Tag Archive for Ryan Cook

Meet Your 2015 Oakland A’s!

A's GM Billy Beane: Rebuilding or retooling for another run?

A’s GM Billy Beane: Rebuilding or retooling for another run?

 

With the A’s heart-breaking 2014 campaign now over, the A’s faithful are left wondering, “What’s next?” But before we examine the possible answers to that question, let’s first take a look at who’s set to stay and who’s set to go…

 

A’s Eligible Free Agents:

Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, Luke Gregerson, Jed Lowrie, Alberto Callaspo, Geovany Soto, Jonny Gomes, Adam Dunn

 

A’s Arbitration Eligible Players:

Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick, John Jaso, Eric Sogard, Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry, Kyle Blanks, Jeff Samardzija, Jesse Chavez, Ryan Cook, Fernando Abad, Fernando Rodriguez, Jarrod Parker

 

A’s Pitchers under Team Control in 2015:

Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray, Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz, Sean Doolittle, Fernando Abad, Eric O’Flaherty, Ryan Cook, Dan Otero, Evan Scribner, Fernando Rodriguez, A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker, Josh Lindblom

 

A’s Hitters under Team Control in 2015:

John Jaso, Stephen Vogt, Derek Norris, Eric Sogard, Nick Punto, Andy Parrino, Josh Donaldson, Nate Freiman, Kyle Blanks, Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry

 

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Will Billy be wheelin’ and dealin’ this winter?

Assuming the A’s aren’t likely to re-sign any of the team’s potential free agents, the A’s available roster of players for the 2015 season doesn’t really look all that different from the roster of players the team started 2014 with. But with this season’s disappointment fresh in A’s fans’ hearts and minds, many have been calling for general manager Billy Beane and his staff to dismantle the current roster and begin the rebuild. If recent comments are any indication though, it looks like Beane and company aren’t ready for a rebuild quite yet and would rather retool for at least one more go-‘round with this current crop of A’s players. Beane was quoted in Bay Area media reports this week as saying that the A’s would be looking for a right-handed bat and that the shortstop position was also an area of concern for him. Those don’t exactly sound like the sentiments of a man looking to tear things down but rather of a man looking to build things back up.

When it comes to pitching, the A’s could actually be in a position to start off the 2015 season with a slightly stronger rotation than the team had in place at the start of 2014. Jeff Samardzija, Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray, Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz are all under team control and all performed well when given a shot in the rotation last year. The team began 2014 with Kazmir, Gray and Chavez in the rotation, along with Dan Straily and Tommy Milone. So Samardzija and Pomeranz would seem to represent something of an upgrade over Straily and Milone. Josh Lindblom should remain available at Triple-A, while A.J. Griffin could be ready to rejoin the rotation at some point during the season as he returns from Tommy John surgery. Jarrod Parker shouldn’t necessarily be counted on to rejoin the rotation though, since this is his second Tommy John surgery – only one player, Chris Capuano, has returned to a starting role after a second Tommy John surgery – but it’s possible that Parker could ultimately end up figuring into the A’s bullpen mix.

What will Doo do in 2015?

What will Doo do in 2015?

Sean Doolittle should return to the closer role, with Ryan Cook, Dan Otero, Fernando Abad and Eric O’Flaherty all coming back in supporting roles. With Luke Gregerson likely to depart via free agency and Jesse Chavez looking to return to the rotation, Evan Scribner and Fernando Rodriguez should have a good shot at stepping into their roles, and it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see the A’s pick up a couple of affordable arms with high upside (a la Fernando Abad) to add to the competition for the final bullpen spots. But other than that, there really isn’t that much work for the A’s front office to have to do on the pitching side of things this offseason.

When it comes to the team’s position players, while many names remain the same, there could be a couple of notable holes to try to fill. Catchers Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and John Jaso are all under team control. While Vogt should be ready to get back behind the plate again after offseason foot surgery, Jaso’s catching days could be coming to an end and his days as a designated hitter may be about to begin. With Jed Lowrie set to test the free agent waters, the A’s middle infielder corps currently consists of Eric Sogard, Nick Punto and Andy Parrino, which clearly will not suffice. Brandon Moss should return to platoon at first base with Kyle Blanks if he’s healthy, or Nate Freiman if he’s not. And in the outfield, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld and Craig Gentry all remain under the A’s control for 2015.

So if the A’s front office is looking to retool for 2015, Beane’s comments this week about a right-handed bat and a shortstop being among the team’s areas of need make perfect sense. A productive right-handed hitting outfielder who could fill the role of the departed Yoenis Cespedes would be a big step towards getting the A’s offense back on track. Any number of players due to hit the free agent market or available on the trade market could fill that role. Finding a credible shortstop to take Lowrie’s place could be a little more challenging – especially since former shortstop-of-the-future Addison Russell was dealt away to the Cubs and new shortstop-of-the-future Daniel Robertson is just 20 and still likely a couple of years away – but it might not be quite as challenging as some might think.

Would Stew do a deal with the A's?

Would Stew do a deal with the A’s?

Though some of them will surely be beyond the A’s budget, shortstops such as Hanley Ramirez, Asdrubal Cabrera, J.J. Hardy, Stephen Drew, Clint Barmes, Mike Aviles and Rafael Furcal are all expected to hit the free agent market this offseason. But there could also be some interesting opportunities to be found with one the A’s most frequent trade partners. The Arizona Diamondbacks, now run by former A’s and long-time Beane acquaintances Dave Stewart and Tony LaRussa, currently control four credible shortstops, three of whom – Chris Owings, Didi Gregorius and, yes, Cliff Pennington – all had better WARs this season than Jed Lowrie according to Baseball-Reference, while the fourth, Nick Ahmed, is a former 2nd-round draft pick who turned in a solid .312/.373/.425 slash line at Triple-A in 2014.

So while many disappointed A’s fans might be calling for a rebuild, the A’s front office looks like it may be planning on retooling for another run in 2015. With staff ace Jeff Samardzija now firmly atop the A’s starting rotation – and last year’s goat Jim Johnson nowhere to be found around the bullpen – if Beane and company can manage to come up with a credible shortstop to replace Lowrie and a solid right-handed bat to fill Cespedes’ role in the lineup, then the A’s could very well end up heading into the 2015 season with a slightly stronger roster than they had when they kicked off the 2014 campaign. The ball is now in Billy’s court – let the offseason wheeling and dealing begin!

 

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Saturday, May 31st: Buschmann & Atherton Pitch Cats & Ports to Victory while Snappers Win in Extras and Hounds Fall

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Pitcher Matt Buschmann (7 IP / 7 H / 2 ER / 0 BB / 9 K / Win)

A’s Farmhand Of The Day: Sacramento River Cats Pitcher Matt Buschmann (7 IP / 7 H / 2 ER / 0 BB / 9 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Sacramento River Cats  12

Fresno Grizzlies                    3

WP – Buschmann 4-0 / 4.28

HR – Taylor (5), Vogt (3), Barton (1)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Pitcher Matt Buschmann

(7 IP / 7 H / 2 ER / 0 BB / 9 K / Win)

RHP Matt Buschmann delivered an impressive start for Sacramento on Saturday, allowing 3 runs, just 2 earned, while walking none and striking out 9 over 7 innings of work to earn his 4th win for the Cats. Catcher Stephen Vogt continued his hot hitting, notching a double along with a 3-run homer, while outfielder Michael Taylor homered and drove in 3, and first baseman Daric Barton belted his 1st home run for the River Cats. With Saturday’s victory, Sacramento has now won 10 of its last 11 games.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Saturday, April 5th: Taylor Homers to Lead Cats to Victory while Ports Win, Hounds Lose & Snappers Split Twinbill

 

A’s Farmhand Of The Day

Sacramento River Cats Outfielder Michael Taylor (Home Run / Double / 3 RBIs)

Sacramento River Cats Outfielder Michael Taylor (HR / Double / 3 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Sacramento River Cats  12

Salt Lake Bees                    7

WP – Blanton 1-0 / 9.00

HR – Taylor (1)

Farmhand Of The Game:

Outfielder Michael Taylor

(Home Run / Double / 3 RBIs)

River Cats’ all-time hit-leader Michael Taylor tagged a 2-run homer in the 2nd inning to give Sacramento the lead, and the team never looked back, tacking on ten more runs before the night was through. Taylor doubled in another run, while shortstop Tyler Ladendorf singled, doubled and drove in 3, outfielder Jake Goebbert tripled, doubled and drove in 2, and third baseman Alden Carrithers collected 3 hits and drove in a pair. Joe Blanton, making his first start since returning to the A’s organization, allowed 6 runs, 5 earned, on 9 hits over 5 innings of work to pick up the win for the Cats.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Unexpected Injuries & Surprising Spring Performances Could Change the Face of the A’s Opening Day Roster

Bob Melvin

A’s manager Bob Melvin might end up with a few tricky decisions to have to make.

