Oakland Athletics: Grading Each Position Player's 2012 MLB Season so Far
For years, the Oakland Athletics have had one of the worst offenses in baseball.
The 2012 A's have not reversed that trend, ranking at the bottom of the American League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, while sitting just above Kansas City in runs scored.
The only reason the A's aren't dead last in runs is their prowess on the base paths; Oakland leads the AL with 51 steals.
However, the A's bats have been red-hot as of late: They are second in the AL with a .283 team average in June, and first in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Over the past four games, the A's have been even hotter; their 36 runs are the most they've scored in a four-game span since 2004.
The combination of Oakland's dreadful season-long numbers and their awesome June numbers seems to make this a perfect juncture to evaluate the A's early-season offense with a level head.
Here's a look at how each player is hitting relative to what is generally expected out of their position and what the A's were expecting from them heading into the season.
A small evaluation of defense is also included, but each player's offensive performance is the driving force behind the grades I give them.
Daric Barton, 1B
Two seasons ago, Daric Barton appeared to be the A's long-term answer at first base. His .273 average and .393 on-base percentage in 2010 made him the A's best offensive player despite his mediocre 10 home runs.
Since then, Barton's lack of power has gotten worse, as he seemingly lost the ability to even drive the ball to the outfield. Barton entered the season in Triple A and was only promoted after the release of Brandon Allen.
Barton has again been dreadful for Oakland in 2012. His .196 average and one home run in 106 at-bats make him simply inviable as an everyday player, much less a starting first baseman.
His defense is solid, but still underwhelming when you consider that it's the only reason he has seen time as a starter this season. He was optioned back to Triple A two weeks ago, and it's hard to believe he'll provide anything different if he returns to the show.
Yoenis Cespedes, CF
During an offseason of shedding contracts and acquiring unproven talent, the signing of Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes made half-sense.
The four-year, $36 million deal that Billy Beane threw his way was out of character, but the fact that Yoenis had never played a baseball game in the United States certainly made him an unproven talent.
Beane saw a rare opportunity to sign a big-time bat in free agency at a slightly reduced price, so he went out and won the bidding war for Cespedes.
No one knew exactly what to expect, but considering his contract and hype, Cespedes was essentially supposed to be the A's best player.
Cespedes displayed power early, hitting five homers and driving in 19 runners in his first 23 games. He also hit only .244 and struck out a team-high 21 times, but he wasn't one-dimensional: Cespedes stole four bases and displayed range in center field.
Since then, injuries have derailed Cespedes' season. He only played five games in May, and although he returned in June to hit .385 in eight games, he has since left the lineup again.
So far, Oakland has seen glimpses of a player who still fully projects to be the team's star moving forward, but inconsistency and injury problems have made his first two-and-a-half months forgettable.
Collin Cowgill, OF
The relievers were considered even (a righty-lefty swap based on each team's bullpen needs), but Cahill was clearly the best player in the trade. In return, the A's got a good prospect in Parker and a decent utility outfielder in Cowgill.
The A's were expecting Cowgill to make the team as the fifth outfielder, and compete with Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes for playing time while Manny Ramirez sat.
Cowgill spent almost all of April in Triple A, but injuries to Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp opened room for Cowgill in May. In 16 games, he led the team with a .265 average.
He has really gotten going in June, hitting .343 in nine games. His outfield range is solid, and Cowgill has seemingly earned a spot in the majors.
When Cespedes returns, Cowgill will lose time, but he should still take a lot of at-bats away from the struggling Coco Crisp.
Coco Crisp, OF
After hitting .269 and stealing 81 bases in two seasons with Oakland, Coco Crisp signed a new two-year, $14 million deal in the offseason.
With the A's rarely giving out that kind of money, they certainly expected Crisp to at the very least repeat his feats from the previous season, in which he stole 49 bases and pounded a surprising 40 extra-base hits, while covering lots of ground in the outfield.
Crisp has been an utter disappointment in 2012.
Maybe the signing of Yoenis Cespedes discouraged Crisp—as he publicly complained about being forced out of center field—but as a veteran getting paid $7 million, Coco has no excuse not to produce.
And, boy, has he not produced.
Crisp is hitting just .192 on the season, with one home run and three doubles. Granted, he's missed some time, but his power numbers should be higher and his bat should have gotten going by now, as he's played in 41 games and has been healthy for about a month.
Crisp's defense has even been shaky.
He is still amazing on the basepaths, stealing 10 bases without being thrown out. However, Crisp will lose his job in the starting lineup when Cespedes comes back, making him one of the MLB's highest-paid fourth outfielders on one of the league's lowest-paid teams.
Josh Donaldson, 3B/C
It's not as if the A's wanted Josh Donaldson to be their starting third baseman, but after Scott Sizemore's season-ending knee injury during spring training, they were left without much of a choice.
Every team wants power and defense out of their third baseman, but the A's knew that Josh Donaldson wouldn't provide much of either. They only hoped that he'd hold down the fort until they found a better option, which ended up coming in the form of Brandon Inge in late April.
Donaldson didn't even "hold down the fort." He hit just .069 in April, .170 in May while Inge was out, and .231 in June, thus far, as a backup catcher/corner infielder.
Until this week, Donaldson's on-base percentage was lower than his batting average. After finally walking in Colorado, his OBP is up to .160, seven points above his .153 average.
His defense has been suspect both at third and behind the plate, and the only reason he's in the majors is the A's lack of any viable catchers behind Kurt Suzuki.
Hopefully that will change.
Jonny Gomes, LF/DH
The A's lost a lot of power during the offseason, as Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui both departed. This left the A's with a big hole at left field and designated hitter, and Billy Beane did not have the budget to go out and fill those spots with big-time free agents.
Rather, the A's brought in a group of guys—Seth Smith, Manny Ramirez and Jonny Gomes—who could potentially provide some pop. So, while Jonny Gomes wasn't expected to be a big-time contributor, the A's hoped for some platoon power while Manny served his 50-game suspension.
Gomes has essentially provided exactly what the A's wanted from him. He's only hit .225 In 111 at-bats and has been terrible in left field, but he's hit seven homers and walked 22 times.
His .220 average versus righties is far worse than Smith's .267 mark, but that's to be expected. Unfortunately, Gomes .245 average versus lefties is also worse than Smith's .259 clip.
While Gomes was never expected to be a starter for this team, he needs to improve against lefties with Manny Ramirez no longer in the picture.
Brandon Inge, 3B
The A's entered spring training expecting Scott Sizemore to be their starting third baseman.
However, a season-ending injury left the team with a gaping hole.
Depth wasn't paramount to the construction of the A's in 2012—a season that Billy Beane seems to have unofficially dedicated to saving money and giving unproven players a chance. This left the A's with Josh Donaldson as their best option at third.
The A's claimed Inge and immediately made him their starter at third. While wanting decent production, even a .220 batting average, the A's at least hoped for a little pop and adequate defense—things they were not getting from Donaldson.
Inge's first month in Oakland was a mixed bag. He hit two grand slams in his first week—one a walk-off against his former team—and drove in 17 runs in just 12 games. However, he played in only 12 games due to injury, and he hit just .208.
Still, he was giving the A's far more than was Donaldson.
Inge has had a good June so far, hitting .268 with 13 more RBI. His 30 RBIs in 27 games is unreal, and his .243 average, six home runs and solid defense is at least as much if not more than Oakland would have gotten out of Sizemore.
Brandon Moss, 1B
It's not that the Oakland A's don't want power out of their first baseman; every baseball team at every level does. It's more that A's didn't want it enough to pursue a power-hitting upgrade over Daric Barton or Brandon Allen this offseason.
Those two combined to hit .209 with three home runs in 108 games as Oakland's first basemen in 2011, yet the A's added only Kila Ka'aihue, who's slight power upgrade (15 homers in 411 career at-bats over three seasons) was balanced out by a defensive downgrade.
Moss was signed to minor league contract in the offseason, as he was not expected to play any sort of role in the A's offense.
Moss has certainly played a role.
Allen's early-season release and injuries to Barton and Ka'aihue led to Moss' promotion on June 6th. In his 10 games, Moss has belted six home runs.
His average is an impressive .294, but with nine of his 10 hits being of the extra-base variety, his slugging percentage is a ridiculous .912.
While Moss won't keep up his current pace, he's shown enough within in the A's organization thus far to make fans believe it isn't a fluke—he hit 15 dingers in 512 games at Triple A Sacramento before getting the call.
Even if Moss does cool off, he brings more power to the position than Oakland has had since Nick Swisher.
Cliff Pennington, SS
The A's entered 2012 expecting Cliff Pennington to be their full-time shortstop. In two seasons as their starter, he had provided decent hitting (.250 average in 2010, .264 in 2011) while playing very well defensively.
The A's obviously hoped to see Pennington's average continue to rise, and they expected his adequate power—52 doubles and 14 home runs over two seasons—to remain present.
Most importantly, though, they wanted him to join Weeks, Suzuki and Cespedes for a strong middle-of-the-field defense.
Pennington's offensive numbers were dreadful early, as he hit just .184 in April with a .235 on-base percentage and .237 slugging percentage. He improved slightly to .200/.273/.289 in May but didn't really find his swing until this month.
So far this June, Cliff is hitting .292 with five doubles, giving him a team-high 13 on the season. He also leads the team with 11 steals in only 13 attempts, and his defense has remained superb.
Still, with him hitting .222, the A's need a lot more from Pennington at the plate, but it appears as if he's headed in the right direction.
Josh Reddick, RF
Billy Beane certainly thought very highly of Josh Reddick.
He sent All-Star closer Andrew Bailey along with Ryan Sweeney—a very good contact hitter and better outfielder—to Boston in exchange for the 24-year-old.
Given the high price, Reddick was expected to produce. However, with Yoenis Cespedes as the big outfield acquisition of the offseason, Reddick was not expected to carry the offense.
Reddick has, well, carried the offense. He leads Oakland with 15 home runs, good for 10th in the MLB. He also leads all qualifying A's in batting average, hitting a respectable .268. If Reddick maintains his .862 OPS, it will be the best for an Oakland player since 2007.
Defensively, Reddick is no Sweeney, but his range is solid, and his arm is the best the A's have had in the outfield since Mark Kotsay.
Reddick has provided a huge offensive boost over the power-challenged Ryan Sweeney and has given the team a potential all-star outfielder to build around.
Seth Smith, LF/DH
The A's sent Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso to Colorado this winter in exchange for Seth Smith.
Any time a team gives up two starting pitchers for one position player, they are expecting to get legitimate offensive production.
Granted, the A's didn't give up any established starters, and they were aware that Smith's .284 average and 15 homers came while playing his home games at Coors Field. Still, Oakland was expecting to receive a fourth outfielder with a solid bat who could DH some until Manny Ramirez returned.
Smith started the season off slowly but has improved consistently.
After hitting .193 in April, Smith hit .257 in May. He's been the A's best hitter in June, hitting .386 and raising his season average to .269.
He also leads the team with 29 walks and a .383 on-base percentage. Although unspectacular, his seven homers put him on pace for a career-high 18, more than you'd expect from a guy moving from Coors to the Coliseum.
His outfield defense is below average and his throwing arm is terrible, but with Manny Ramirez released yesterday, Smith can remain Oakland's designated hitter.
Kurt Suzuki, C
Kurt Suzuki has been the A's everyday catcher for four-and-a-half years and projects to remain as such for the foreseeable future.
While his offensive promise as an elite hitting catcher has disintegrated, his game-calling and defense behind the plate are among the best in the majors.
Although Suzuki's average has dropped every year since 2008 from .279 to .274 to .242 to .237, he's still been a reliable source for 13-15 homers and 25-30 doubles.
Suzuki's offensive plummet has continued in 2012. The 28-year-old catcher is hitting a career-low .225 with a career-low .263 on-base percentage.
This would be acceptable from the defensive specialist, except that his power has also evaporated. Suzuki's zero home runs so far this season have rendered him utterly useless offensively.
Luckily for Oakland, they have gotten more power from other players than they have at any point in Suzuki's career. And while Suzuki has become a downright terrible hitter, he remains an elite defensive catcher.
Jemile Weeks, 2B
Jemile Weeks hit .309 during his first month in the majors (June of last year), and from that point forward the A's have expected him to be their franchise leadoff man and long-term second baseman.
They traded away previous franchise second-baseman Mark Ellis, giving Weeks the full-time job, and he finished his rookie season by making people forget about Ellis.
His .303 average, 22 stolen bases and quality defense made him the A's best position player heading into the offseason.
A sophomore slump was a known possibility, but Oakland still expected Weeks to be the team's best hitter-for-average and second-best baserunner (after Coco Crisp) in 2012.
Weeks has had a dreadful start to his sophomore campaign. He hit .186 in April and despite picking it up since, has only hit .250 in May and .269 in June thus far.
Weeks' baserunning has been less than stellar; he's tied for the team lead with 10 steals but has been caught five times. He's began walking much more frequently—his 27 free passes are already six more than he had in 2011—but his 26 runs scored are pathetic for a leadoff hitter.
Along with Cliff Pennington, Weeks has played a great middle infield, but Weeks is supposed to be among the A's most productive players offensively, and so far, he's been among their least.