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: Cincinnati Reds

Outside of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, JD Martinez’s contract with the Red Sox is finally official a week after the agreement was announced. Apparently their might be an issue with Martinez’s foot that could have some long-term implications that forced both sides to adjust some language in the actual contract. But nonetheless, Martinez is officially a member of the Boston Red Sox now. Also, in the world of football, it’s rumored that Roger Goodell is going to fine Cowboys owner Jerry Jones “millions” for “conduct detrimental to the league.” What did Jones do exactly? Criticize Goodell’s handling of the Ezekiel Elliott situation and tried to get other owners to side with him to dock Goodell’s pay and get him out of office. I’m not a Jerry Jones fan, I think he’s an ass, but I’ve got to side with him on this one. Fining a guy millions because he disagrees with the job you’re doing as commissioner and wants somebody better in charge? That’s dictatorial. It’s one thing if Jones did something like compare you to Hitler. That’s crossing a line. But to be outspoken because he thinks one of his players’ 6-game suspension was unjustified is well within his rights. It’s literally just Goodell trying to flex his power on the owners and prove to everybody he isn’t their bitch when everybody knows that’s just not the case. It’s like what happened with Deflategate and the loss of draft picks for the Patriots. It’s Goodell trying to prove to people that Robert Kraft doesn’t own him. Can’t wait until 2024 when this asshole retires and we hopefully get somebody competent in charge. So now we’re in Day 8 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and we’re on to the Cincinnati Reds. Let’s get to it.

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2017 Results:

Record: 68-94, 24 games behind Chicago Cubs, 19 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RP Oliver Perez, 2B Cliff Pennington, RP David Hernandez, SP Vance Worley, RP Jared Hughes, 2B Phil Gosselin, RP Kevin Quackenbush

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SS Zack Cozart, OF Scott Van Slyke, SP Bronson Arroyo, CP Drew Storen, SP Scott Feldman,

Best Offensive Player: 1B Joey Votto

Best Pitcher: CP Raisel Iglesias

Depth Chart:

C-Tucker Barnhart, Devin Mesoraco

1B-Joey Votto

2B-Scooter Gennett, Cliff Pennington

3B-Eugenio Suarez

SS-Jose Peraza, Phil Gosselin

LF-Adam Duvall

CF-Billy Hamilton, Phillip Ervin

RF-Scott Schebler

SP-Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Luis Castillo, Robert Stephenson, Vance Worley

Bullpen-Raisel Iglesias (CP), Michael Lorenzen, Wandy Peralta, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Ariel Hernandez, Kevin Quackenbush, Oliver Perez,

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Brian Pryce (5th Season with Reds)

Hitting Coach-Don Long

Pitching Coach-Mack Jenkins

1st Base Coach-Freddie Benavides

3rd Base Coach-Billy Hatcher

Bench Coach-Jim Riggleman

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If you read my preview of the Chicago White Sox yesterday, you may remember that they had one excellent first baseman, a guy who had one big season, and the rest was a bunch of guys who probably wouldn’t crack most Major League rosters. You can basically copy and paste that here with the Cincinnati Reds. One could argue that Joey Votto is the best pure hitter alive today and the reason he’s not getting Bryce Harper levels of coverage is because he plays for a bad Reds team. I mean, look at this lineup.