This was originally expected to be a rare spring where most of the A’s roster was pretty much set, with very few roster questions left to be answered. Possibly the biggest question when camp opened was – who would be the 13th position player to make the squad?

For much of the offseason, there was some uncertainty surrounding John Jaso’s physical status and manager Bob Melvin frequently mentioned his name as a likely candidate to get lots of at-bats as the team’s designated hitter. So it was expected the A’s would probably need to carry three catchers, meaning that lefty-swinging backstop Stephen Vogt, who ably filled in for Jaso when he went down last season, would likely make the team.

Once games got going though, it started to look like Jaso was ready to reclaim his spot behind the plate and it seemed that first baseman Daric Barton, who is out of options, was emerging as the favorite to claim the final roster spot. That wasn’t the only new development to shake up the A’s roster picture though.

Reliever Ryan Cook reported to camp with a sore shoulder that kept him off the mound, newly-acquired outfielder Craig Gentry arrived in Arizona with a strained back that kept him out of the lineup and, just this weekend, first baseman Barton had to be pulled from Saturday’s contest against Colorado after straining his left hamstring – and as we all know, hamstring issues can be notoriously tricky.

Prior to tweaking his hamstring though, Barton had been garnering attention as one of the A’s hottest hitters in the early spring, posting a .444/.643/.667 slash line in his first 7 games. But a number of other players had also been busy putting themselves on the map by coming out of the box with strong spring performances, including Barton’s chief competitor for the final roster spot, catcher Stephen Vogt, along with a trio of outfielders – veteran Sam Fuld, former top prospect Michael Taylor and young speed-burner Billy Burns – while right-handed reliever Evan Scribner was also doing his best to impress out of the bullpen.

Clearly, between some unexpected injuries and some surprising early spring performances, there could be a few changes to the face of the A’s opening day roster. So let’s take at how things are shaping up with a little over three weeks to go until opening day…

THE INJURED

Ryan Cook

rc77-19452-JCounted on as one of the A’s key setup men, Cook arrived in camp with a sore shoulder and, more than three weeks after pitchers first reported, he still hasn’t faced live batters. Even if the right-hander is able to get into a game in the next week, and doesn’t suffer any setbacks, he’s clearly behind schedule. And it’s entirely possible that Cook could end up needing a little extra time in extended spring training before the team feels he’s totally game-ready.

Craig Gentry

cg849bb723307cc864df6eb3f99430e6f4bOne of the A’s key offseason acquisitions, the team is expecting Gentry  to be a force in the lineup against left-handed starters and to do a better job filling in for the A’s starting outfielders than Chris Young did in that role last year. But the player who was known as “Kitten Face” in Texas reported to camp with a lower back strain and, after a week and a half’s worth of games, he still hasn’t been cleared to make an appearance in the field. The A’s are counting on Gentry to lend a dynamic presence to the lineup but, if his back is still bugging him in a couple of weeks, then he might just end up starting the season on the sidelines.

Daric Barton

dbimagesA long-serving presence in the A’s picture, the team’s on-again/off-again first baseman appeared to be on-again after a strong early spring performance and Jaso’s seeming return to normal behind the plate, minimizing the need for the team to carry three catchers and enabling the A’s to avoid having to expose Barton to waivers. But after this weekend’s hamstring strain, he could very well be off-again. There’s no report yet on the severity of the strain, but hamstrings are always a tricky issue, and it’s rarely wise to expect a quick or smooth road to recovery.

THE OPPORTUNISTS

Evan Scribner

es1275311bScribner started the spring as essentially the 8th man in a 7-man bullpen. Manager Bob Melvin has all but said that Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Dan Otero, Jesse Chavez, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook are set. But with only one left-hander in that group and one of the team’s most promising left-handers, Fernando Abad, out of options, it’s been expected that Scribner, who is also out of options, would be the odd man out. But probably the only pitchers who’ve been more effective than Scribner so far this spring would be Chavez, Doolittle and possibly right-hander Arnold Leon. With Doolittle and Chavez already locks and Leon slated to start the season in the River Cats rotation, if Cook is unable to be in the A’s bullpen on opening day, then Scribner is obviously the A’s go-to guy. His strong performance so far this spring and the fact that he’s out of options should make the choice an easy one.

Stephen Vogt

sv9147When camp opened, the assumption was that Vogt was likely to claim the A’s final roster spot. With manager Bob Melvin repeatedly mentioning that John Jaso might be getting a lot of at-bats as the team’s designated hitter this year, the need for the team to carry a third catcher seemed obvious. And Vogt did a great job of endearing himself to A’s fans and staff alike when he filled in for Jaso late last season and in the playoffs, where he started every game and came up with the key hit for the A’s in their Game #2 victory. But as spring games got going and Jaso seemed ready to re-establish himself behind the plate and Daric Barton was busy getting on base about two-thirds of the time, carrying a third catcher seem to decrease in importance and protecting Barton from waivers seemed to increase in importance, leaving Vogt destined for a spot behind the plate in Sacramento. But if Barton’s strained hamstring keeps him out of action for a few weeks, then Vogt, who’s been one of the team’s best hitters early this spring, posting a .467/.529/.667 slash line, could have a shot at reclaiming his roster spot with the A’s.

Sam Fuld

sfSamSigned fairly late in the game to a minor-league contract, there originally didn’t appear to be much opportunity for Fuld to make the team. The outfield was set with Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp and John Reddick, with Craig Gentry as the fourth outfielder and first baseman Brandon Moss also available to fill in in the outfield. But Fuld has been one of the team’s hottest hitters so far this spring, with a .304/.360/.565 slash line, and has impressed manager Bob Melvin and his staff with his play in the field. And if either Gentry or Barton isn’t ready to go by opening day, Fuld is well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunity. Like Barton, he’s a left-handed hitter and, like Gentry, he can also play center field if needed. So if the A’s end up needing a replacement for either of those two players, Fuld is well-suited to fill the bill. His hot spring and the fact that he has an opt-out clause that he can exercise if he doesn’t make the opening day roster, don’t hurt his chances either.

Michael Taylor

mtMichael+Taylor+Oakland+Athletics+Photo+Day+dBTGnNudkqnlThe A’s former top prospect and the River Cats’ all-time hit leader, Taylor appeared to be nearing a dead end with the A’s this spring as he was out of options and seemingly without a major league roster spot available to shoot for. But after a heart-to-heart talk with manager Bob Melvin early this spring, he suddenly started looking like a new man in the batter’s box. And Taylor has been one of the A’s most productive hitters thus far, posting a .333/.379/.556 slash line while playing every day this spring. With Fuld’s ability to play center field though, it might take both Barton and Gentry being unavailable on opening day for Taylor to have a shot at making the roster. But if both of them are out and Fuld claims one of the available spots, then Taylor might make the most logical replacement for Gentry’s right-handed bat against left-handers, while the A’s put off exposing the former top prospect to waivers and give him one last shot to show what he can do.

