Oakland Athletics 2012 Spring Training Preview: Starting Rotation
You smell that? Aaaah, the fresh scent of pine tar and eye black.
It’s that time of year again: Pitchers, catchers and position players have arrived to their respective camps. Yes, spring training is always an exciting time of the year. It’s a period that symbolizes the blossoming of new growth, where anything and anybody can get a fresh start to their baseball careers.
No team exudes the essence of springtime more than the Oakland Athletics, a franchise that has almost completely re-harvested its roster over the past few months. Out with last year’s crop: Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey are all shipped away.
In with fresh seeds like Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock, Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes.
As the A’s cultivate their young, budding roster, there are many questions regarding the 2012 season. Which players will bear fruit? Which ones will wilt? Which produce will be re-sold?
Let’s take a look at the Athletics' roster as they enter spring training. Here we’ll analyze the team’s starting pitchers who are currently on the A’s roster.
One of the more intriguing storylines this spring training will be the health of left-hander Brett Anderson. Coming off of Tommy John surgery performed last July, Anderson is still in the midst of rehabilitating himself back into shape. He will clearly have to regain his arm strength before even beginning to find himself back in baseball conditioning.
He arrived to spring training itching to throw, and two weeks ago he had his first bullpen session since his surgery. Reports cards came back with high marks, given his time off and the severity of the type of surgery.
Additionally, Anderson came into camp looking lither—he lost 25 pounds over the winter. Certainly his improved fitness will only help in his recovery from a cardio standpoint. All that remains is his throwing ability and whether he can produce the same zip on his pitches.
Spring training will be a time for Anderson to slowly reacquaint himself with the rigors of working his arm back into shape. It’s projected that Anderson won’t be available to join the team until midseason, likely after the All-Star break. He’ll obviously need to log a few rehab starts in the minors before joining Oakland.
With the depth the A’s have at starting pitcher, the team will not rush Anderson until he’s 110 percent ready and they’re 110 percent confident in him.
The A’s have a lot invested in the Anderson, though. He’s still only 24, and he’s considered one of the top young lefties in the league—when healthy. Unfortunately he has not been healthy in the recent past, plagued by injuries that have limited him to only 32 starts over the last two seasons.
When he is healthy, he can provide the Athletics with a solid No. 2 pitcher. Here’s hoping he gets back his health really soon.
2012 outlook: Anderson will join the Oakland rotation prior to August. He might not regain his form from 2010, however, and will finish the season with moderate numbers across the board, instead looking ahead to a full 2013 campaign.
Another starting pitcher who was shelved last season, Dallas Braden is looking to rebound from disappointingly abrupt finish to a 2011 campaign with just three starts. Braden went on the disabled list and had surgery to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder.
After agreeing to a one-year contract to remain with the A’s, Braden worked extremely hard over the offseason to get himself as ahead of schedule as possible in his recovery.
He still has some rehabbing to do in order to get back to top form; but the lefty is confident he will be ready and able sooner rather than later. Reports out of spring training suggest that Braden is progressing very well and could join the rotation as early as late April.
A healthy Braden is important to the staff and the overall team. Braden’s loose yet intense demeanor provides tremendous leadership both on and off the field.
It will be important for the 28-year-old to come back to the rotation as strong as ever and play out a full season the rest of the way, especially considering that he, like Anderson, has had a history of injuries in his short career.
2012 outlook: Braden will rejoin the team by the end of April, after a few rehab starts in the minors. It won’t matter which spot in the rotation he’ll be with Oakland; all that matters is that he’ll be back.
Yes, it’s an oxymoron: Bartolo Colon is an Athletic.
Not much to expect here from a soon-to-be 39-year-old who made 26 starts in 2011 after missing the entire 2010 season. Colon produced a modest 8-10 record with a 4.00 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, especially given the fact that his 164.1 innings pitched were the most he had logged in one season since 2005.
The A’s do not anticipate a whole lot out of Colon for 2012. After signing him to a one-year deal, Oakland will hope that Colon can provide some versatility to a deep pitching staff.
