Our previews of the AL West continue, with the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the Oakland Athletics, who finished in last place in the division last season
The A’s won 75 games last season, but that was a six-win improvement over 2016 so things appear to be looking up for the young team. Their biggest acquisition this offseason was acquiring OF Stephen Piscotty from the Cardinals. They also signed C Jonathan Lucroy and P Yusmeiro Petit. Back to lead the offense again in 2018 is DH Khris Davis while the team hopes a true No. 1 starter emerges from a rotation that currently lacks such a player.
The hitters hit .246 last season, which put them in the bottom 10 in Major League Baseball, but they were fourth with 234 home runs. They were in the top half of the league with a .755 OPS. Davis hit 43 home runs, which was the fourth-most in the majors, but hit just .247 with an .864 OPS. OF Matthew Joyce hit .243 with 25 home runs, and OF Matt Olson hit .259 with 24 home runs in just 59 games. SS Marcus Semien hit .249 with 10 home runs in 85 games, and 3B Matt Chapman added 14 homers in 84 games. Piscotty hit .235 with 9 home runs in 107 games with St. Louis. Lucroy had one of the worst seasons of his career with the Rangers and Rockies, hitting .265 with 6 home runs.
The pitchers’ 4.67 ERA was in the bottom half of the league, as were their 1,202 strikeouts and 35 saves. SP Kendall Graveman posted the best ERA in the rotation at 4.19. He had 70 strikeouts in 105.1 innings over 19 starts. SP Sean Manaea made 29 starts, posting a 4.37 ERA and striking out 140 batters in 158.2 innings. SP Daniel Mengden showed some promising signs in seven starts, posting a 3.14 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 43 innings. In 35 games after being acquired from the Nationals at the trade deadline, RP Blake Treinen recorded 13 saves with a 2.13 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 38 innings. With the Angels, Petit put up a 2.76 ERA with 101 strikeouts in 91.1 innings over 60 appearances.
The A’s have a young team, which could be good if they are able to take the next step in their careers and get the team to where it needs to be in order to be a legit playoff contender. Olson, in particular, showed promising signs, with 24 home runs in 59 games. He probably won’t be able to keep that pace up for a full season, but 35-40 home runs isn’t out of the question based on what he did with his limited playing time last season. Davis has proven he is a 40-homer hitter, so they could provide some nice power output in the middle of the lineup. There isn’t is much of an obvious leader in the starting rotation. Lucroy has to bounce back from his disappointing season and get back to the double-digit home-run totals he usually has if he wants to help the team. Graveman has been named the Opening Day starter, but he has not yet proven himself to be an ace in the first three seasons of his career. SP Jharel Cotton will miss the entire season after recently undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The A’s may have improved this offseason, but if they did it wasn’t by much, and they’re still behind division foes like the Astros, Angels and Mariners. They may be able to pass the Rangers to avoid another last place finish this season, but the A’s can’t expect much more than that because they’re still at least a couple years away from competing, especially with the rotation they have.