Nate Freiman

nfNate+Freiman+Oakland+Athletics+Photo+Day+CFUGtYuCl4Ll2The right-handed half of the A’s first-base platoon in 2013, it’s been assumed that Freiman was ticketed for Sacramento in 2014. But could he have the chance to hang on to his roster spot if fellow first baseman Barton starts the season on the shelf? It’s possible, but the problem with Freiman is that he’s essentially a one-trick pony. He can only play first base and he can only hit left-handed pitching, so he’s basically cut out to be the right-handed half of a first base platoon. But with the team seemingly intent on installing Alberto Callaspo in that position at this point, there’s really not much room for Freiman on the roster. Besides, his .167/.286/.333 slash line so far this spring hasn’t been particularly impressive. And even if both Barton and Gentry aren’t ready to go on opening day, and the team wants to fill one of those spots with a right-handed bat to replace Gentry’s, why wouldn’t they go with Taylor, who’s out of options, while they can stash Freiman at Sacramento? Freiman’s best shot at making the roster would most likely come not as a result of injury but rather as the result of a trade, namely of the man who’s most likely to take his job – Mr. Callaspo.

Billy Burns

bbu1275322bThe player who baseball columnist Ken Rosenthal called “the most intriguing player in the A’s camp” could be the wild card in all this. Acquired from the Nationals in the Jerry Blevins deal, Burns has excited A’s fans and staff alike this spring with his ability to get on base and his blazing speed. After a week and a half’s worth of spring games, he sports a .406 OBP. And at one point, his 7 stolen bases not only led all players but led all teams in the Cactus League. Burns has clearly generated a lot of excitement and impressed a lot of the right people this spring, but it’s important to remember that the young switch-hitter is still relatively inexperienced, having played just 30 games above Class-A in his career. So while he undoubtedly has the skills to impress and excite, the stars might really have to be aligned perfectly for Burns to get his shot at this point.

Stay tuned for our on-the-scene reports from spring training next week!

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A’s & River Cats Roster Outlook

Scott Kazmir - the A's $22 million dollar man

Scott Kazmir – the $22 million dollar man

It appears that most of the A’s off-season work is done. The team has found capable replacements for departing free agents Bartolo Colon, Grant Balfour and Chris Young and filled a few other holes as well. It’s possible that someone like Alberto Callaspo, who’s set to earn close to $5 million and doesn’t have a full-time position, could still end up being traded before spring training is through. It’s possible that a few younger players with major league experience who are out of options like outfielder Michael Taylor or reliever Evan Scribner could be dealt as well. But for the most part, barring any unforeseen injury issues, it looks like the A’s are now holding most of the cards they’ll be playing to start the 2014 season. And it’s becoming increasingly clear who most of the players are that Sacramento River Cats fans can expect to be seeing at Raley Field in 2014 as well.

 

2014 OAKLAND A’S

One area that seems to be most clearly set for the team is the outfield, with Josh Reddick in right, Coco Crisp in center, Yoenis Cespedes in left and newcomer Craig Gentry serving as the fourth outfielder. The left side of the infield will also remain in place for the A’s, with the team’s most valuable player in 2014, Josh Donaldson, manning the hot corner and the team’s best-hitting shortstop in recent memory, Jed Lowrie, returning to shortstop.

The other four positions in the lineup – second base, first base, catcher and designated hitter – are the areas where the A’s will deploy their patented platoons. Free agent infielder Nick Punto is likely to take over for Adam Rosales and Callaspo as Eric Sogard’s platoon partner at second base. And based on manager Bob Melvin’s comments, it seems like that might push Callaspo into the role of Brandon Moss’s platoon partner at first base, which would then push Nate Freiman to Sacramento along with fellow first baseman Daric Barton.

Craig "Kitten Face" Gentry

Craig “Kitten Face” Gentry

Melvin’s recent comments also make it sound like John Jaso is likely to get most of the DH at-bats, replacing the departed Seth Smith in that position, while against left-handers, Craig Gentry would join the lineup in left field with Yoenis Cespedes moving into the DH spot. With Jaso getting most of the DH at-bats, that requires the A’s to carry a third catcher, and that’s most likely to be Stephen Vogt, who got plenty of valuable experience last year down the stretch and in the postseason for the A’s. And his left-handed bat is the perfect complement to righty-swinging backstop Derek Norris, who hit just .149 against right-handed pitching last year.

Basically, Vogt would be replacing Jaso in the catching platoon, just as he did late last year, with Jaso moving out from behind the plate to replace Seth Smith in the DH platoon, while Punto replaces Callaspo in the second base platoon, Callaspo replaces Freiman in the first place platoon and Craig Gentry takes Chris Young’s place in the lineup against left-handers.

As far as the pitching staff goes, the plan seems pretty clear. Free agent lefty Scott Kazmir will take over for Bartolo Colon as the veteran presence in the team’s starting rotation, while young righty Sonny Gray appears set to take lefty Tommy Milone’s spot in the rotation, just as he did late last season, with Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily rounding out the starting five.

Meanwhile, in the bullpen, Jim Johnson will take over for Grant Balfour as the team’s closer, while top-notch setup man Luke Gregerson will take the roster spot that Pat Neshek occupied most of last season and lefty Fernando Abad is likely to take Jerry Blevins’ spot on the left side of the bullpen, with fellow lefty Sean Doolittle and righties Ryan Cook, Jesse Chavez and Dan Otero rounding out the rest of the A’s bullpen – though it’s possible that, since he’s out of options, the team could also decide to have Evan Scribner take Otero’s spot to start the season. The A’s will also likely start the season with two relievers who are both recovering from Tommy John surgery on the disabled list – recently-signed free agent lefty Eric O’Flaherty and righty Fernando Rodriguez, who was acquired from the Astros in the Jed Lowrie deal.

 

2014 SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS

If we make the preceding assumptions about the major league roster, then the River Cats roster starts to fall pretty clearly into place. Of course, there are a few players who are out of options, and it’s quite possible that at least one of them won’t end up clearing waivers.

Daric Barton: Back in River City?

Daric Barton: Back in River City?

The A’s have two veteran minor league catchers to handle the River Cats pitching staff, returning backstop Luke Montz along with Chris Gimenez, who was recently claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, the team looks to be overloaded with first basemen, with Daric Barton, Nate Freiman and Anthony Aliotti all looking for playing time – unless the A’s end up trading Callaspo and opening up a roster spot for Freiman as Brandon Moss’s platoon partner. If not, there could still be plenty of playing time to be found for all three between the first base and the designated hitter spot.

Returning River Cat Andy Parrino appears to be set at shortstop. Hiro Nakajima is likely to get the majority of starts at third base while also picking up at-bats at other positions around the infield, while free agent signees Jose Martinez and Alden Carrithers should get most of the playing time at second base. Shane Peterson is set to return to Sacramento’s outfield, along with Jake Goebbert and, if they clear waivers, veteran minor leaguers Michael Taylor and Corey Brown (who was recently designated for assignment).

The River Cats should have plenty of worthy contenders for their starting rotation. If the A’s other five starters are all healthy to start the season, then Tommy Milone is likely to anchor Sacramento’s starting five, along with recently-acquired righty Josh Lindblom and lefty Drew Pomeranz. Returning River Cats Andrew Werner and Arnold Leon will also be competing for a spot as well as free agent signees Phil Humber and Matt Buschmann, with those don’t make the rotation starting the season in the River Cats bullpen. If he clears waivers, they’re likely to be joined there by Evan Scribner, along with returning River Cats Paul Smyth and Fernando Nieve and free agent signees Deryk Hooker and Jose Flores as well as Triple-A Rule 5 draftee Tim Atherton.

So that’s how things seem to be shaping up for both the A’s and the River Cats, assuming everyone clears waivers and Billy Beane doesn’t have any last-minute surprises up his sleeve!

Click here to see the projected 2014 A’s and River Cats rosters…

A’s Eager to Deal Prospects to Win Now!