Colon can serve as a starter at the back end of the rotation (though he has been selected to start the Athletics’ second game of the season, in Japan) until both Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson return to the team after recovering from their respective injuries.
Once they do, Colon can move into the long reliever role. Or, more likely, he’ll be dealt by the trading deadline, as Anderson is on schedule to return to the big club by the end of July.
Thanks for your part-time services, Colon. You will be cleaned out by August.
2012 outlook: Colon will no longer be an Athletic and will find a contending team to play for by the trading deadline.
An interesting storyline in A’s camp will be the one surrounding Sean Doolittle. The former first baseman has reported to spring training as a pitcher. Crazy.
Doolittle trudged through the Athletics' minor league system, and he suffered two knee injuries and a wrist injury that sidelined his progress: He missed all of 2010 and nearly all of 2011.
As a result, Doolittle has decided to take a detour in his attempt to make the majors—as a starting pitcher. Doolittle has done a lot to resume his pitching skill set that he had left behind him while in college.
But he’s still a long shot to make the 25-man roster as a starting pitcher, especially with so many candidates to fill out the rotation. If anything, Doolittle will land himself a role as the spot starter or long reliever out of the bullpen.
Given that he is reintroducing himself and relearning the position as a whole—not just the pitches and the mechanics, but also the fielding and defense—Doolittle will have to get some more work in before he finds himself as a big league pitcher.
2012 outlook: He could do a little more grooming in Triple-A Sacramento, which is where he’ll start the season. If he does find himself in the big league roster in Oakland, it will complete a remarkable story, for sure.
Pedro Figueroa has been hanging out in the Oakland A’s minor league system since 2006. He has had an up-and-down career as he climbed up the ranks and has a 20-25 overall record through several different levels in the minors.
Figueroa’s major problem has been his control—he walks a lot of batters (four per nine innings), which has helped contribute to his higher-than-average WHIP (1.486 for his minor league career).
Needless to say, he’ll be working out his mechanics with Athletics’ pitching coach Curt Young during spring training. Not until he improves his control will the A’s consider calling him up to join the team in Oakland.
2012 outlook: Triple-A Sacramento. He’ll likely spend the entire season with the River Cats, unless a slew of injuries haunt the Oakland pitching staff. Otherwise, look for him to receive a (possible) call-up in September.
Another possible candidate to fill a temporary spot in the rotation until Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden return from injury is Graham Godfrey. The 27-year-old right-hander was glad to receive a few brief looks last season with Oakland, starting five games for the A’s.
He had some bumps in his intermittent stint, going 1-2 with a 3.96 ERA. Godfrey showed enough promise to be considered for a possible spot as the fifth starter in the rotation this season, especially after the A’s decided to trade back-end starters Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso this past offseason.
Godfrey must have made impressed the coaching staff enough to be kept on the ball club—otherwise he could have been dealt along with the myriad of other players sent by the A’s this winter.
But with so many candidates to evaluate, Godfrey will really have to have a solid spring in order to outshine the others. It’s likely that the battle for the fifth spot will include Godfrey, and a decision this spring will be difficult for Bob Melvin to make. We’ll have to wait and see, though.
2012 outlook: Godfrey will start the season in Triple-A Sacramento. He’ll be one of the first pitchers to be called up if ever (whenever) one of the A’s starters suffers an injury this season—which will definitely happen.
One question has already been answered by the A’s this spring training: Brandon McCarthy will be Oakland’s Opening Day starter. This was announced by the team early last week.
Beyond that, there isn’t much to report about McCarthy heading into training camp.
The lanky right-hander experienced a career year, much to the surprise of both the Athletics and the rest of the league. McCarthy set a bundle of personal bests, including nine wins, a 3.32 ERA, 123 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP. Additionally, his 4.92 K/BB ratio ranked second in the American League.
With the trades of starting pitchers Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, and the injuries to Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden, McCarthy vaults to the top of Oakland’s rotation.
But the absence of these top-level pitchers does not make McCarthy the de facto No. 1 starter, certainly not after his impressive 2011 season—probably his most healthy campaign, as well.
Unfortunately, he’ll likely surprise fewer opposing hitters in 2012. But the groundball pitcher will look to continue his form in the hitter-unfriendly Oakland Coliseum.
2012 outlook: With the confidence the team has in him this season, McCarthy will turn in a very solid overall performance as the Athletics’ No. 1 starter. If they can score some more runs for him, he’ll post a few more wins, too.
Though he’ll have a target on his back as the ace of the staff, McCarthy will thrive under the pressure and potentially contend for the Athletics’ lone All-Star spot.
He has some big shoes to fill.
Milone was a Triple-A All-Star with Syracuse in 2011, posting 12-6 record with a 3.22 ERA in 24 starts. So far in spring training, Milone has impressed the pitching staff, along with manager Bob Melvin.
The book on him is his control, as he simply does not walk batters all that often. Last season, Milone averaged 9.69 strikeouts per walk—astonishingly impressive for a young pitcher.
If he’s able to put up numbers on that level, Milone could walk onto Oakland’s starting rotation heading into Opening Day.
2012 outlook: Look for the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation to be tight. It will come down to the wire; and unfortunately for Milone, he will find himself out the outside looking in. Though he’ll start the season in Triple-A, he’ll be a top candidate to be called up whenever a spot start is needed due to injury.
Arriving in Oakland via the trade that sent Trevor Cahill to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Jarrod Parker also has some big shoes to fill. Cahill was a former All-Star with Oakland and was considered by many to be one of the league’s best young right-handed starters.
The 23-year-old Parker had a very brief stint with the Diamondbacks last season, starting one game for the team in September. (He also made one postseason appearance against the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS.)
Parker will look to parlay that short experience into a full-time gig with Oakland. So far this spring training, Parker has done everything to show that he will make the big league club. He struck out four batters in two innings in his spring debut against the Seattle Mariners this past weekend.
Reports are that Parker has a strong fastball and solid changeup and slider. His stuff makes him a viable candidate to land the No. 3 or 4 spot in the A’s rotation heading into Opening Day.
2012 outlook: Look for Parker to find himself in the Oakland rotation as the team’s fourth starter. If he is groomed at a reasonable pace, there is a chance that the righty will find himself in the conversation for the American League Rookie of the Year award.
Probably the best player the A’s received through their plethora of trades, Brad Peacock came to Oakland from the Gio Gonzalez deal.
The 23-year-old righty dominated the minor leagues last season, combining for a 15-3 record at two different levels. He posted a 2.39 ERA in 2011, with a whopping 177 strikeouts in 146.2 innings pitched. Remarkable.
As such, Peacock is the leading candidate to fill in as the No. 3 starter heading out of spring training, behind Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon. The way he wowed scouts and the A’s pitching staff, Peacock will need to have a terrible spring in order to slide down the rotation.
But the way it looks as of right now, Peacock should forecast to have a reasonable rookie campaign in 2012.
2012 outlook: Peacock will make the Opening Day roster as the No. 3 starter. If he stays healthy and consistently avoids a string of bad outings in a row, Peacock will enjoy a potential Rookie of the Year campaign.
One of the bigger questions for the Athletics organization is whether Tyson Ross can regain the pitching quality that made him one of the team’s best prospects. Ross has seen time with Oakland over the past two seasons, but he had a few injuries that kept him in Triple-A Sacramento for longer stints.
Last season, Ross was experiencing a promising season as a starter, posting a 2.75 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP. But he suffered an oblique injury early on, and he spent the remainder of the season regaining form, pitching in Sacramento.
This season, healthy and anxious, Ross hopes to land the coveted fifth spot, a tight competition in A’s spring training camp. The one advantage Ross has over all the other candidates is his experience in the organization and familiarity at the big league level.
But with so many options in camp right now, Ross needs to outperform everybody. If he can stay healthy and consistently pitch himself out of jams, Ross can make the team as a spot starter or long reliever.
2012 outlook: Ross will win the No. 5 spot in the rotation. However, he’ll need to perform at a dependable level in order to keep it. With the likes of Tom Milone and Graham Godfrey behind him, also vying for the spot, Ross may be pitching with his head turned.
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