Oakland Athletics Starting Infield Predictions for 2013
After a busy offseason for the Oakland A's, they will fight to retain their standing on top of the American League West.
During said offseason, the A's have moved around a lot of infielders through addition and subtraction.
Gone are the days of Cliff Pennington at shortstop or second base, after he was traded to Arizona. Stephen Drew is gone as well after being the A's shortstop down the stretch.
Another trade split apart the solid first base platoon of Brandon Moss and Chris Carter with Carter being sent to Houston.
Brandon Inge also will not be back in Oakland this year.
With all the departing infielders, who will take their spots rather that be an everyday job or part-time platoon job?
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It was assumed that the powerful platoon of Brandon Moss and Chris Carter would pick up where they left off after a strong 2012 for both men in their roles.
Now, with Carter traded to Houston, the initial assumption is that Moss will be given the everyday job out of spring training.
Last year Carter was behind the solid and crowded A's outfield and was looking for playing time somewhere else, and he found at-bats to be had at first base.
With the outfield still crowded, perhaps fifth outfielder Seth Smith could be a dark horse to get at-bats in at first base once in a while to give Moss a day off. Smith would not be on the same level as a platoon player because he and Moss are both left-handed hitters.
Then the A's added the switch-hitting Jed Lowrie to the green and gold, and now the A's infield is almost as crowded as the outfield.
Lowrie has good power for an interior infielder (second base or shortstop) but he isn't the type of power hitter who could produce with the rest of the MLB's first basemen.
Lowrie also hasn't shown that he is healthy enough to play more than 100 games in a year with his career high being 97 games played in a season.
With unproven platoon options to partner with Moss, it is safe to say, for now, that Moss will be the everyday first baseman for the A's in 2013.
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The A's thought that they had their second baseman for the next decade when Jemile Weeks came up from the minors late in 2011 and hit over .300 and showed off tremendous speed. While the A's were trading away their top-notch pitchers last offseason, Weeks was deemed untouchable.
With Weeks not even arbitration-eligible until 2015 and not eligible for free agency until 2018, the A's thought they had someone to build the team around.
Then came 2012, and Weeks struggled mightily with his batting average dropping to .221 over 118 games. Weeks was sent down to Triple-A Sacramento in the summer and did not return until the late-season roster expansion.
The A's acquired Stephen Drew to play shortstop and converted Cliff Pennington to second base to finish the season. Now, both Drew and Pennington are gone and the A's have an opening at second base.
This should be Oakland's most competitive opening in spring training. Weeks, Scott Sizemore and Lowrie are all expected to compete for the starting job.
With Weeks struggling in 2012 and Sizemore missing all of 2012 with an injury that he got on the first day of spring training, Lowrie should be seen as the man to beat for the job.
The A's gave up a lot to get Lowrie, and I don't think that they gave up what they did to see him be a bench player.
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After I said second base will be the most active competition, I will say shortstop will be the least active competition.
The A's biggest free-agent signing in the offseason came with the importation of Hiroyuki Nakajima from Japan. He was brought to Oakland to be the everyday shortstop for the next few years.
Nakajima won't have big shoes to fill at shortstop after several years of watching Cliff Pennington man the position before Stephen Drew came in for less than half of the 2012 season.
Neither Pennington or Drew were all that productive with the bat. Drew hit for a .250 average with only five homers to go with that. His saving grace was his .326 on-base percentage. Since 2008, Pennington's career numbers in Oakland were a .249 batting average and a combined 24 home runs over five years.
Like I said, Nakajima won't have big shoes to fill. In Japan, he was a .310 career hitter with a nice career on-base percentage of .381, which will go nicely with the A's.
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For the early part of 2012, this was the most unstable position for the A's.
After losing projected Opening Day starter Scott Sizemore for the season on the first day of spring training, the A's scrambled for options.
The A's were like hawks as they snatched any experienced third baseman who went on waivers early in the year before the Detroit Tigers released Brandon Inge.
Inge came to Oakland and despite a .226 batting average, he seemed to always get a hit when it mattered most.
Inge only played 74 games with the A's as he battled injuries, and the A's needed another option at third base.
The A's tried to convert catcher Josh Donaldson to third early in the year but he failed to produce with his bat and was sent to Triple-A Sacramento for a while before getting the call back up because of injuries.
After getting the call back to the majors, Donaldson never let go of the job after August and he closed the year as the starting third baseman.
Donaldson will be the 2013 Opening Day third baseman for the A's.
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After George Kottaras and Derek Norris platooned behind home plate to close out 2012, the A's will be platooning again but with a new face.
Norris returns to the team, but his counterpart of last year will not. Kottaras was designated for assignment and then claimed off waivers by Kansas City.
Kottaras was designated for assignment because the A's found an upgrade on the trade market, and they acquired John Jaso to platoon with Norris.
Jaso provides a boost on offense and he is a veteran game-caller who could help the A's transition away from Kurt Suzuki.
While Jaso may look like he should be an everyday player, his numbers show that he dominates when he has a favorable pitching matchup and struggles when you change the throwing arm.
That will work just fine for the A's. Manager Bob Melvin did a masterful job of getting favorable matchups for his hitters on a daily basis.
It will be another platoon year behind the plate for the A's.