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Billy Beane’s been a busy boy!

A’s general manager Billy Beane has had a busy week – and it ain’t over yet! On Monday, the team signed free agent left-handed starting pitcher Scott Kazmir to a two-year $22 million deal. And later that same day, the A’s acquired right-handed closer Jim Johnson from Baltimore in return for second baseman Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later.

Then on Tuesday, the team traded two of its top minor league prospects, outfielder Michael Choice and second baseman Chris Bostick, to Texas for outfielder Craig Gentry and right-handed starter Josh Lindblom. The A’s then followed that up just hours later by sending outfielder Seth Smith to San Diego for right-handed reliever Luke Gregerson.

Just the previous week, the team dealt minor league outfielder John Wooten to Washington for left-handed reliever Fernando Abad. And two weeks prior to that, the A’s signed utility infielder Nick Punto as a free agent.

cg849bb723307cc864df6eb3f99430e6f4b

Craig “Kitten Face” Gentry

The A’s new outfielder, Craig Gentry – who was nicknamed “Kitten Face” in Texas – is a right-handed hitting outfielder who can play all three outfield positions. He brings excellent defense and speed and hits lefties well, so he figures to take Chris Young’s place as a right-handed platoon player and fourth outfielder who could take over full time in center field for the A’s when Coco Crisp becomes a free agent after next season.

In order to acquire Gentry, the A’s gave up their top outfield prospect, who also happened to be the team’s top major-league-ready hitting prospect, former 1st-round draft pick Michael Choice. After hitting .302 at Triple-A Sacramento in 2013, many had hoped that Choice would be given the chance to fill Young’s role on the A’s roster in 2014. But instead, he’ll get the chance to battle for a starting spot in the Rangers’ outfield this season.

Top talent evaluators are divided on Choice’s chances for success as a major league slugger. But the A’s have a history of undervaluing and trading away talented young outfielders who’ve gone on to become successful major league hitters elsewhere. And A’s fans have to hope that Choice doesn’t turn out to be the next Andre Ethier, Nelson Cruz or Carlos Gonzalez in Texas.

With Choice now gone, Shane Peterson and Michael Taylor are now the most major-league-ready outfielders at the upper levels of the A’s minor league system, while 20-year-old B.J. Boyd and 19-year-old Billy McKinney are the team’s top outfield prospects at the lower levels of the system.

The A’s also traded away their top second base prospect, Chris Bostick, in the deal. And it looks increasingly likely that shortstop Daniel Robertson might have to try to make the move to second base to provide a future double play partner for top shortstop prospect Addison Russell. With fellow second baseman Jemile Weeks now gone as well, Sacramento’s 2014 infield could be comprised of Daric Barton or Anthony Aliotti at first base, minor league free agent signee Jose Martinez at second base, Andy Parrino at shortstop, Hiro Nakajima at third base and Dusty Coleman as the utility infielder filling in at second, short and third.

Meanwhile, RHP Josh Lindblom is likely to start the season in Sacramento’s starting rotation, along with River Cats returnees Arnold Leon and Andrew Werner as well as recent minor league free agent signees Phil Humber and Matt Buschmann.

Scott Kazmir - the $22 million dollar man

Scott Kazmir – the $22 million dollar man

At the major league level, new acquisitions Scott Kazmir and Jim Johnson are clearly intended to take the place of free agents Bartolo Colon and Grant Balfour on the A’s pitching staff. With Kazmir guaranteed $11 million this season, Johnson expected to net $10-11 million in arbitration and seven starting pitchers currently on the staff, the A’s second-highest-paid starter, Brett Anderson at $8 million, is expected to be the A’s most appetizing bit of a trade bait to be dangled at next week’s Winter Meetings. And rumors already have the Blue Jays, Twins, Royals, Yankees, Indians and Mariners licking their lips over the left-hander.

Assuming the A’s are able to complete a deal for Anderson, the team’s 2014 rotation would then be comprised of five of the following six starters: Scott Kazmir, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily and Sonny Gray. Given the general health of starting pitchers, it wouldn’t be surprising if one out of any group of six starters wasn’t 100% healthy to start the season, so I wouldn’t bother spending too much time worrying about which five of the six will end up making the opening day cut – it’ll surely sort itself out by the end of spring.

As far as the A’s bullpen goes, new closer Jim Johnson, who has saved at least 50 games in each of the last two seasons, and new RHP Luke Gregerson, who has been one of the best setup men in the National League over the past couple of years, are set to join LHPs Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins and RHPs Ryan Cook and Jesse Chavez, who is out options and whom the A’s value as a long man and spot starter.

Since the team typically likes to carry seven relievers, there’s room for one more arm in the A’s pen, and RHP Dan Otero is clearly the most deserving candidate for the final spot. But since Fernando Abad, Evan Scribner, Pedro Figueroa and Fernando Rodriguez are all out of options, it’s possible that Otero could start the season being stashed at Sacramento, waiting for someone to hit the DL while one of the others is given a shot.

Over the past week and a half, the A’s farm system has suffered the loss of outfielder Michael Choice, second baseman Jemile Weeks, second baseman Chris Bostick and outfielder John Wooten. And in the last six months, the team lost its 2007 #1 draft pick James Simmons as a minor league free agent and traded away 2008’s #1 pick Jemile Weeks, 2009’s #1 pick Grant Green and 2010’s #1 pick Michael Choice. 2011’s #1 pick Sonny Gray has already made it to the majors, while 2012’s #1 pick Addison Russell should be starting the season at Double-A Midland and 2013’s #1 pick Billy McKinney is expected to start the year at Class-A Beloit.

baanderson_brett2

Brett Anderson – next up on the trading block?

As previously mentioned, LHP Brett Anderson is the most likely member of the A’s roster to be the next one to find himself on Billy Beane’s trading block, with infielder Alberto Callaspo not far behind. With six other starters on the staff, a long injury history and an $8 million salary attached to his name, Anderson is clearly expendable. And with a salary close to $5 million and no definite spot in the A’s lineup, Callaspo seems to just be taking up roster and salary space at this point.

Outfielders Seth Smith, Chris Young and Michael Choice have all recently departed, with Craig Gentry being the only outfielder the A’s have acquired to take their place. So it certainly seems like there could be room for one more big OF/DH bat to be added to the A’s lineup to help boost the team’s offensive output, possibly as the result of an Anderson deal.

It’s also been reported that the A’s have been inquiring about middle infielders and catchers in trade talks for Anderson. So the team could be looking for a second baseman to take the place of Eric Sogard, or a shortstop who would then enable Jed Lowrie to make the move to second, or possibly a catcher who would allow John Jaso to take over for Seth Smith in the designated hitter role.

The A’s major league roster currently shapes up with Jaso and Norris as the catching platoon, Donaldson, Lowrie, Sogard, Punto, Moss and Freiman serving around the infield, and Cespedes, Crisp, Reddick and Gentry making up the outfield. Since the team typically likes to carry thirteen position players, that leaves one last roster spot open. At this point, it would most likely be filled by Callaspo. But if he ends up being traded, then it would be Barton, unless, of course, the A’s acquire another big bat who would end up pushing Barton back to Sacramento.

With all the current question marks, one thing seems certain – Beane and company aren’t done dealing just yet, and the A’s roster is far from set. There are surely more changes to come. But for the time being, here’s how things are shaping up for the 2014 A’s and River Cats, assuming everyone who’s out of options can clear waivers.

Click here to see the possible 2014 A’s and River Cats rosters…

A’s, River Cats’ & RockHounds’ Roster Projections

Will Hiro have to be a hero in Sacramento?

Will Hiro still be smiling in Sacramento?

