Since Bob Melvin took over as A's manager in 2011, he's led the team to a record of 325-260, by far his most successful tenure with the three teams he's managed in his big-league career. Each of the past three seasons has found the A's making the postseason, and it's partly due to BoMel's flexibility. On a daily basis, he mixes and matches lineups well-suited to the A's platoon system, and it's worked. Heading into 2015, Melvin's managerial moxie will be put to the test again with a crop of new talent. As he's proven time and time again, he's up to the challenge.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY SportsAdam Hunger
Another deep starting staff
We all know what Sonny Gray can do. The young right-hander flashed ace material last season and will likely break camp as the de facto No. 1 starter of the 2015 rotation. His supporting cast will come from some combination of Scott Kazmir, Jesse Hahn, Hahn's fellow newcomers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman and holdovers Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz. That's a pretty deep staff, and should be well-suited to handle an injury or two. Plus, with A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker returning sometime in the first few months (hopefully), the A's should have a wealth of quality arms at their disposal.
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY SportsJim Cowsert
Just look at 2014 — anything can happen
If there was a team in recent memory that perfectly symbolized the "baseball is unpredictable" narrative, it was the 2014 Kansas City Royals. After blazing their way to a Wild Card spot with a scorching-hot final few weeks of the regular season, they made quick work of Mike Trout and his top-seeded Los Angeles Angels before dispatching the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS. The Royals were NOT "supposed" to do that in 2014, but they did. The wave even carried them to the seventh game of the World Series, only to be stopped in their tracks by an otherwordly Madison Bumgarner. Despite coming up short, the Royals had a storybook season in '14, the kind that should inspire all other teams, especially the always-scrappy A's, this season.
Getty ImagesJamie Squire
New year, new offensive mindset — maybe
The A's offensive calling cards of the past few seasons has been home runs and walks. They mashed 146 bombs in 2014, for example. This year's crop of players should yield different results. The new guys — Billy Butler, Ben Zobrist, Brett Lawrie, Marcus Semien among them — aren't as prone to homers and walks as the Josh Donaldsons and Brandon Mosses of years past. Might the A's be shifting their offensive approach in 2015? Time will tell, but recent history also suggests that teams whose offenses are based around making contact (rather than going deep) go far. Again, look at last year's Royals.
Chris O'MearaChris O'Meara
Never count out Beane
At A's FanFest a few weeks ago, Billy Beane hinted that if things didn't work out as expected this season, he and the front office will make more changes. As he's proved in the past, that doesn't mean he'd throw in the towel on the season. Rather, it means he'd make more moves to actively IMPROVE the 2015 roster. Beane opted to re-tool rather than re-build for this season because he still sees the team as a viable postseason threat, so it'd be foolish to expect anything less than a competitive unit. And with two Wild Card teams in the postseason these days, being 'competitive' can take you a long way.
Getty ImagesMichael Zagaris
The bullpen could be nasty
Sean Doolittle may be missing Opening Day while recuperating from a rotator-cuff issue, but the A's bullpen might not suffer for it. That's because the 'pen, as it's assembled at the moment, could give batters fits. Tyler Clippard, Eric O'Flaherty, Ryan Cook, (perhaps) R.J. Alvarez and Eury De La Rosa, Fernando Abad, Dan Otero, Chris Bassitt and potentially A.J. Griffin and Jarrod Parker should pose a formidable threat on any given day. A good 'pen shortens the opposition's opportunities for damage, and that seems to be the A's plan of attack heading into this season.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsKyle Terada
They've been here before...
Remember 2012? It was a magical, legendary few months for A's fans. Oakland was expected to be a bottom-feeder in the powerful A.L. West that year, and yet they surprised everyone — especially the Texas Rangers. Turning a "two games back with three to go" situation into a dramatic three-game sweep of Texas that culminated in a blissful October afternoon celebration at O.co Coliseum was unfathomable when 2012 began. So why can't they do it again in 2015? The cast of characters is entirely new (save for a few players), but the spirit remains the same. If they get on a roll like the 2012 club did, watch out ...