Oakland A's Roster Battles: 7 Most Intriguing Spring Position Battles
Heading into the 2012 season in rebuilding mode, the A's knew they would have some holes to fill before the season started.
They went out and acquired guys like Josh Reddick and Bartolo Colon to fill some of those spots, but for the most part the club will be full of young guys looking to break camp as part of the 25-man roster. Young players like Josh Donaldson and Eric Sogard are finally being given a shot at everyday jobs with the big club, and are looking to stick around come April.
The team has been in action this spring for almost two weeks now, and already some players are starting to stand out, while others are hurting their chances to make the club come Opening Day.
With another two weeks until the A's open the year in Japan, there's still plenty of time for some under-the-radar guys to make an impression and find a role on a team that's looking to once again contend like they're accustomed to.
Here are seven positions that began as question marks coming into camp, and how they look as of today.
It appears as though this position has become a one-man race. The A's recently released Landon Powell so the job is now Anthony Recker's to lose.
One interesting scenario to watch is what the A's do with Josh Donaldson. If he can't nail down the everyday 3B job, the A's may elect to use Donaldson in a utility role, playing him sparingly at third and behind the plate.
This spot is still wide open. So far this spring, both Chris Carter and Brandon Allen have put up only pretty marginal numbers, neither one able to stand out from the pack.
Luckily for them, however, it appears as though Daric Barton wont be able to challenge them at the spot for another week at the earliest due to a setback with his right shoulder injury. The complication is still giving him problems throwing so look for him to DH most of the spring.
They're giving Josh Donaldson every opportunity to win this job out of camp.
He's doing okay with the bat, hitting .265 thus far, but his fielding still has to be a major concern for the A's. Through only 10 games, he's already committed three errors.
If he wants to stick at third his defense must improve, otherwise Eric Sogard, whose impressed this spring, may steal a lot of time away from him over at the hot corner.
Left Field/Center Field
There are three guys—Seth Smith, Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes—vying for only two outfield spots. Based on defense and overall potential, it would be extremely shocking if Smith came out of camp with the LF position despite his expressed desire to play every day.
Expect the A's to keep Cespedes in his natural position of CF and ask the veteran Crisp to move over to left, while Smith mans the DH role until Manny Ramirez comes back from his 50-game suspension.
As previously mentioned, look for the recently acquired Smith to break camp as the team's DH. It should be interesting though to see if the A's give him a chance to hit against lefties and not just righties.
They did also acquire the right-handed hitter Johnny Gomes in the offseason, and don't forget about Chris Carter. If he doesn't win the 1B job outright, the A's might want to give him a look against left-handers as well.
3-4-5 Spots in the Rotation
With only Brandon McCarthy and Bartolo Colon being assured spots going into the season, there are still three up for grabs while Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson continue to recover from injuries.
Jarrod Parker has impressed thus far, posting a 2.45 ERA through 3 appearances this spring. Their other young prized acquisition Brad Peacock has fizzled this spring, though, currently sporting a 9.64 ERA. Manager Bob Melvin blamed that on tight strike zones among other things, but his consistency will have to improve quickly if he wants to nab one of those spots.
Other options include Tyson Ross, who has an impressive 1.29 ERA in three appearances, and Tom Milone, who like Peacock was acquired in the Gio Gonzalez trade this offseason.
Milone hasn't blown anyone away this spring but he hasn't been bad either. If not right away, look for him to become a steady part of the club's rotation some time soon.
Unfortunately for the A's, this position is still very much a question mark. Fautino de los Santos hasn't performed as well as they would have liked him to this spring. With his command still too inconsistent at this point, accumulating three walks in five innings, he has already been dismissed by Melvin as a possible candidate for the closer role.
Grant Balfour, the steady veteran, has performed even worse this spring, however, giving up five runs in less than four innings of work.
So it looks as though the job will go to Brian Fuentes by default when the club opens the year in Japan. However, if de los Santos can find his control, look for him to assume the role sometime in the middle of the season.