We’re now less than a week away from opening day, and Jemile Weeks has been optioned to Sacramento, Adam Rosales has been placed on the disabled list, and Hiro Nakajima has been struggling and is now dealing with a strained hamstring. And thanks to these recent developments, it looks like the A’s opening day roster may now be rounding into shape – and along with it, the Sacramento River Cats’ and Midland RockHounds’ rosters too. Of course, plenty can still change and nothing is etched in stone. There haven’t been any official announcements from the team yet and there probably won’t be until about 24 hours before opening day, but below are our projected opening day rosters for the A’s and their Triple-A and Double-A affiliates based on what we think we know at this point…

 

PROJECTED 2013 OAKLAND A’S ROSTER

Derek Norris

Derek Norris

–CATCHERS–

John Jaso C

Derek Norris C

–INFIELDERS–

Brandon Moss 1B

Nate Freiman 1B

Eric Sogard 2B

Scott Sizemore 2B

Jed Lowrie SS

Josh Donaldson 3B

–OUTFIELDERS–

Yoenis Cespedes OF

Coco Crisp OF

Josh Reddick OF

Chris Young OF

Seth Smith OF

Brett Anderson

Brett Anderson

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Brett Anderson LHP

Jarrod Parker RHP

Tommy Milone LHP

A.J. Griffin RHP

Dan Straily RHP

–RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Grant Balfour RHP

Ryan Cook RHP

Pat Neshek RHP

Chris Resop RHP

–LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Sean Doolittle LHP

Jerry Blevins LHP

Travis Blackley LHP

 

(Bartolo Colon – SUSPENDED)

(Fernando Rodriguez – DL)

(Adam Rosales – DL)

 

PROJECTED 2013 SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS ROSTER

Michael Choice

Michael Choice

–HITTERS–

Luke Montz C

David Freitas C

Hiro Nakajima SS

Jemile Weeks 2B

Andy Parrino SS-3B-OF

Grant Green 2B-3B-OF

Josh Horton 3B-SS-2B

Scott Moore 1B-3B-DH

Shane Peterson OF-1B

Conner Crumbliss OF-2B

Michael Choice OF

Michael Taylor OF

Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Sonny Gray RHP

Andrew Werner LHP

Jesse Chavez RHP

Bruce Billings RHP

Travis Banwart RHP

–RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Evan Scribner RHP

Mike Ekstrom RHP

James Simmons RHP

Arnold Leon RHP

–LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Hideki Okajima LHP

Jordan Norberto LHP

Pedro Figueroa LHP

Justin Thomas LHP

 

PROJECTED 2013 MIDLAND ROCKHOUNDS ROSTER

Miles Head

Miles Head

–HITTERS–

Beau Taylor C

Ryan Ortiz C

Anthony Aliotti 1B-DH

Tommy Mendonca 3B-DH

Miles Head 3B-1B

Jefry Marte 3B-1B

Dusty Coleman SS

Darwin Perez 2B-SS

Tyler Ladendorf 2B-SS-OF

Jeremy Barfield OF

Chad Oberacker OF

D’Arby Myers OF

Sean Murphy

Sean Murphy

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Carlos Hernandez LHP

Murphy Smith RHP

Josh Bowman RHP

Sean Murphy RHP

Jacob Brown LHP

–RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Brian Gordon RHP

Carlos Fisher RHP

Kyler Newby RHP

Darren Byrd RHP

Paul Smyth RHP

Nate Long RHP

Sergio Perez RHP

–LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Frank Gailey LHP

 

***UPDATE: In something of a surprise, the A’s have designated LHP Travis Blackley for assignment. This opens a spot in the A’s bullpen for either Evan Scribner, Pedro Figueroa, Mike Ekstrom or Hideki Okajima. Their spot in the River Cats bullpen will be filled by RHP Danny Otero, who was claimed off waivers.

 

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A’s Swap Spare Parts For Second Shortstop!

Jed Lowrie: From worst to first?

Jed Lowrie: From worst to first?

As we pointed out in our analysis of the John Jaso trade just recently, the A’s are clearly in “WIN NOW” mode. And the team made another “WIN NOW” move on Monday, dealing part-time first baseman Chris Carter, minor league pitcher Brad Peacock and minor league catcher Max Stassi to the Houston Astros for infielder Jed Lowrie and right-handed reliever Fernando Rodriguez.

Lowrie is a 28-year-old former 1st-round draft pick out of Stanford. The switch-hitter hit a career-high 16 home runs in 340 at-bats with the Astros last season. He’s played primarily at shortstop in his 5-year major league career but has also spent time at third, second and first, and his versatility provides the A’s with added depth at every infield position.

Rodriguez is a hard-throwing right-handed reliever who has some control issues but who also managed to strike out an average of 10 batters per 9 innings last year. The 28-year-old has a tendency to give up the long ball and posted an ERA of 5.37 in 70 1/3 innings with the Astros last season. Rodriguez will likely have to battle with Pat Neshek and Chris Resop for a spot on the right side of the A’s bullpen.

To acquire the pair, the A’s parted with three players who’ve all spent far more time in the minors than the majors: Max Stassi, the most highly rated catching prospect in the system who has been praised for his abilities behind the plate but who has also been hampered by injuries and has yet to progress beyond A ball; Brad Peacock, who was slated to be one of the top starters at Sacramento this season but who had his ups and downs last year and ended up posting a 6.01 ERA with the River Cats; and Chris Carter, who was supposed to be the right-handed half of the A’s first base platoon this year. Carter, the only one of the three who was expected to start the year on the major league roster, had formerly been a top prospect but, despite his strong power numbers in the second half last year, his September struggles strengthened the A’s doubts about his potential for long-term success.

Fernando Rodriguez: International Man Of Mystery

Fernando Rodriguez: International Man Of Mystery

About coming to A’s, the Stanford alum Lowrie was quoted as saying, “I’m excited to come to a team that won one of the better divisions in baseball last year. I’m excited to have an opportunity to come back and play baseball in the Bay Area.” He graciously neglected to mention the fact that he’s also undoubtedly excited not to be playing for the Astros, who will likely be bringing up the rear in their new division this year.

With Lowrie’s addition, the A’s infield situation suddenly becomes a bit murkier. Lowrie has played short, second, third and first. Scott Sizemore has played second and third. Hiro Nakajima can play short, and possibly even second. And then there’s also Jemile Weeks, who can play second, and Josh Donaldson, who can play third.

Being a switch-hitter, of course, only increases Lowrie’s versatility. But his left/right splits are somewhat curious. For his career, he has an OPS that’s .154 points better against lefties. But last year, he had an OPS that was .196 points better against righties. Lowrie claims that his previous struggles as a left-handed hitter were primarily related to lingering injuries, and his minor league splits do lend some credence to that claim. But it would be nice to see his splits even out a bit given the fact that he’s likely to be seeing plenty of action against both righties and lefties for the A’s this season.

But how exactly will the A’s use Lowrie this year? Well, they’ve certainly got plenty of options. But in a conference call with reporters, A’s general manager Billy Beane said that he and manager Bob Melvin had discussed their options and that they view Japanese import Hiro Nakajima as their shortstop. Beane also mentioned that he could see Lowrie as a nice right-handed complement to Brandon Moss at first base, much like Chris Carter had been.

Chris Carter: The object of the Astros' affections

Chris Carter: The object of the Astros’ affections

If we take Beane’s comments to heart, that then raises the question of where Lowrie would play against right-handers. The most obvious answer would be at second base, where there’s already a great deal of uncertainty, and where the top two current candidates, Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks, have both performed better against lefties than righties in recent times – Sizemore, who seems to be the favored candidate, even more so, which could make him a perfect platoon partner with Lowrie at second base.

Lowrie could also be available to back up both Nakajima at shortstop and Donaldson at third base if either struggles or just needs some time off. Of course, if Nakajima, whose defensive ability at shortstop is still a big question mark, spends much of the spring butchering balls at short, Lowrie could always take over the spot full-time and push Nakajima into duty at second. But wherever he plays, as long as he’s healthy – and that’s been something of an issue in the past – it looks like Lowrie will be in the lineup. So he should end up getting into a lot more games for the A’s than Chris Carter would have this year, which ought to make him a productive addition to the major league roster.

