Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Saltzman Says... State of the Oakland A's Franchise

State of the A's Franchise


Kurt Suzuki:
A career .264 hitter, Suzuki is starting his 5th year with the A's. He has been the starter the last three seasons, and has averaged 142 games behind the plate. His strikeout numbers have dropped each season he has been an everyday starter. His best season was in 2009, when he hit 15 home runs and knocked in 88 runs. Injuries prevented him from amassing 145 games played like he had the previous two seasons. He'll get to 2,000 MLB AB's this season, but the concern is the innings he's logged behind the plate. Like with all catchers, his durability will come into question if he can't play in 140 games a 2nd straight season.

Landon Powell:
He hasn't impressed since his call up a couple years ago, and he is fighting in Spring to keep his backup job. However, Josh Donaldson, his main competition, isn't much better.

First Base
Daric Barton:
The A's, according to Susan Slesser, are working on an extension with Barton that will keep the first baseman in Oakland through his arbitration years. The good is he walked 110 times last year, a Billy Beane specialty. The bad is his 26 career home runs. He also only played in 54 games in 2009 before finally winning the everyday job last year. His defense at first is a plus as well. If the A's let him go to arbitration, they would most likely win becuase walks and defense aren't nearly as valuable as home runs, batting average and RBI's is an arbitration meeting. The A's, who do value walks and defense, are looking to avoid knocking Barton's weaknesses and instead rewarding his true value to the team.

Second Base
Mark Ellis:
Speaking of defense, Ellis has proven over his A's career that there is great value in a 2nd baseman who makes every play in the field. A competent hitter, he and Barton have solidified the right side of the infield. Neither possess the bat to win games, but their defense has not been overlooked.

Cliff Pennington:
The lastest shortstop to come from Sacramento, following Miguel Tejada and Bobby Crosby. Pennington scored 105 runs, had 40 extra base hits and 29 stolen bases. He has shown after his first full season that he he could develop 20-20 or even 30-30 potential with the way he can drive the ball and his overall speed. Even if his power numbers don't present themselves, Pennington and Ellis have been a good double play combo for the A's to lean on up the middle.

Adam Rosales:
The A's have exactly what they need behind Ellis and Pennington with Rosales. A .270 hitter last year, he got 255 AB's over 80 games in 2010. Should continue to produce as the primary backup in the infield.

Third Base
Kevin Kouzmanoff:
Eric Chavez six year contract finally came to an end last season and despite lots of trade rumors and some maneuvering his off-season, Kevin Kouzmanoff is the A's third baseman heading into 2011. A career .258 hitter, he had 16 home runs last season and has hit at least 16 homers the last 4 years. In 143 games last season, he drove in 71 runs and also hit 32 doubles. He has always had the potential to produce more, but this looks to be what Kouzmanoff is. However, with the injury history Chavez had, this will be a welcomed level of consistency for Oakland, as he has always played in at least 141 games since becoming an everyday starter in San Diego in 2007.

Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp and David DeJesus:
From left to right, The A's certainly look better on paper heading into 2011 with this outfield. The key additions are at the corners, where Willingham and DeJesus will add much more fire power. Willingham, who comes over from Washington, has hit at least 15 home runs a season since 2006 and has hit 20 or more in three of those seasons. He hasn't played in 140 games in any of the last three seasons, so health will be a hug concern. If Willingham can play in 140 games or more in 2011, he might reach the 20 home run and 70 RBI plateaus he hit in 2006 and 2007. DeJesus, who came over from Kansas City, only played in 91 games for Kansas City last year. In 2009, he played in 144 games and drove in 71 runs for the 2nd straight season. He hit 25 home runs over 2008-09, so he isn't a huge power guy, but he hit at least 25 doubles every year since 2005 before last year's injuries. Health is also a concern for Crisp, who last played in 140 games or more in 2007. As a Red Sox in '07, Crisp drove in 60 runs and batted .268. He is a career .277 hitter, and his ability to bat leadoff can help the entire lineup if he plays more than the 75 games he played for Oakland in 2010.

Ryan Sweeney:
For all the injury concerns, Sweeney is coming off his own injury plagued 2010. If he can come back healthy, he will provide much needed depth for the three impending starters.

Conor Jackson:
There is a theme here. This makes 5 outfielders who have injury history, very good years behind them, and the A's are hoping good years left. Jackson and Sweeney provide two x factors for the A's if the starters can't stay on the field.

Designated Hitter
Hideki Matsui:
Matsui drives in runs, he has been doing it ever since he picked up a bat, and he did it for the Yankees and Angels for several years. Now he brings his bat to the Bay and the A's are hoping he drives in runs the way he brings in reporters. If he can be the thump the A's haven't had since Giambi's first stint, the A's lineup will have the swagger they haven't had in a while.

Starting Pitching:

Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez:
This is the top three by far, and this three can very well replace Mulder, Hudson and Zito from the A's fans memory banks. Anderson has a 4 year deal in place, Trevor Cahill is about to get an extension, and Gio Gonzalez will be next. Cahill (18-8) and Gonzalez (15-9) had amazing win loss records considering the A's were a .500 team last year. If Anderson (7-6) can stay healthy enough to pitch more than 112 innings like in 2010, they might have a trio who all win 15 or more games. The only questions with these three is will they continue to get better and will the A's be able to keep them for the long term. In the short term, they have as good a young trio as any team in baseball, including their Bay Bridge neighbors.

Dallas Braden:
At his best, he threw a perfect game on Mother's Day. At his worst, he threw a temper tantrum against the Yankees. In between, Braden needs to find some consistency, but his bravado might be his greatest strength. Can he make it work every 5th day? We will see.

Rich Harden:
Of all the injury concerns on the A's this season, Harden is already hurt and might not be the team's 5th starter.

Andrew Bailey:
One of the best closers in baseball. If he can stop visiting Dr. Andrews in Birmingham, AL, he can stop scaring the A's faithful that they won't hold leads heading into the 9th.

Brian Fuentes:
The best thing the A's did this off-season might end up being bringing in a former top flight closer to pitch the 8th inning. If Bailey does end up having elbow troubles this summer, Fuentes can replace him in the 9th. That kind of experience will be invaluable for a young bullpen with great arms but little results yet.

Grant Balfour:
Speaking of veteran arms in the 'pen, the A's brought in Grant Balfour who has experience at the end of games in the dreaded AL East. His time in Tampa Bay should bode well if the A's play competitive games in September as they battle for the AL West crown.

Joey Devine, Michael Wuertz and Brad Ziegler:
Another trio of young arms, this time in the bullpen, that have the ability to get people out and might be the reason the bullpen ends 2011 as one of the strongest and deepest in baseball.

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