1. Billy Hamilton-CF

2. Eugenio Suarez-3B

3. Joey Votto-1B

4. Adam Duvall-LF

5. Scott Schebler-RF

6. Scooter Gennett-2B

7. Tucker Barnhart-C

8. Jose Peraza-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Don’t get me wrong, this team is capable of scoring runs. Despite lacking real talent, the Reds ranked 14th in the Majors in runs scored. Part of that is due to the fact that Great American Ballpark is very hitter-friendly but there is also some power in this Reds lineup. Aside from Votto, whom we know is about as dangerous a hitter as there is in baseball, Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, and all of a sudden Scooter Gennett can take you deep if you’re not careful. Last season, Gennett became possibly the most unlikely member of the 4-home-runs-in-one-game club when he accomplished the feat in June. Prior to last season, Gennett’s season high home run total was 14. He hit 27 in 2017. And it wasn’t even like the benefit of Great American Ballpark was the big factor here, he played the first few years of his career at one of the more hitter-friendly parks in Miller Park in Milwaukee. Gennett just altered his swing and it seemed to unlock his power stroke. Hell, Gennett is 5’10 185 pounds. That doesn’t exactly scream “30 home run threat.” Adam Duvall is another guy who found his power stroke upon joining the Reds. After having been a career minor leaguer in the Giants’ organization, Duvall really came into his own in 2016 once he got regular playing time in Cincinnati when he hit 33 home runs and drove in 103 runs. He proved in 2017 that that newfound power wasn’t a fluke as he hit 31 home runs and knocked in 99 RBI last season. Duvall is pretty much an all-or-nothing guy at the plate as he typically hits in the .240’s and only walks about 6% of the time but also will hit 30+ home runs and provides some decent protection for Votto. And I’ve been beating around the bush quite a bit because I wanted to give his teammates a little bit of recognition, but Joey Votto really is the best pure hitter in the game. He just doesn’t take a bad swing. His patience at the plate is well-documented, as he walked 19% of the time last season, but when he does swing, he rarely misses. In fact, in 2016, Votto didn’t hit a single infield fly. Not one. He hit only hit 1 in 2017. Plus he only strikes out about 11% of the time so typically when he puts a swing on, he doesn’t miss. The fact that he’s spent his entire 10-year (entering 11th) career with the Reds during a time when they’ve typically struggled (they had some success at the start of the decade) is a shame and it will result in him probably not being remembered as fondly as he should, which is saying a lot since he was 2010 NL MVP. There’s your Joey Votto appreciation for the day.

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Reds pitching seems to always have been a struggle. In fact, the only pitcher I can ever remember having any real success in a Reds uniform is Johnny Cueto and he had to resort to a little gimmick to aid in his success (the shimmy he does in his windup). Last season the Reds finished with the second worst team ERA in the Majors (ahead of only the Tigers) and worst in the National League. Homer Bailey is their best starting pitcher but he’s dealt with a lot of injuries since he signed his extension with the Reds a couple years ago. The author of 2 no hitters in his career, Bailey hasn’t pitched a full season since 2013 and last season in 18 starts he had an ERA over 6. The best stretch of Bailey’s career was 2011-13 where he consistently had an ERA in the mid-3’s in all 3 years but he just hasn’t been on the mound since that time due to injury. The Reds will hope to have him return to full health this season if they’re going to have any hope of escaping the cellar of the NL Central, a place they’ve been stuck in since 2014. Anthony DeSclafani is a decent pitcher and Luis Castillo has some electric stuff, but nobody in their starting rotation is an established stud.

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If you think the Reds’ starting rotation is bad, shield your eyes from their bullpen. Aside from their closer, Raisel Iglesias, there is nobody in their ‘pen that would give manager Brian Pryce any confidence. Iglesias, who has also been an Opening Day starter for the Reds, saved 28 games last season and pitched to a 2.49 ERA while striking out nearly 11 batters per 9 innings. After him, their best options are Michael Lorenzen, a failed starter with inconsistent bullpen success (he was good in 2016, bad in ’17), Jared Hughes, who is actually pretty decent as his ERA is consistently in the low 3’s, and David Hernandez. Those are the best options the Reds have to set up Iglesias. Late innings should get interesting in Cincinnati.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Cincinnati Reds. In fact, I suspect they will finish last in the NL Central once again. Their bats coupled with the benefits of Great American Ballpark will keep them in games but their pitching is just so bad I can’t envision them ever really sniffing the .500 mark. They have a good closer, but actually having a lead so that he can shut the door is going to be a struggle for the Reds. They have some decent prospects in waiting, such as the 18 year-old flamethrowing pitcher/shortstop Hunter Greene, third baseman Nick Senzel, and outfielder Taylor Trammell, but those guys are still a little ways away. Expect the Reds to finish with one of the worst records in the National League in 2018.

Projected Record: 69-93, last in NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Cleveland Indians, who look to exorcise their postseason demons in 2018. Let me know what you think of the Reds’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.