One of the biggest winners in this trade could turn out to be the A’s former first baseman Daric Barton, who now stands a decent chance of making the roster as the only true first baseman on the squad. Moss and Lowrie only have a combined 68 major league games at first base between them, and teams often like to have a little defensive certainty on the roster. Before this trade, Barton’s chances of landing a roster spot rested on something happening to either Moss or Carter – and now something has most definitely happened to Carter. Of course, it’s possible that Barton still doesn’t make the roster, but it’s certainly a whole lot more likely that he does now.

Brad Peacock:

Brad Peacock: Now standing tall for the last-place Astros

On the other side of the coin, one of the biggest losers in this deal could be infielder Adam Rosales. With his guaranteed contract and major league experience, Rosales was the favorite to land the utility infielder role. But now – with Lowrie, Nakajima, Donaldson and either Weeks or Sizemore likely to make the roster – the A’s will have at least two available options at each infield position, making another spare infielder somewhat redundant. Both Weeks and Sizemore could both be losers in this deal too since whoever wins a roster spot will undoubtedly have his at-bats at second base reduced by Lowrie’s arrival. The deal doesn’t do anything to help Eric Sogard’s and Grant Green’s prospects either as it just pushes both of them further down the infield depth chart.

As far as position players on the major league roster go, this deal might just boil down to Lowrie and Barton replacing Carter and Rosales on the A’s 2013 roster. As far as the pitching end of things goes, Beane clearly likes Rodriguez, referring to him as “a real big arm” and saying that he was a key to getting the deal done. But the hard-throwing righty will have to compete for a roster spot with fellow right-handers Pat Neshek and Chris Resop in an already crowded A’s bullpen that’s also likely to include right-handers Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook along with left-handers Sean Doolittle, Jerry Blevins and Travis Blackley – with guys like Jordan Norberto, Pedro Figueroa, Evan Scribner, Arnold Leon and James Simmons waiting in the wings.

Max Stassi: Taking 'the tools of ignorance' to Houston

Max Stassi: Taking the ‘tools of ignorance’ to Houston

Another beneficiary of the deal could be former 1st-round draft pick Sonny Gray, who will no longer have to compete for attention with fellow prospect Brad Peacock at Sacramento this season. If he pitches well at Triple-A this year, the odds of Gray getting the opportunity to see some time in Oakland before the season’s through have just greatly increased with Peacock out of the equation.

Vying for time with Gray in the River Cats rotation this year will be last year’s phenom Dan Straily, new acquisition Andrew Werner, veteran lefty Garrett Olson, and long-time minor leaguers Jesse Chavez, Bruce Billings and Travis Banwart. It’s my guess that Straily will end up in the major league rotation before long, like most 6th starters do, due to injury, and Banwart will start the season in the Sacramento bullpen, leaving the River Cats with a rotation of Gray, Werner, Olson, Chavez and Billings.

But this deal clearly wasn’t about the minor league roster; it was all about the major league roster – increasing the A’s infield depth and versatility and having a solid backup plan in place just in case Nakajima doesn’t pan out at short, Donaldson regresses at third, or nothing else works out at second. It’s clearly a “WIN NOW” move, just like it was with the Jaso deal. Peacock, Cole and Treinen represent a lot of young arms to give up – not to mention Carter and Stassi – in the two deals. But the A’s focus is clearly on winning now while the window of contention is open. And Beane admitted as much in his conference call with reporters, saying “Given where the club finished last year and where we see it having a chance to compete this year, we wanted to do everything we could to help ourselves right now.”

And for the A’s, the future is clearly NOW!

 

 

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Is the A’s Roster Set? And the River Cats Roster Too?

Will Hiro have A's fans smiling too?

Will Hiro have A’s fans smiling too?

On Monday, we unofficially learned that shortstop Stephen Drew had agreed to a deal with the Red Sox and would not be returning to the A’s, and we also unofficially learned that the A’s would be filling the hole at shortstop by signing Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima. It was announced on Tuesday, after our last A’s Off-Season Transactions Update, not only that the Nakajima signing was official but also that, to clear room on the roster for their new shortstop, the A’s had traded outfielder Collin Cowgill to the Mets for Double-A third baseman Jefry Marte.

With the A’s new shortstop in the fold, it looks like their work is essentially done for the off-season and that the major league roster, barring any unforeseen (yet inevitable) injuries, is pretty much set. But it also seems that the Triple-A roster at Sacramento may be pretty much set at this point too. This really shows a remarkable level of certainty for an organization that’s typically had any number of question marks remaining at this time of year.

Below you’ll find a complete listing of the anticipated A’s and River Cats opening day rosters, barring any unexpected deals or injuries, as of this point in time almost 3 ½ months before opening day. Any changes should be minor, especially where the major league roster is concerned. I’d expect any changes to most likely come from potential moves involving some of the minor league pitchers or infielders. Following the roster lists below, we’ll go around the horn and discuss where things stand at every position for both the A’s and the River Cats…

 

Brandon Moss

Brandon Moss

2013 OAKLAND A’S

–CATCHERS–

Derek Norris C

George Kottaras C

–INFIELDERS–

Brandon Moss 1B

Chris Carter 1B

Jemile Weeks 2B

Hiroyuki Nakajima SS

Josh Donaldson 3B

Adam Rosales IF 

Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes

–OUTFIELDERS–

Yoenis Cespedes OF

Josh Reddick OF

Coco Crisp OF

Seth Smith OF

Chris Young OF

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Brett Anderson LHP

Jarrod Parker RHP

Tom Milone LHP

A.J. Griffin RHP

Dan Straily RHP

Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour

–RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Grant Balfour RHP

Ryan Cook RHP

Pat Neshek RHP

Chris Resop RHP

–LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Sean Doolittle LHP

Jerry Blevins LHP

Travis Blackley LHP

–SUSPENDED FOR 5 GAMES–

Bartolo Colon

 

2013 SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS

Michael Choice

Michael Choice

–HITTERS–

Luke Montz C

Steven Hill C

Daric Barton IF

Scott Sizemore IF

Andy Parrino IF

Eric Sogard IF

Stephen Parker IF

Scott Moore IF-OF

Grant Green IF-OF

Shane Peterson OF

Michael Choice OF

Michael Taylor OF

–STARTING PITCHERS–

Brad Peacock RHP

Sonny Gray RHP

Andrew Werner LHP

(+2 of the following 4 in the rotation with 1 in the bullpen & 1 traded or released)

Garrett Olson LHP

Jesse Chavez RHP

Bruce Billings RHP

Travis Banwart RHP

James Simmons

James Simmons

–RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Evan Scribner RHP

Arnold Leon RHP

James Simmons RHP

Mike Ekstrom RHP

–LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS–

Jordan Norberto LHP

Pedro Figueroa LHP

Justin Thomas LHP

 

2013 OAKLAND A’S

Derek Norris: Catcher of the future or lumberjack in training?

Derek Norris: Catcher of the future or lumberjack in training?

As far as the 2013 A’s go, catcher and first base are two positions that are pretty clearly set. Right-handed hitter Derek Norris and left-handed hitter George Kottaras will make up the A’s catching tandem. This likely won’t be a strict platoon though, as the A’s view Norris as their catcher of the future. I’d expect Norris to get between 350-400 at-bats, with Kottaras getting somewhere between 200-250 at-bats – of course, performance on the field could have a big effect on playing time behind the plate. The first base platoon of Brandon Moss and Chris Carter will remain in place in 2013. This should be a pretty strict left/right platoon, unless Moss regresses and Carter starts coming on strong, in which case the big right-hander could end up stealing some at-bats from Moss.

