Five most important players for the 2015 Oakland A’s
2015 will be a big year for Sonny Gray. In addition to being named the team's Opening Day starter for the second year in a row, Gray, 25, has a chance to further establish himself as one of the top pitchers in the league. After Billy Beane traded away/let go of veterans Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, Gray is now not only one of the longest-tenured A's on the roster but also the undisputed ace of the staff. Gray finished 2014 with a 14-10 record and a 3.08 ERA in 219 IP in his first full season with the A's, so he'll be looking for even better numbers in 2015. Should that happen, and should he be able to continue maturing as a pitcher, it'll help the A's with some stability atop a rotation that looks to feature a lot of youth.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY SportsCary Edmondson
The fiery Brett Lawrie joins the A's as Josh Donaldson's replacement at third base — not that Lawrie should go about thinking of his role in that manner. Instead, the 25-year-old Lawrie will be relied upon by the A's to complement the revamped roster —rather than be the go-to guy for power and leadership. That isn't to suggest that Lawrie can't possibly provide what Donaldson did — he can — but the emotional gravity of "replacing Donaldson" needn't get in the way. For Lawrie, health is a much bigger concern, too. His all-or-nothing style limited him to just 70 games in 2014 with the Blue Jays, so the A's are no doubt banking on a healthier (and, hopefully, more productive) new addition to their roster in 2015.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY SportsJoe Camporeale
Right fielder Josh Reddick survived Billy Beane's roster move bonanza earlier in the offseason, as the team clearly values his top-notch defense. As for his hitting, Reddick has been inconsistent at best for much of the past two seasons. Injuries have played a part, and they seem likely to once again in 2015 as he's already suffered an oblique strain that could keep him out of action until a few weeks into the season. The A's probably can't count on Reddick to hit 25-plus home runs again as he did in 2012, but his final slash line in 2014 (.264/.316/.446) was a marked improvement over 2013's (.226/.307/.379). Hopefully, for their sake, Reddick's oblique issue doesn't become a lingering one, so he can get in the lineup on a regular basis once again in '15.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SportsKyle Terada
The Derek Norris trade netted the A's promising right-hander Jesse Hahn, formerly of the Padres. In Hahn, Oakland has another 25-year-old right-hander to complement Sonny Gray. Hahn had Tommy John surgery four years ago, so monitoring his health can/should be a concern for the A's. If he stays healthy, though, Hahn's ceiling is such that he could very well provide the A's with a solid, dependable No. 3 in the rotation behind Gray and Scott Kazmir.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY SportsMatt Kartozian
Can Marcus Semien hang as the A's everyday shortstop in 2015? So far, manager Bob Melvin and his staff are indicating that they're impressed by what they've seen at spring training. If he can stick at short in 2015, it'll really help Oakland offset the loss of Addison Russell (whom they dealt to the Chicago Cubs for Jeff Samardzija, who in turn was traded to the White Sox for Semien and a package of minor leaguers). Simply put, the A's have a lot of chips riding on Semien's ability to not only hit at the Major League level in 2015, but also to do so as an everyday shortstop — something he hasn't been yet in his career at the major-league level. It's a big narrative for the green and gold in 2015.