Oakland Athletics: 5 Reasons A's Will Have a Bounce-Back Year
The Oakland A’s are in a state of change.
After multiple offseason trades that overhauled their roster, the A’s are staring directly at what looks to be a daunting 2012 season. The Rangers and Angels both made upgrades to their rosters, while by all accounts the A’s did not.
However, this does not mean they cannot bounce back from a 74-88 2011 campaign. In fact, despite finishing 14 games under .500, in the second half of the last season they were 35-35.
Maintaining that kind of record for the entire 2012 season is the goal.
There is no disregarding the losses the team sustained, but their departure opens up opportunity for others. If some of their prospects continue to mature, their pitching staff stays healthy and they play to their strengths; they can rebound from last season.
Here are five reasons why Oakland will bounce back from their difficult 2011:
Full Year of Jemile Weeks
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In early June last year, the A’s called up Weeks, their speedy second base prospect from Triple-A Sacramento. They did so out of necessity, but the move ended up showing the organization they have a bona fide top of the order hitter.
Weeks is an exciting player because he can do multiple things well.
For the offense, he consistently gets on base and with his speed is a threat to steal. He puts pressure on a defense whenever he puts the ball in play and can single handedly create run-scoring opportunities.
In the field, meanwhile, his quickness gives him tremendous range that turns him into an above average defender.
As such, the A’s will benefit from having a full year with him in their lineup.
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When Bob Melvin fills out his 2012 roster, he is likely going to have multiple outfield options. Outside of Coco Crisp, though, none of them will be proven entities.
This, though, is not necessarily a bad thing.
In all likelihood all seven of the outfielders currently listed on the 40-man roster will get an opportunity to prove themselves at some point this season. Of that group, three are left handed bats, three are right handed and one, Crisp, is a switch-hitter.
Thus, depending on the team they are playing and who is hitting well, Melvin can create favorable pitcher-hitter matchups. In turn, the offense will be better able to produce runs to support the pitching staff.
Maturing of Chris Carter and Michael Taylor
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At some point in each of Carter’s and Taylor’s careers, they will make the leap from minor league prospect to major league contributor. With their experience in the minors, it is time for their talent to shine through.
That season could and should be this one.
Both will get a chance at the designated hitter spot, while Taylor will also have the opportunity to prove himself in the outfield.
Each have showed their potential at the plate in the A’s farm system, but have struggled to turn that into production at the major league level. With the state of this year’s A’s roster, however, they are going to be given a legitimate opportunity to show their value this season.
Each is too talented not to take a step forward, and when they do so the A’s will benefit.
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In this 2012 season, no one is expecting the A’s to compete for the division or even a playoff spot. They simply traded away too many big pieces to measure up with improved teams like the Rangers and Angels.
Even though it might not be apparent, this could be a blessing.
The young players that make up the bulk of the roster can simply go out and play baseball. They will have less pressure to perform immediately, which in most instances leads to more relaxed and patient approaches.
Of course, there will be pains from inexperience. However, out of those will come growth that will make this team stronger and more difficult to play as the season goes on.
Health of Pitching Staff
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Twelve times last year the A’s had a member of their pitching staff—reliever or starter—end up injured. With that being the case, it was a constant struggle for Bob Geren and later Bob Melvin to regularly use the same arms in the same situations.
As habitual as pitchers are, this fact certainly did not help the A’s consistently compete last season.
Many people will say that the pitchers are going to struggle this year without starters Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez and closer Andrew Bailey.
However, if players such as Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden, Joey Devine and Tyson Ross can keep away from the injury bug, they will help bring consistency to the mound. In turn, that will allow players to settle in to regular roles and have stronger performances.