Second base may represent the biggest question mark on the A’s roster. Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore both stand a decent chance of claiming the starting job, while prospect Grant Green appears to be a long shot. It’s my feeling that, as long as he can show in the spring that he’s ready to put it together, the edge will go to former #1 draft pick Weeks. But if Weeks looks like he hasn’t learned anything, then Sizemore should be ready to step in – though we do have to remember that he is coming back from an injury that sidelined him for a solid year and will be competing at a position that he hasn’t played much over the past two years. Whichever one of these guys doesn’t claim the major league job will probably end up at Sacramento with Green. At this point, my guess is that Weeks opens the season with the A’s, while Sizemore ends up at Sacramento waiting for a chance to come back and take over in the event that Weeks or Donaldson struggles – but that could very easily change based on what happens in the spring.

Your 2013 starting shortstop will be Hiro Nakajima, with Adam Rosales likely serving as his backup – as well as the backup at second at third. If Nakajima proves to be more of a “zero” than a “Hiro,” then Rosales will step in and start getting more at-bats at short. Josh Donaldson will be the starting third baseman unless and until he proves that his second-half surge last season was just a fluke. If that happens, then Sizemore is the most likely candidate to step in at third.

Josh Reddick: The undisputed champion of the "Bernie Lean" dance competition

Josh Reddick: The undisputed champion of the ‘Bernie Lean’ dance competition

In the outfield, the A’s have five players (Cespedes, Reddick, Crisp, Smith and Young) to fill the three outfield spots as well as the designated hitter spot in the lineup. Those four positions should offer up about 2400 at-bats, which would mean there’s close to 500 at-bats to go around for each of them – that’s if they’re all healthy. Of course, they won’t all be healthy. I’d guess that at just about any point in the season, one of them will be dinged up enough to, if not warrant a stint on the DL, at least warrant a little time out of the lineup. So I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about who plays where and when. I suspect it’ll work itself out one way or another and we’ll end up seeing plenty of all of them in the starting lineup.

As for the starting rotation, it’s important to remember that Bartolo Colon will be suspended for the first five games of the season and the A’s will play the first seven games of the season without a day off. That means that, barring injury, Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily will open the season as the A’s starting five. Of course, there’s a reasonable chance that one of those pitchers could have some nagging injury to start the season. In that case, Colon could be ready to step into the rotation after the first week. If, miracle of miracles, all five starting pitchers are fully healthy and functioning to start the season, then Colon could always kill time in the bullpen until one of them is sidelined with a balky elbow, shoulder, rib cage or back.

The A’s bullpen will be a crowded place though. Aside from Colon, there will be nine or ten legitimate contenders for the seven bullpen spots. On the right-handed side of things, Grant Balfour will be the closer and Ryan Cook will be the primary right-handed set-up man, while Pat Neshek will surely have a spot after signing a guaranteed contract, and Chris Resop is bound to get a spot after the A’s made a concerted effort to acquire him from the Pirates. That would push Evan Scribner to Sacramento.

On the left-handed side of things, Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins appear to be assured spots after their consistent performances throughout 2012, and Travis Blackley seems to be locked in as the long-man in the ‘pen. That would push Jordan Norberto and Pedro Figueroa to Sacramento. Of course, the odds that one of those seven relievers starts the season with some kind of injury is fairly high, which would open the door to one of those spots.

 

Daric Barton: Don't worry, A's fans - only in case of emergency!

Daric Barton: Don’t worry, A’s fans – only in case of emergency!

2013 SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS

If we make the preceding assumptions about the major league roster, and take into account the fact that the Triple-A roster rarely includes more than 12 hitters and rarely has any fewer than 13 pitchers, then the River Cats roster starts to fall pretty clearly into place.

The A’s acquired two experienced minor league catchers – 29-year-old Luke Montz and 27-year-old Steven Hill – who should share the catching duties at Sacramento this year. Meanwhile, veteran Daric Barton will be standing in at first base, waiting for his chance should anything happen with Moss or Carter.

If Jemile Weeks doesn’t make the roster in Oakland, then he’ll surely be the starting second baseman at Sacramento. But if Scott Sizemore is the one to get sent down, as I suspect, then I’d expect him to get the majority of the starts at second base in Sacramento, preparing himself in case Weeks again struggles. Andy Parrino, who was acquired from San Diego in the Tyson Ross trade, is bound to be Sacramento’s primary starting shortstop this year. I’d expect to see the versatile Eric Sogard getting most of his starts at third base this year, while also picking up a few other starts around the infield. When Sogard’s not starting at third, then fading prospect Stephen Parker is likely to get some starts at the hot corner as well.

Grant Green: Still looking for a home

Grant Green: Still looking for a home

Scott Moore, who has been the A’s most promising minor league free agent signing this off-season, can play third base, as well as first base, second base and the outfield, but will probably end up seeing a lot of at-bats as the designated hitter for the River Cats. Sacramento’s starting outfield should be made up of on-base machine Shane Peterson in left, top prospect Michael Choice in center and former top prospect Michael Taylor in right. That just leaves our old friend Grant Green, whom the organization could make the River Cats’ regular second baseman, but I’m guessing that, when it’s all said and done, they’ll end up utilizing his versatility and giving him starts all over the field – preparing him for his most likely future role with the A’s as a versatile utility man.

There are three pitchers who, as long as they’re healthy, are sure to make Sacramento’s starting rotation – top prospects Brad Peacock and Sonny Gray, along with left-hander Andrew Werner, who was acquired from San Diego in the Tyson Ross deal. The rest of the River Cats’ rotation will be filled out by two of the following four hurlers – right-handers Jesse Chavez, Bruce Billings and Travis Banwart, as well as major league veteran and minor league free agent signee Garrett Olson. Of the two who don’t make the rotation, one will likely end up as the long-man in the River Cats’ bullpen with the other either DL’d, traded or released.

Sacramento’s 2013 bullpen ought to boast an impressive array of arms who could be ready to step in and help at the major league level at a moment’s notice. If all the major league bullpen arms are healthy, then the River Cats’ ‘pen should include names like Evan Scribner, Arnold Leon, James Simmons and minor league free agent signee Mike Ekstrom from the right side and Jordan Norberto, Pedro Figueroa and minor league free agent signee Justin Thomas from the left side.

On the whole, it looks like a River Cats roster that ought to be more than ready to defend its division title and, hopefully, so should the 2013 A’s!

 

*     *     *

 

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Exclusive: A’s Assistant GM David Forst Gives the Lowdown on Off-Season Acquisitions and A’s Top Prospects – Part 1

David Forst: The future’s so bright he’s gotta wear shades

Now that we’re almost a month and a half into the season, it seems like a good time to reflect on the A’s big off-season moves and try to get a read on how all those new acquisitions have panned out. Of the ten players the A’s acquired in their three big deals with Arizona (for right-hander Trevor Cahill), with Washington (for left-hander Gio Gonzalez), and with Boston (for reliever Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney), five of those players are currently on the major league roster, two are playing at Triple-A, and three are in Class-A. And we decided to get the lowdown on all these players from someone who’s got his finger on the pulse of not only the A’s major league roster but of all the minor teams as well – A’s assistant general manager David Forst.

Forst grew up in southern California, captained the Harvard University baseball team, and played independent ball in the Frontier League before landing an entry level position in the A’s baseball operations department in January of 2000. He’s currently in his ninth season as the A’s assistant general manager and general manager Billy Beane has entrusted him with a broad range of responsibilities that cover just about every aspect of the organization. So he’s the perfect man to give us the inside scoop not only on last off-season’s key acquisitions but also on all the top prospects down on the farm. So without any further ado, let’s go to the tape…

AF: Well, I know the amateur draft is coming up next month. So are you spending a lot of your time prepping for the draft at this point?

DF: I’m actually on the road probably two or three days a week now, but I’m discussing it a lot more than that with (scouting director) Eric Kubota and the guys in the office. The draft is sort of the top of our list right now.

AF: Well you’ve got a lot of high picks this year.

DF: Yeah, we have two comp picks and then an extra second round pick as well.

Jarrod Parker

AF: I wanted to start out getting your take on the players the A’s acquired in all the big off-season deals now that you’ve had a chance to see them up close. So let’s start with the guys you got from Arizona in the Trevor Cahill trade. And obviously the key guy for you in that deal was former first-round draft pick Jarrod Parker, who’s already in the major league rotation for you.

