For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat. If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers. We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.
94-68, first in the AL West, lost in the ALDS
While the Wild Card era has taken away a lot of the great pennant races, there are still times where the unexpected happens. Last year's AL West was the latest case in point.
Everyone expected Los Angeles and Texas to duke it out, but Texas shot out of the gate and was up 6.5 games by the end of April. At the end of May, Oakland was sitting in last place and seemingly looking to next year. However, two things then happened--Texas hit a skid and Oakland started winning. And winning. And winning.
To the point that when the two teams met at the end of the season, Oakland trailed by just two games. A postseason berth had been clinched, but Oakland wanted to avoid that play-in Wild Card game and, with a dramatic sweep of the Rangers, were able to do just that.
TVP: I'd give it an A+. The A's improbably won the division in 2013 and haven't rested upon their laurels. They have added depth to the outfield via Chris Young, have added immeasurable depth to the infield via the acquisition of Jed Lowrie and made a clear improvement at backstop by getting John Jaso. While I am not crazy about the signing of Hiroyuki Nakajima as being a game changer, I think he could very well be an improvement and Bartolo Colon's re-signing doesn't excite me but he had a decent year in Oakland in 2012, I think the club made serious strides towards improvement. The A's didn't give away a ton of talent in any of these deals and though I'd like for them to shore up some starting pitching depth, they look to be poised to compete again in 2013.
SA: I give it a solid B. There were no spectacular moves, but there weren't any needed really. I would have liked to see them add a veteran starter perhaps, and I was a little sad to see so many young players jettisoned from the farm system. No doubt though that the A's are poised to pick up where 2012 left off.
OB: I would probably give [Billy] Beane and the front office a B this offseason. I did really like the Chris Young and Jed Lowrie acquisitions, but I am not 100% sold on the John Jaso trade. I feel like there were some good pick ups that could potentially help the bullpen in 2013, specifically Hideki Okajima, Chris Resop and Mike Ekstrom. I know the team resigned Bartolo Colon, but I do think that they should have signed an additional veteran pitcher to the team. As we saw last year with the team, you can never have too much starting pitching.
C70: Will Brett Anderson be at full strength to start the season and, if so, what will he give the A's this year?
TVP: He ought to be. He made a start for Oakland in the ALDS and looked fine and I expect him to be ready to go. When Anderson is healthy he is a force to be reckoned with and had a marvelous 2012 when on the hill. I hope to see 30 starts out of him but realistically with his track record that may be asking too much. I'd like to see him basically put up a 7-8 K/9, 2-something BB/9, 0.6 or so HR/9 season with an ERA around 3.50 and FIP around there as well. If he can get to 180 innings the A's will be in fine shape, if not it certainly hurts their chances in a tough division.
SA: He should be good to go as any other starter would. The key for him in 2013 is avoiding the minor injuries like the strained oblique that shelved him for a few weeks late in 2012, hopefully his continued improved conditioning will minimize those injuries. If he's healthy he will give the A's above-average numbers at the top of the rotation.
OB: I think he will be 100% going into the season, but my biggest concern is whether or not he will stay healthy all season long. If there are no flukey injuries I think he could be a 15 game (or more) winner with an ERA in the low 3.00s. This could be the first year we see him live up to the potential he once had when he was a top prospect.
TVP: Yes. He adjusted so well in 2012 that I expect him to continue to make strides in 2013. I think we haven't even begun to see a smidgen of his potential.
SA: His rookie year was just the tip of the iceberg. Now that he's experienced the full grind, and knows how his body reacts to it, he'll be ready to tackle his sophomore season and continue to build on his solid rookie year. I may be a homer, but a 30 HR/100 RBI season seems very well within reach for Cespedes in 2013.
OB: Just like Brett Anderson, Cespedes' season will also depend on how healthy he stays. He was sidelined several games last season due to different
injuries so we didn't get to see a complete season from him. With that being said, yes I do think he will top his rookie season, especially if he stays healthy. I would expect him to hit anywhere from 25-30 HRs this year and possibly be a 90 RBI guy.
C70: What rookie will make the biggest impact in 2013?
TVP: Quite possibly none but if I had to pick someone I'd go Grant Green. Green may get a shot at second base. The A's have soured on Jemile Weeks. Scott Sizemore may ultimately slot in better at third base and like newly acquired Lowrie, Green is someone who is versatile (though it seems he might not play anywhere particularly well). That said, I also wouldn't be surprised if an Arnold Leon is someone who won a spot in Spring Training and logged a lot of quality relief innings.
SA: Hiro Nakajima will get the first nod to start at shortstop for the A's, and while he's not a typical rookie having played many years in Japan, he will solidify a position that was a challenge to fill in 2012. Be on the lookout for Dan Straily as well at the back end of the rotation, major strikeout ability there.
OB: I would expect Hiro Najajima to make the biggest impact this season for the team. I think the only other rookie on the team would be Dan
Straily, who will probably spend a lot of time in Triple-A this season after Bartolo Colon returns from his suspension. It's hard to say how Nakajima
will transition over to the Major Leagues from Japan, but I honestly think he will be fine and will play a big role in this year's team.
C70: What will the final record of the team be and where will they finish in the division?
TVP: 84-78, 3rd. The A's played well last year, had a lot of things break their way and won the division. Despite the lack of moves in Texas, and the Angels' history of big moves netting zero gain in the standings, they are both very good clubs. I think the A's will really miss Brandon McCarthy and Jonny Gomes and worry about a fragile (and I feel contrary to most people) and thin rotation.
SA: I firmly believe that 2012 was not a fluke, and avoiding some of the costly mistakes that lost some games last year will lead to another division title and a record of 97-65.
OB: 89-73 and in second place. I think this year is going to be more challenging for the A's, even with the addition of the Houston Astros. I think the Angels and Mariners made enough moves to make the division a little tougher this year and I think you absolutely cannot count out the Rangers. Along with the AL West getting more competitive, I think the American League as a whole did too, so I think an 89-73 record will secure them a wild card slot.
C70: What one thing from your team are you most looking forward to watching?
TVP: The continued development of Jarrod Parker into an ace. I love Parker. I love his poise and moxie and I think he is a great pitcher. I've been excited about him since the day the A's acquired him and it'll be great to see him get better. Otherwise a full season of Sean Doolittle, the continued improvement of Cespedes and Reddick all are exciting options too.
SA: Once again proving all the naysayers wrong and showing the Angels that you can't just throw money at your problems. This time though just making the playoffs won't be enough, a serious run in October is the next step and the hope is they can do just that.
OB: This entire offseason all we have heard is how the A's just got "lucky" last season so I am really looking forward to seeing them prove everyone wrong once again.
I've always had a soft spot for the A's and it was quite enjoyable to see them buck the odds last year. I'd say nobody's going to write them off too quickly this year!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball