Saturday, March 28, 2015

Are the A's Legit?

In the twenty-five days since Cactus League games began, the question has gone from “Who are these guys?” to "Could this Oakland A's club actually contend in 2015?" As the players have gotten to know each other, we've gotten to know them, and at this juncture some things are clear and others are big question marks.

For one thing, Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, and Drew Pomeranz have all pitched well enough to earn a spot in the starting rotation alongside Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir. If Graveman does get the nod, that means two of the four players acquired from the Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson trade, Graveman and third baseman Brett Lawrie, will begin the year with the big club. We all hated to see Donaldson go, but this deal may have reaped key dividends for the A's.

What's also clear is that Rule 5 acquisition Mark Canha has pop; yesterday he launched his fourth homer, most of any Athletic this spring. First baseman Ike Davis is hitting .481, and Ben Zobrist looks every bit like the elite ballplayer he is.

Oakland's bullpen, even minus recently demoted Ryan Cook and injured Sean Doolittle, looks solid. Dan Otero, Eric O'Flaherty, and substitute closer Tyler Clippard headline a relief corps that should once again rank among the league's best.

But many question marks remain. Coco Crisp is 35 and needed a cortisone shot last Tuesday. Josh Reddick, who missed 37 games in 2013 and 38  in 2014 due to injury, has been sidelined by an oblique strain. The A's center-field platoon of Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry won't scare opposing pitchers. And it's been three years since Billy Butler, whom the A's will rely on for middle-of-the-lineup heroics, has hit more than  fifteen homers in a season.

It all adds up to a lot of promise, and uncertainty. In other words, it's spring, it's your low-budget Oakland Athletics, and it's a bunch of guys who could gel and excel – or put up a .500 record. One encouraging early-season sign for the A's: they'll face Felix Hernandez only once in April. . . .

Posted by C.S. Soong