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An SB Nation blog for Oakland Athletics fans



Updated: 2017-02-25T17:57:44-08:00

 



Hahn and Alcantara Kick Off A's 5th Starter Competition

2017-02-25T17:57:44-08:00

This was a long offseason. For as forgettable and unwatchable and frustrating the previous couple of seasons have been, baseball is comfort that, for eight months a year, gives and gives without asking for anything back. It has has long stretches of boring and intense bursts of excitement, it has heroes and villains and rivalries and companionship. It can be infuriating at points, heartbreaking at others, and we constantly hold onto hope for the unlikeliest of outcomes. Baseball is an escape from the realities of our busy lives while also mirroring them. The moment the Cubs celebrated on the field following the final out of the 2016 World Series, marking the end of a long season, a disquiet appeared and followed my soul as the feeling of comfort that baseball provides was left behind. And, to top it all off, the offseason was SO BORING. But it is now officially over. Baseball (mostly) is back. *** Click here to revisit today's Game Thread! *** The A’s lost their spring training opener 4-3, but that isn’t important. What is important is Jesse Hahn taking the mound for 1.2 innings and recording two strikeouts. He was roughed up just a tad in his second inning of work, in which he allowed three runs, but the inning could have gone much differently had he fielded a tough chopper back to the mound successfully in lieu of deflecting the comebacker into left field. But the runs allowed aside, Hahn was satisfied with the movement he regained after sacrificing movement for speed last season. Raul Alcantara is in competition with Hahn for the fifth starter spot in the rotation, and perhaps has a leg up on him simply due to the fact that he has no minor league options remaining. And in his two scoreless innings pitched, Alcantara showed off his primary strengths as he recorded five of his six outs via ground out and got a strikeout as well. The other notable pitching performance came from Bobby Wahl, who was throwing heat in his one inning of work and recorded two strikeouts. AN’s #24 prospect is not likely to break camp with the team, but when inevitable injuries arise to the bullpen, Wahl should be amongst the first reinforcements called up. On the offensive side of things, there were quite a few positives. Newcomer Rajai Davis walked and stole both second and third base in the first inning, and newcomer Matt Joyce walked and homered, both players showcasing the strengths that caused the A’s to pursue them this winter. However, the main focus of today’s game on the position player side of things were the prospects. Matt Chapman, future savior of the franchise, got the start at third base and did not disappoint. Chapman fielded his position well, as is to be expected, and in the fourth innning, shortly following Joyce’s longball, crushed a home run of his own to right center. frameborder="0" height="224" width="400" src="http://m.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=1225941183&topic_id=69972428&width=400&height=224&property=mlb">Your browser does not support iframes. Later in today’s game, Barreto, who got only one at bat after subbing in at shortstop for Marcus Semien, fell behind 1-2 but managed to hit a towering fly ball to deep center field that ultimately got corralled by the Cubs’ center fielder near the warning track. Much of the A’s future hopes rests on the shoulders of prospects like Chapman and Barreto, as the franchise appears to be poising itself to open up their competitive window in 2018 when top prospects become major-league-ready players, so to see Chapman appear to pick up right where he left off last season and Barreto not back down in their first dose of 2017 big league competition is encouraging. On the defensive side of things, the A’s were fundamentally sound. They made all the plays they were supposed to make. This shouldn’t be notable, but after last season, non-disastrous defense ought to be pointed out. Baseball is finally back, and it is still early enough in spring training to not hate how long and annoying spring training is. This was a lon[...]



The Oakland A’s earliest spring roster crunch

2017-02-25T14:54:37-08:00

It’s never too early to think about how the roster will pan out. For a team projected to finish last in its division, the A’s sure do have a lot of roster questions. While the overall strength of the team’s roster is low, there are more than 25 guys who have legitimate claims to sticking around. Making the wrong decision on that initial roster could result in the loss of games and probably more germane to the A’s, a loss of future assets. There are obvious flaws and caveats in taking late February guesses at the A’s Opening Day roster. For one, we’re at the point in the year where pitcher injuries are at their highest. This point bears repeating cause boy does it suck and and it will likely shape the roster. There’s also the matter of Spring Training performance which can dictate a roster breakdown, particularly on a young and saturated roster. We saw it last season with Jesse Hahn, and if a previously sure bet to make the roster falters, the A’s might option whoever that may be to Nashville. But as things stand now, there’s some roster gymnastics to be done to pare the roster down to 25-men. The roster breakdown We’ll dive in to other positions later and cut to the chase now in regards to relief pitching: the A’s will go with a seven man pen. That’s standard for most teams, but is guaranteed when your roster relies on platoons and has a distinct lack of positional flexibility. There will need to be backups, ones who can hopefully help defend later in games, and that will require the A’s to carry the requisite six infielders and five outfielders. Also dictating the roster breakdown is the A’s unforgiving early season schedule. In previous years, the A’s have been able to finagle the early season roster thanks to early off-days, leaving their fifth starter in the minors until the third week of the season. No such luck this year, as the A’s are starting the season with eight straight games before their first off day. It gets no easier from there with 12 straight games before off day number two. That means the roster the A’s break camp with needs to be a standard, run-of-the-mill 25 man roster. The bullpen itself There are plenty of candidates for the pen but eight in particular make sense to start the year there, each of them posing different ramifications should they miss the roster. That’s of course a larger number than the seven spots available. Further exacerbating the problem is the need for a long reliever. The A’s have options for this role, but those options squeeze out worthy players. The likely locks, health provided (options in parenthesis) Santiago Casilla (0), Sean Doolittle (1), Ryan Dull (3), Liam Hendriks (0), Ryan Madson (0) That’s a pretty good group of pitchers! The big issue there is that none of those guys are particularly option-able, meaning there’s no hiding a deserving pitcher by way of the minor leagues. The A’s have too many guys for too few spots, and you’d hate to lose any of them at any given time. It’d take disaster for any of the five above to miss the Opening Day roster. The question marks Daniel Coulombe You might recognize Coulombe from such hits as Daniel Coulombe is really, really good, and he is really good and the roster needs him. Even if he makes it, the A’s would only have three lefty pitchers on the roster. The only other lefty in the pen is Sean Doolittle who is far more than a LOOGY. Coulombe could slot into the classic LOOGY role with the added ability of not being a liability against righties. But, and it’s a big, Anthony Recker sized but, he’s not a lock due to his remaining option and contract status. It’d be frustrating to be without one of the only lefty pitchers on the roster, especially one who should be excellent in LOOGY situations. However if the A’s want to delay making a decision that could end up with them losing a pitcher like Raul Alcantara, optioning Coulombe is in fact an option. John Axford Putting Axford here might seem like a bit of a stretch, but the list[...]



