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My Questions Going into Spring Training

February 15, 2011

Mychael Urban and Jane Lee both had their questions going into Spring Training. These are my questions I have going into Spring Training – unsurprisingly some of them are the same.

1. Who will be the fifth starter?

Like both Urban and Lee, the clear biggest question for this club is who is going to be the fifth starter. I think that there is no clear frontrunner in this competition, but I think the edge has to go to Rich Harden. While the ceiling is higher with Josh Outman, I think Harden makes the most sense here and I think Outman should go to the pen, where he can be one of the lefties along with Craig Breslow and Brian Fuentes. Brandon McCarthy will begin the season in Sacramento ready to jump into that fifth starter position along with Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer. My guess is that Ross will spend the majority of time in Sacramento this year and if somehow there are multiple injury problems, Cramer will be the guy called in.

2. In a related question, who gets the final bullpen spot?

There are seven slots in the bullpen, it is safe (barring injuries) to assume five of those are spoken for, those spots being Andrew Bailey, Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour, Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz. I think that because he has options remaining, Brad Ziegler is a candidate to be sent down to the River Cats, whereas I think that is what punches the ticket for the out-of-options Joey Devine – who when healthy has shown some electric stuff. So who gets that last spot, well I answered that in the previous question – Josh Outman. Outman provides a third lefty and a true longer-reliever swingman for the bullpen.

3. If Rosie  can’t start the season, who is the infield back up?

I think you’ll see Eric Sogard jump into the role. I find it unlikely that Steve Tolleson or Andy LaRoche will do anything so exciting to merit their being added to the 40-man roster, but stranger things have happened. Sogard is on the 40-man roster and is the only middle infielder not named Adam Rosales on there, so I think he wins the gig by default.

4. Is there a battle to back up Kurt Suzuki?

I think there certainly should be! Landon Powell still has options so nothing stops us from sending him down to Sacramento where he also doesn’t need to start full time because of the presence of Anthony Recker. I think Josh Donaldson with a good spring, particularly if he really shows off his power in that dry Arizona air, can leap frog Powell in the depth chart. Let’s not forget Powell has already been leap-frogged once before by Kurt Suzuki who was selected in the round following Powell in the 2004 amateur draft. While it is not talked about I think that Donaldson can do it, as we all know that power has been a problem in the lineup in the past and it is something Donaldson offers a lot of.

5. Does Kevin Kouzmanoff still don the Green and Gold on opening day?

Despite numerous attempts to replace him this offseason (the most baffling being Billy Beane‘s waiver claim of Edwin Encarnacion followed by his non-tender) Kouzmanoff is still here. His offensive production was not what was wanted nor expected when they got him last year from the Padres, and Kouzmanoff himself seems energized to have a good year. It doesn’t appear as if there are any obvious trade targets who would represent an upgrade on the market, so I just don’t see how this deal could happen. Seems we are stuck with Kouzmanoff, and hopefully he has a bounceback year, maybe there is a deal out there at the trade deadline but for now there are no obvious candidates for who that could be.

6. Will a non-roster invitee make the big league club?

Again no obvious candidates here. If Rosales and Pennington are both injured to start the year, the strongest like non-roster invitees to make the club are Tolleson or LaRoche or a shocker if Jemile Weeks or Adrian Cardenas somehow convinced the brass that they were ready to make the leap. With the pitching so loaded and with Joey Devine out of options, it’d be a very big surprise if any non-roster pitcher could make it, and I don’t expect them to. Barring injuries, everyone on the 25-man roster to start the year ought to be on the 40-man roster now.

7. Will Chris Carter win an outfield job?

No. Chris Carter would have to have a phenomenal spring and someone will have to be injured. So assuming everybody stays healthy this February and March, Carter should start the year in Sacramento. Even if he had a monster spring, it wouldn’t be prudent to put him on the big league club as his playing time would be severely curtailed by Josh Willingham and David DeJesus in the corner outfield spots and Hideki Matsui at designated hitter. Best he gets more time in the outfield at Raley Field and regular at bats in the River Cats lineup.

So there you have it, my spring training preview. Let the workouts and games begin!


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Porter permalink
    February 15, 2011 10:02 pm

    I agree that Carter doesn’t open the season in the A’s lineup, but I really wish they would make a decision about where he projects. I think the most interesting thing to watch will be what Beane does at the deadline with all those Bullpen arms — presuming that Texas runs away with the division, he’s going to have a lot of stockpiled assets that are in huge demand (judging by the past couple of years).

    • February 15, 2011 10:44 pm

      Perhaps I am caught up in the “pitchers and catchers report day” optimism but I dont think Texas will run away with this division. I’m not sold on their pitching – and despite the regression I anticipate in our staff particularly with Trevor Cahill – and the injuries I worry about – namely Brett Anderson because I just think it is a given Harden goes down – our depth still makes us much more dangerous than Texas in the pitching department not even mentioning the bullpen which as you point out is perhaps the greatest source of roster depth. But I think Texas will have a tough time repeating their pitching performances whereas I think the A’s will be just fine as a whole with the bullpen picking up a slightly regressed rotation. The difference to me is that this offseason we’ve made noted improvements to our offense. Furthermore, I think Suzuki and Kouzmanoff will be beneficiaries as they’ll have more appropriate spots in the lineup. So with all that being said, I still agree that the bullpen is where I think a deadline deal will come from with us being buyers. I think the particular depth will be with the lefties and I think Breslow or Blevins could be key guys to deal late in the year to NL clubs looking for solid middle relief.

      As for Carter, responding backwards to your comment here, I think he should be the starting LF on opening day 2012. I showed yesterday how Jonah Keri’s comment to my question more based on a “will anyone sign long term in Oakland” line of thinking regarding Willingham made me really look at what we have in him and decide he isn’t necessarily the type of guy we want long term. I think Carter needs all of this year until the rosters expand in September to cut down on his strikeouts and learn to be a serviceable left fielder. I think he can do it and make huge contributions to the middle of the lineup come 2012.


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