30 Clubs in 30 Days: Oakland Athletics

Some little bits of news to discuss before I get into the A’s. Lance Lynn signed with the Twins, bolstering their rotation, and the Patriots traded for Browns nose tackle Danny Shelton. With Lynn gone, the only real free agents left of significance are Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Greg Holland. As for Shelton, the former 12th overall pick was a disappointment in Cleveland but I think he fits New England’s system a lot better, as they like to use a true nose tackle a lot more often than Cleveland does, which is what Shelton is at 6’3 345 pounds. And the big news of course is Richard Sherman agreeing to sign with the 49ers on a 3 year $39M deal. So without further ado, let’s get to this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the Oakland Athletics.

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2017 Results:

Record: 75-87, 26 games behind Houston Astros, 10 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RF Stephen Piscotty, C Jonathan Lucroy, DH Brandon Moss, RP Ryan Buchter, RP Yusmeiro Petit

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Ryon Healy, SP Jesse Hahn, DH Chris Carter, RP John Axford

Best Offensive Player: DH Khris Davis

Best Pitcher: Kendall Graveman

Depth Chart:

C-Jonathan Lucroy, Bruce Maxwell, Josh Phegley

1B-Matt Olson, Brandon Moss

2B-Jed Lowrie

3B-Matt Chapman

SS-Marcus Semien

LF-Khris Davis (DH), Matt Joyce

CF-Dustin Fowler, Boog Powell

RF-Stephen Piscotty, Mark Canha

SP-Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, Daniel Mendgen, Andrew Triggs, Paul Blackburn

Bullpen-Blake Treinen (CP), Yusmeiro Petit, Chris Hatcher, Santiago Casilla, Liam Hendriks, Ryan Dull, Ryan Buchter, Danny Coloumbe

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Bob Melvin (8th season with Athletics)

Hitting Coach-Darren Bush

Pitching Coach-Scott Emerson

1st Base Coach-Al Pedrique

3rd Base Coach-Matt Williams

Bench Coach-Ryan Christenson

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I feel like the Athletics are just the most obscure team in baseball and the only reason they really get any sort of attention is because of Moneyball, both the movie and the book. Otherwise, I doubt anybody would ever pay them a second thought. They don’t have any superstar players and they won’t compete for the postseason but they also won’t be so bad that they’re a talking point. They’re just kind of there. Here’s a look at their lineup to prove my point.

1. Jed Lowrie-2B

2. Stephen Piscotty-RF

3. Matt Chapman-3B

4. Khris Davis-DH

5. Matt Olson-1B

6. Jonathan Lucroy-C

7. Marcus Semien-SS

8. Matt Joyce-LF

9. Dustin Fowler/Boog Powell-CF

Jonathan Lucroy was considered one of the top catchers in the game for a while, but he had a down year in 2017. Having split time between the Rangers and Rockies, Lucroy hit .265 with 6 home runs and 40 RBI and a 1.2 WAR. He just agreed to a 1-year deal with the A’s a couple days ago and as of this writing, Lucroy has not been officially introduced as an Oakland A. If he can bounce back and return to his 2016 form, the heart of the A’s order could be deadly. Khris Davis has been an absolute monster at the plate since the A’s acquired him from the Brewers prior to the 2016 season as he’s had back-to-back 40 home runs seasons in Oakland. He’s been extremely consistent in his two years there, as he hit .247 in both seasons while hitting 42 home runs in 2016 and 43 in ’17, and was worth 2.4 WAR in ’16 and 2.3 in ’17. So you kind of know what you’re going to get with Davis in an A’s uniform. Where the projection comes into play is from the two Matt’s in this A’s lineup: Chapman and Olson. Chapman made his Major League debut last season and despite a low batting average of .234, he slugged .472, showcasing a pretty good power stroke while also playing excellent defense at third base. His 19 DRS in 84 games would’ve led all AL third basemen had he played enough to qualify and would’ve ranked just behind Nolan Arenado for best in baseball. As for Olson, he played 59 games for the A’s last season and hit 24 home runs, which equates to a 65 home run season over 162 games. He also plays above average defense at first base, being worth 4 DRS in his limited action. Both he and Chapman are two guys the A’s organization is really excited about. Centerfield is the one position in this lineup that is a question mark as to who is going to man it. Dustin Fowler is a highly rated prospect that the A’s acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray deal at last year’s trade deadline while Boog Powell is a guy they acquired from the Mariners in exchange for Yonder Alonso around the same time. Fowler is notable as being the Yankees prospect who injured his knee in his first big league game last season and was shelved for the remainder of the season. He has yet to have his first big league plate appearance. Powell played in 52 games last season and hit a solid .282 while playing a good defensive outfield. I think I’m going to give the slight edge to Powell to be the Opening Day starter but I think it’s going to be Fowler in the long run.