DF: Jarrod’s come a long way just from the beginning of spring training. We knew when we traded for him that the further he got away from that surgery, the more he was going to resemble the prospect that everybody had in the top ten in the game. The second half in Double-A last year, he was getting better – he obviously was good enough for the Diamondbacks to call him up – and we’ve sort of seen that progress continue before our eyes. He had a nice spring training, but he certainly didn’t dominate. In fact, he made one start at the end where he was very disappointing. But he quickly made some adjustments in Triple-A. I think he made four starts down there at Triple-A. His command was better and his stuff was consistently good. We knew we were going to need a fifth starter, and it was the right time to give him an opportunity here. And he’s been outstanding up here. He’s shown no fear here in his first sort of regular stint in the big leagues, and he’s thrown strikes – which are really the two things that you worry about with a young kid coming into this environment, and he’s been outstanding.

AF: And I think he’s got a lower ERA than Trevor Cahill at this point too.

DF: Well, you try not to make that direct comparison. These trades are made for the long haul. But we’re happy with what Jarrod’s given us at the big league level.

Ryan Cook

AF: The other pitcher involved in that deal was reliever Ryan Cook, who’s turned out to be a big part of the A’s bullpen.

DF: Well, I can’t say I expected him to start out with 16 scoreless innings to begin the year, but Ryan’s been phenomenal. We saw a lot of him last year in the minor leagues. We discussed him at the deadline when we made the Brad Ziegler deal, so we had pretty good information on Ryan. In fact, when we made the deal, (Arizona GM) Kevin Towers was very reluctant to part with him. That was sort of the last piece that fell into place for us. We thought we had a good young pitcher on our hands, and he has answered every challenge so far. I think when you look at his stuff and what he’s been able to do in the eighth inning, he’s a guy you can project to be at the back of the bullpen for a long time.

AF: When you look at what he’s done so far, I assume you’ve got to see a potential future closer out there.

DF: Yeah, it’s something we’ve discussed. You never know how guys react until they’re actually there and have to get the last three outs. But just from a pure stuff standpoint, we certainly think Ryan has the potential to do it down the road.

AF: The other guy in that deal was outfielder Collin Cowgill, who is back up with the A’s now. He obviously had great numbers in Triple-A last year. But what do you think of what you’ve seen of him so far?

Collin Cowgill

DF: Collin’s been exactly what we expected. He had a great spring training and made our club out of the gate. Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough at bats for him with the glut of outfielders we had. But he’s come as advertised – he plays the game hard, he’s aggressive, he’s smart in the outfield. I think this guy has a chance, when things sort of shake out, to start in the outfield for us here in the big leagues.

AF: How do you feel about his ability to play center field?

DF: He’s been one of our better guys in center field. Obviously, when Yoenis Cespedes went down, after Coco Crisp having already gone on the disabled list, and we were looking for someone, we called Collin up because we knew he had that skill.

AF: I remember Billy Beane telling me in the spring that you can never have too many guys who are capable of playing center field, and it looks like that’s played out very quickly for you this year.

DF: For sure, not everybody can do it for whatever reason. And we’ve hammered through our depth in that spot pretty quickly.

AF: The next big off-season trade was the one with Washington for Gio Gonzalez. One of those four guys you got in that deal is in the major leagues right now, and that’s Tommy Milone.

Tommy Milone

DF: Well, we knew Tommy was advanced as far as prospects go. And we knew it wouldn’t be long till he was in the big leagues just because when you look at the line he put up last year – you can’t walk 16 guys in a full Triple-A season without really knowing what you’re doing as a pitcher. When we made that deal, he was sort of painted as the fourth guy, and even as the potential throw-in by some outlets. But we knew he had the best chance to impact our major league team right away just because he really had nothing left to prove at Triple-A. And he’s been excellent. It’s no secret he doesn’t have overwhelming stuff or a plus fastball or whatever, but he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. And he’s basically had seven quality starts, a couple of rough ones in the middle, but even in those, he still made some progress and has sort of fit nicely in the middle of our rotation.

AF: I was talking to Anthony Recker in spring training about Milone. And he said that his command was so good that he’s always able to put his pitches where he wants and at least execute the game plan.

DF: For sure, yeah, he’s fun to watch for that reason. You know when he does miss, he meant to miss and it’s for a reason. And I can understand why Recker said that. From a catcher’s standpoint, he’s exactly the kind of guy you want to work with.

AF: And I think he actually has one more win that Gio does at this point.

DF: Well, Gio’s having himself a pretty good year. I’m sure Washington’s very happy with him.

Brad Peacock

AF: Another pitcher who came over in that deal was Brad Peacock. He had a bit of a rough spring and isn’t currently on the major league roster, but he’s been pitching very well at Sacramento so far this year.

DF: Yeah, like you said, much like Jarrod, he didn’t exactly dominate in the spring. But he has gone down to Triple-A and pitched well. He just hasn’t quite gotten that consistency together. He’ll put together two good starts in a row then hit a little bit of a speed bump. But overall, his numbers are good. His ERA’s in the mid-threes and he’s striking out almost one an inning. So for us, watching Brad every time out, you want to see a guy put together four, five, six good starts in a row before you feel pretty good about having him here. And I imagine that time is probably not that far off.

AF: Another guy in that deal who’s currently at Sacramento is catcher Derek Norris. He’s been hitting close to .300 for most of the year. I’m not sure how he’s been looking behind the plate, but his numbers sure have been looking good.

Derek Norris

DF: Derek has sort of turned his offensive numbers on their head a bit. The knock on him was that he couldn’t hit for average, all he did was walk.  I think he got all the way through three or four weeks of the season before getting his third walk of the year, but he was hitting like .360 at the time. And he got raves from the coaching staff from day one on how he handled pitchers and his receiving skills. His throwing numbers have never been in question. He’s always been one of the best guys in the minor leagues as far as throwing out baserunners. He’s in a little bit of a funk right now. I think his average has dropped below .300 for the first time this year. But we couldn’t be happier with his progress on both sides of the ball. He just turned 23 years old and he’s just getting his first taste of Triple-A and he’s hitting close to .300 most of the season and catching every day. We feel very good about Derek.

AF: Do you view him as being major league ready at this stage of the game?

DF: Yeah, I mean you always like a guy to get as much experience in Triple-A as possible, particularly for a catcher, who has to handle a game plan at the highest level and still bring his offense along with him. So if we were in an emergency situation, I think we could feel comfortable with Derek catching everyday up here, which is a good feeling. But it’s also nice to have the luxury of having two guys up here with experience and knowing that you can have him spend time in Triple-A and not lose anything.

A.J. Cole

AF: The final piece of that deal was A.J. Cole, who a lot of folks really considered the top prospect of the bunch and were very excited about. But he’s really been struggling at Stockton so far this year.

DF: Well, yeah, he obviously hasn’t performed how anyone would hope. I know A.J. himself is frustrated. And I’ve spent some time talking with (minor league pitching coordinator) Gil Patterson and (director of player development) Keith Lieppman over the last couple weeks about A.J. to make sure we get a good read on what’s going on. His stuff continues to be outstanding. His fastball tops out at 95 mph almost every time out. Gil saw him pitch just the other day and said his secondary pitches were good. Just for whatever reason right now, he’s getting hit, and it’s pretty consistently every time out. We have actually spent some time talking about the best thing for A.J. – whether that’s heading back to the Midwest League or getting some time off from the rotation, something just to make sure he gets some success under his belt. But the good thing is he’s healthy and his stuff is good. We just need to make some adjustments and get him back on track as far as results are concerned.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 2 of A’s Farm’s exclusive interview with A’s assistant general manager David Forst, in which he gives us the lowdown on Josh Reddick, Miles Head, Michael Choice, Sonny Gray and more top A’s prospects.