Tyler Sturdevant, Simon Castro, and Oakland A’s reliever depth

2017-02-25T13:43:19-08:00

Throughout every winter, baseball teams stock up on some veteran minor league free agents to fill out Triple-A rosters and provide depth in key areas. Most of these names never amount to anything, and many of them bounce around from system to system as the years go on. But occasionally they break through, and they’ll be playing in spring training anyway, so it’s worth a quick peek to see who they are. We’ve looked at several of these free agents already this winter, including a mix of players who have already logged some MLB time and others who are yet to make it at all: OF Jaff Decker and OF Kenny Wilson OF Alejandro De Aza 1B/OF Chris Parmelee C Ryan Lavarnway re-signed LHP Ross Detwiler re-signed LHP Felix Doubront, C Matt McBride, OF Andrew Lambo, RHP Chris Smith, and RHP Aaron Kurcz FanPost (apilgrim): RHP Josh Smith (claimed off waivers) In our final installment, we’re going to meet a quartet of right-handed relievers: Tyler Sturdevant, Simon Castro, Cesar Valdez, and Michael Brady. All but Brady have pitched in the majors before. (For perspective, the success stories from last year’s crop of minor league free agent relievers were Chris Smith and Patrick Schuster.) Let’s start by reminding ourselves of the current depth chart. Here is one way of looking at it: MLB guys: Doolittle, Madson, Casilla, Dull, Hendriks, Axford, Coulombe Potential surplus starters: Alcantara, Triggs, maybe Frankie Montas Triple-A and below: Bobby Wahl (on 40-man), Zach Neal, Chris Smith, Tucker Healy, Aaron Kurcz, Carlos Navas, and also these four free agent signings And now, the new guys! Tyler Sturdevant, RHP Let’s start with the bad stuff about him, and then work our way toward a happier conclusion. Sturdevant was a 27th-round draft pick. He had Tommy John surgery in college, but don’t worry, he also lost a full pro season to a shoulder injury so at least he’s versatile. Two years ago he got popped for PEDs and missed another 50 games. He’s on the smaller side for a pitcher, at 6’0 and 185. He did finally make his MLB debut last year ... at age 30. All of that helps explain why he was available as a minor league free agent. So what do the A’s want with him? First, let’s address those major injuries — they came in 2007 and 2013, and for what it’s worth he appears to have been healthy and firing on all cylinders for three straight years now. The medical history still counts, but clearly he’s capable of staying on the mound for a full season. The question is what he can do once there. Sturdevant’s career began quickly, as it took him just over two calendar years to go from the back-end of the draft to Triple-A. But he finally stalled in his first full season at that level, and then the shoulder knocked him out. But he came back in 2014, zipped through a Double-A trial, and has posted the following numbers over the last three seasons in Triple-A (including playoffs): Sturdevant, 2014-16 AAA: 3.61 ERA, 102⅓ ip, 107 Ks, 33 BB, 15 HR, 4.12 FIP That would be a good enough line, but the homers drag it down to mediocre. For what it’s worth, though, his home parks (Columbus and Durham) were two relative bandboxes in the otherwise pitcher-friendly International League. He finally got his call to the bigs last May, with the Tampa Bay Rays, and it went well (the homer was hit by Kyle Seager, which is fair enough): Sturdevant, 2016 MLB: 3.93 ERA, 18⅓ ip, 14 Ks, 6 BB, 1 HR, 3.47 FIP As for what Sturdevant throws, here’s John Sickels of Minor League Ball: He relies primarily on a fastball in the low-90s and a hard-breaking slider which is tough on right-handed hitters. He has a change-up but it is a show-me third pitch. He has shown he can dominate Triple-A when his command is working; in the majors he projects as a ROOGY or middle reliever. Here’s that slider: src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8b2fENBenaU?wmode=transparent&rel=0&autohide=1&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=1" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" style="top: 0px; left: 0p[...]