Oakland Athletics season preview capsule
2018: 97-65, second place, lost to Yankees in AL wild-card game.
Manager: Bob Melvin (ninth season).
Projected Lineup: LF Robbie Grossman (.273, 5 HRs, 48 RBIs with Twins), 3B Matt Chapman (.278, 24, 68, 42 2Bs, 100 runs), 1B Matt Olson (.247, 29, 84), DH Khris Davis (.247, MLB-best 48, 123), RF Stephen Piscotty (.267, 27, 88, 41 2Bs), 2B Jurickson Profar (.254, 20, 77 with Rangers), CF Ramon Laureano (.288, 5, 19 in 48 games), SS Marcus Semien (.255, 15, 70), C Nick Hundley (.241, 10, 31 with Giants).
Rotation: RH Mike Fiers (12-8, 3.56 with A’s and Tigers), RH Marco Estrada (7-14, 5.64 with Blue Jays), LH Brett Anderson (4-5, 4.48), RH Frankie Montas (5-4, 3.88), RH Aaron Brooks (9-4, 3.35 at Triple-A) or LH Jesus Luzardo (10-5, 2.88 in minors).
Key Relievers: RH Blake Treinen (9-2, 0.78 ERA, 38/43 saves, .158 BA against), RH Joakim Soria (3-4, 3.12, 16 saves with Brewers and White Sox), RH Fernando Rodney (4-3, 3.36, 25/32 saves with A’s and Twins), RH Lou Trivino (8-3, 2.92, 4 saves), RH Yusmeiro Petit (7-3, 3.00), LH Ryan Buchter (6-0, 2.75), LH Jerry Blevins (3-2, 4.85, 1 save with Mets), RH Liam Hendriks (0-1, 4.13 ERA).
Hot Spot: The biggest question for Oakland remains the rotation. The A’s playoff stay proved to be brief last season when they used Hendricks as an “opener” against the Yankees and he allowed two runs in the first inning of a 7-2 loss. Oakland added Estrada but he had a 5.27 ERA over the past two seasons in Toronto and hardly seems like the answer. The best hope for the rotation seems to be if Sean Manaea (shoulder) and Jharel Cotton (elbow) are able to return from serious injuries at some point this season and heralded prospect Luzardo can step in and perform as a rookie.
Outlook: The A’s were a surprise playoff team last year after three straight last-place finishes. Melvin got the most out of a low-cost roster filled with power hitters from Davis, who has 133 homers the past three seasons, to Chapman and Olson on the infield corners. Chapman is an emerging star who makes highlight plays with his glove on a regular basis and is a threat at the plate as well. While the rotation is filled with questions, the bullpen is deep and one of the best in the league. Treinen was nearly unhittable last season and Soria, Rodney and Trivino provide plenty of late-inning setup options. The A’s made a few significant moves this offseason, acquiring Profar from Texas and letting Lowrie leave as a free agent for a switch at second base. Lucroy provided a steadying presence behind the plate last season and could be missed. While the A’s may lack the talent of the big spenders in the AL, they have the ingredients to contend for a playoff spot again if they can get any sort of starting pitching.