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This is probably one of the least sexy pitching rotations in the Majors but it could also be one of the more underrated. Kendall Graveman is likely going to be the ace at the start of the season but he would probably be the #3 or 4 starter on most other teams. He’s not bad, his ERA is consistently in the low-4’s, but he’s not the guy you’re going to breathe a sigh of relief for when you see that it’s his turn in the rotation. The guys the A’s are hoping develop this season are Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton. Manaea was one of their top prospects and he’s gotten some significant action the last couple years. He had a 3.86 ERA in his 2016 rookie season and 4.37 last year, however that number was inflated due to a rough second half, as he had an ERA over 5 after the All Star break. He’s a talented lefty that the A’s hope can be their future ace. Cotton is another guy with a lot of talent but hasn’t quite figured out how to pitch in the Majors just yet. He debuted in 2016, making 5 starts and he pitched really well in those outings, posting a 2.15 ERA. He got a chance to pitch a full season in 2017 and he didn’t have nearly as much success, pitching to a 5.58 ERA in 24 starts. A lot of that was due to a very high HR/9 rate of 1.95, which would have led the Majors had he pitched enough innings to qualify. The dimensions of Oakland Alameda County Coliseum are pretty neutral towards hitters and pitchers so you can’t really blame the high home run totals on a bad pitcher’s ballpark like you can with Coors or Chase Field so Cotton’s going to have to work on not leaving the ball over the heart of the plate if he’s going to take the next step.

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The A’s bullpen has some decent pieces. Blake Treinen is going to be the closer and he was inconsistent in 2017, as he had an ERA well over 5 prior to being traded to Oakland by the Nationals. However upon joining the A’s, Treinen returned to his 2016 form by posting an ERA of 2.13 in 35 games, recording 13 saves in the process. If Treinen can keep that up, the A’s should feel very comfortable with a close lead in the 9th inning. After him, newly-acquired Yusmeiro Petit is a solid reliever and Santiago Casilla was at one point a stud closer across the bay with the Giants. One guy who could be a wildcard for the A’s is Ryan Dull. Dull had a very strong 2016 season, posting an ERA of 2.42, however he struggled mightily in 2017 despite an increase in his K/9, posting an ERA over 5. He’s a guy who has shown closer potential and can be a real asset to this bullpen if he can get more consistent.

Overall, I think I’m slowly talking myself into this Oakland team. On paper they’re not very impressive, but a lot of this will depend on how their young guys perform, particularly Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Dustin Fowler. If those guys can build on the promise they showed last year, Oakland could be a sneaky team in a tough AL West. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs, but I can see them as a potential sleeper in the American League. If their young talent can continue to improve, I think the A’s could be my darkhorse team much like the Rockies were last season.

Projected Record: 77-85, Last in AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. I’m on Spring Break now and I’ll be partying it up in Fort Lauderdale but that doesn’t mean I won’t be keeping up with the blog. I’ll make sure I have each post scheduled before I go out so never fret. Join me tomorrow where I preview the Philadelphia Phillies, who have a lot of young talent just waiting to get an opportunity. Let me know what you think of the A’s chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Kansas City Royals

The NFL Scouting Combine continued, this time the quarterbacks, receivers, and tight ends were the participants. Quick takeaway, Josh Allen is about as perfect a physical specimen as you’re going to find, the problem of course being that his numbers in games were not very good. But again, after the combine is over I’ll have a breakdown of what I saw in addition to that day’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. So with that, let’s get to the Kansas City Royals.

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2017 Results:

Record: 80-82, 22 games behind Cleveland Indians, 5 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Lucas Duda, SP Wily Peralta, RP Blaine Boyer, SP Jesse Hahn, 2B Ryan Goins, OF Tyler Collins

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Eric Hosmer, CF Lorenzo Cain, 3B Mike Moustakas, DH Brandon Moss, SP Jason Vargas, SP Chris Young, RP Mike Minor, RP Joakim Soria, RP Ryan Buchter

Best Offensive Player: C Salvador Perez

Best Pitcher: Danny Duffy

Depth Chart:

C-Salvador Perez, Drew Butera

1B-Lucas Duda

2B-Whit Merrifield, Raul Mondesi

3B-Cheslor Cuthbert, Hunter Dozier

SS-Alcides Escobar

LF-Alex Gordon

CF-Paolo Orlando

RF-Jorge Bonifacio, Jorge Soler (DH)

SP-Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Jesse Hahn, Nate Karns

Bullpen-Kelvin Herrera (CP), Wily Peralta, Brandon Maurer, Kevin McCarthy, Miguel Almonte, Brian Flynn

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Ned Yost (9th season with Royals)

Hitting Coach-Terry Bradshaw

Pitching Coach-Cal Eldred

1st Base Coach-Mitch Maier

3rd Base Coach-Mike Jirschele

Bench Coach-Dale Sveum

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Did the Royals win their World Series at the perfect time or what? Basically as soon as they hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy after Wade Davis struck out Wilmer Flores to end the 2015 season, the Royals have been preparing for this moment and at long last it has come: the Royals need to rebuild. I mean just take a look at that “notable offseason subtractions” list. You could fill a pretty quality roster with those guys. I should mention, though, that Mike Moustakas, as of this writing, is still unsigned so it’s not totally unthinkable that he returns to Kansas City considering they had a 7-year deal ready for Eric Hosmer. But with all those losses to their core, let’s take a look at who is returning to Kansas City.

