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Weekly Wednesday Wrap Up
Last week we looked at the blockbuster trades for prospects and the simmering issues with a new stadium proposal for the Athletics. This week, we take a look at how Spring Training has gone for the Athletics as a whole.
For anyone who has been paying the slightest attention to the Athletics this Spring Training, you will know that they have struggled to find consistent form. Their batting has been mostly disappointing, with the team hitting a slash of .228/.299/.413, their slugging the only thing keeping them from being in the bottom-5 in the league. Also, as one might expect from a team that likes to minimize risk when possible, Oakland hasn’t been very active on the basepaths either, stealing only 3 bases in 5 tries.
However, it is clear as day at this point that pitching is where the Oakland Athletics have been struggling the most. While the team is surprisingly not last in ERA during Spring Training, only eking out the Royals somehow worse 6.88 ERA, they are last in batting average against (.325), WHIP (1.76), K/9 (7.52), and H/9 (12.07). It is easier to describe what pitchers have done well overall as that list is much shorter than the opposite.
The best pitchers on the staff so far have been Justin Grimm, Sam Selman, Ryan Castellani, Zach Jackson, Lou Trivino, Dany Jimenez, Jake Lemoine, and Sam Moll, all of which have a 3.00 ERA or less in at least 2 innings of work. Only Grimm and Castellani among these have allowed a run and both have pitched at least 3 innings.
The really concerning thing about this, however, is that none of these pitchers have thrown more than 3.1 innings, with all of the pitchers throwing more having ERAs over 6.00. Granted, this is a very small sample size and these pitchers are probably preparing themselves for the regular season, but it is still concerning seeing rotation staples like Manaea, Montas, and Puk struggling to prevent runs with greater workloads.
The hitting side of things has had a few low points as well. Cristian Pache has continued right from where he left off in Atlanta, hitting a .182/.217/.364 slash (very bad) while making some great plays in CF (very good). This is particularly concerning as it seems that the Oakland Athletics were trying him out as a potential leadoff hitter. Other hitters who have had similarly bad hitting runs include: Dalton Kelly, Seth Brown, Elvis Andrus, Billy McKinney, Skye Bolt, Eric Thames, Austin Allen, Dermis Garcia, and Ramon Laureano (10 AB minimum).
Among this list there have been a few players (Thames, Bolt, and Allen) who have either hit with some power or gotten on base to not be a complete liability at the plate. Skye Bolt is particularly impressive among these as he was able to walk nearly as many times as he struck out (5:6 respectively).
In between the good and the bad of the hitting this Spring Training have been two players vying for playing time this season. Kevin Smith has hit an underwhelming .227/.261/.409 slash and striking out in ¼ of his ABs while playing at 3B. As one of the potential replacements for Chapman, this is a pretty concerning sign. Longtime Athletics utility fielder Chad Pinder has also struggled a bit during Spring Training, hitting a .231/.313/.308 slash, though this is somewhat in line with his mediocre career hitting numbers.
Even with the many struggles that have come on the hitting side, there are a few bright spots. Olympic Silver Medalist Nick Allen had a very good Spring Training before being optioned to Triple-A on March 27th. He slashed a very good .500/.600/1.083 in only 12 ABs. While not a lot to go off of, it shows a lot of promise for a potential callup this season after he was sent to Triple-A to start the year.
The biggest star of this Spring Training would probably go to Sean Murphy. The 27-year-old A’s catcher hasn’t performed very well in his time in the Bigs, hitting only a .222/.321/.431 in 562 ABs across 3 seasons. However, he has raked in his 12 ABs during Spring Training, hitting a .500/.500/1.000 slash in the time, while seemingly playing quite competently behind the plate.
Among the others to hit quite well in limited playing time have been: Christian Lopes (recent free agent pickup), Tony Kemp (potential leadoff man), Sheldon Neuse (another potential replacement for Chapman), Christian Bethancourt, and Drew Jackson. The Bethancourt and Jackson performances are particularly notable since they haven’t really hit well in the majors prior to this opportunity and could see themselves as rotational options because of this. Sheldon Neuse’s performance is also quite funny as he is one of the pieces that the A’s gave up to acquire Cody Thomas and Adam Kolarek and was acquired off of waivers from the Dodgers on March 16th.
Overall while there are a few holes in the squad as of this moment, there is a significant lack of playing time to say anything concrete and a few bright spots that could overshadow the negatives this season. And, these holes might be partially filled by the free agent signings of two Oakland Athletics fan favorites.
The first was Stephen Vogt, who resigned with the organization on a major league deal worth less than $1 million, a steal if he can turn back the clock to at least 2019. The second was Jed Lowrie, signed to a minor league deal, and is known to perform exceptionally with the Athletics. While the team as a whole might not perform as well without their 3 All-Stars, they might bring back a bit of their old magic with their team legends.
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