Oakland A's: Playoff Contenders with Yoenis Cespedes and Bartolo Colon?

Michael NargiSenior Analyst IApril 28, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 06:  Yoenis Cespedes #52 swings and watches the fight of his ball as he hits a two-run home run against the Seattle Mariners on Opening Day at O.co Coliseum on April 6, 2012 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Oakland A's are one of the teams that are thankful for the extra wild-card spot in the playoffs.

Although they are still long-shots to make the playoffs, a winning start has boosted fans' spirits as the season unfolds.

Last season they began the season very similar to this year, by hovering around .500. Their downfall began after they were 27-27.

In the following 14 games they lost all but one, including 10 in a row at one point. The season was all but lost after that run.

This season they have a couple key pieces that might help them stay strong throughout the season.

Bartolo Colon is shaping up to be the A's ace this season.

Last year they were led by Gio Gonzalez, whose production dissipated after the All-Star break. He was the owner of a 2.47 ERA before the break and a 3.94 ERA after the break.

They will rely on the veteran arm of Colon to stay strong throughout the season and in crunch time.

The biggest piece of this team's equation is Yoenis Cespedes.

Cespedes is the offensive firepower that the A's have lacked in previous seasons. Cespedes has a chance to hit 35 or more home runs and be a big threat to other teams.

Last season in Cuba he hit 30 home runs in 90 games.

In the stretch that the A's lost 13 of 14, they lost nine of the 13 games by three runs or less. The A's have the pop in the lineup to get those runs back quickly. 

The big question is if he can be more productive than Josh Willingham, who Oakland parted ways with during the offseason. 

What is lost in Willingham's production from last year (29 home runs, 98 RBI) is that 18 of his 29 home runs came after the All-Star break. The A's season was lost by that point.

Cespedes will not get the job done by replacing Willingham's numbers; he will have to surpass them. Most importantly, he will have to put up huge numbers throughout the entire season to help the A's stay in the race.

These two guys might have a huge say towards the end of the season when the wild-card spots are up for grabs.

Most importantly though, the A's are exciting fans and putting a quality product on the field.