1. Alcides Escobar-SS

2. Whit Merrifield-2B

3. Alex Gordon-LF

4. Salvador Perez-C

5. Lucas Duda-1B

6. Jorge Bonifacio-RF

7. Paolo Orlando-CF

8. Jorge Soler-DH

9. Cheslor Cuthbert/Hunter Dozier-3B

I’ve definitely seen worse, though I’ve also seen far better. The only guy still of note here is Salvador Perez, whom I consider to be the best all-around catcher in the American League. He’s a skilled hitter, is hard to run on behind the plate, and does a good job working with a pitching staff. The main issue with Perez is how he’s used. Catchers typically require more days off than any other position player but Perez seems to be the exception to that rule, though the Royals’ coaching staff seem to be wising up to this. Perez played in 150 games in 2014 and since then his games played totals have gone down in each year, bottoming out at 129 (which is more typical for catchers) in 2017. You may also notice that his home run totals have gone up in every season of his career, boasting a career high 27 bombs in 2017. This suggests that the extra rest has really aided his long-term level of play. Alex Gordon’s play has dropped significantly since the Royals won the World Series and 2017 was probably his worst season since he was threatening to become a catastrophic bust early in his career. Despite continuing to play the best left field in all of baseball, Gordon was atrocious at the plate in 2017, hitting .208 with 9 home runs, 45 RBI, reached base at a .293 clip, slugged a measly .315 and was replacement level with a 0.0 WAR in 148 games played. Like I said before, Gordon’s defense is excellent, but those numbers at the plate are just unacceptable. Offensively as a whole the Royals were just 24th in baseball in runs scored in 2017 and now they’ve lost their three best offensive threats in Hosmer, Cain, and Moustakas. Kansas City is going to struggle to score runs this season.

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Kauffman Stadium is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game and the Royals typically play very good defense so I’m not too concerned about how they’re going to pitch despite lacking any real star power on the mound. Though to be fair, when they won the World Series in 2015 their Game 1 starter was Edinson Volquez (they did have Johnny Cueto at the time, though he was a midseason addition and he didn’t pitch that well upon joining the Royals). So the Royals are used to succeeding on the mound without superstars in their rotation. Danny Duffy is their ace and he is one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball. Last season he went 9-10 with a 3.81 ERA, a 3.46 FIP, struck out 8 batters per 9 innings, and only let up 0.80 HR/9. He has plenty of arm talent and will more than likely get the Opening Day nod for the Royals provided he can stay healthy, which has been an issue as he’s only qualified for the Major League minimum in innings pitched once in his career (2016). The rest of the rotation is made up of some filler guys, such as Ian Kennedy and Jason Hammel. They did acquire Jesse Hahn from the A’s in exchange for Brandon Moss, which provides them with some decent depth in their starting rotation, however they lack a true ace, just a bunch of #3-caliber starting pitchers. But again, Kauffman Stadium is very favorable towards pitchers so I don’t think a lack of star power is going to hinder these guys too much.

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There’s a lot to be desired with the Royals’ bullpen. Closer Kelvin Herrera is extremely talented, as his fastball is consistently around 98 mph, but he had a down year in 2017 as he carried a 4.25 ERA a year after back-to-back 2.7 ERA campaigns. Herrera also doesn’t strike out nearly as many batters as you’d expect for a guy who throws as hard as he does, as he’s typically somewhere in the 8 K/9 range and has eclipsed 10 K/9 in a season just twice (2013 and 2016). After him, there’s not much. Wily Peralta was the Opening Day starter for the Brewers a couple times but he hasn’t had a sub-4 ERA since 2014 and last season was particularly disastrous as he had a 7.85 ERA in 8 starts before moving to the bullpen to make 11 more appearances. Brandon Maurer is a talented reliever but 2017 was his second season where he carried an ERA over 6, though his FIP was sub-4, suggesting he was significantly better than his ERA might suggest. There still is much left to be desired in this Royals bullpen however the Kauffman Stadium effect does apply here and will likely help their overall numbers.

Overall, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Royals somewhere near the cellar of the AL Central. In fact, I’d probably put them there if the Tigers weren’t looking so terrible. The Royals aren’t going to be very good, but I don’t expect them to be abysmal. Ned Yost is a good enough manager to where I think he could help this team steal some series’. I think the best case scenario for this Royals team is that they’ll be pesky and cause some teams problems, however they won’t be much more than that and will be looking to try and secure a high draft pick.

Projected Finish: 74-88, 3rd in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I preview the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were one win away from winning their first World Series since 1988. Let me know what you think of the Royals’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.