.  We've seen Oakland surprise some people in the past, so maybe they can do it again this season.

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