While the Oakland Athletics didn’t have any legitimate stars last year, they managed to strike some magic, win the AL West and come within one win of the ALCS. However, this year the A’s won’t need a supply of magic to bring out the big-boy bats and pound opposing pitchers.
Last year, the A’s ranked 14th in the MLB in offense, with 195 home runs and 713 runs. While the A’s hit just .238 as a team, they were able to hit a lot of home runs and avoid letting their strikeout woes bury them. At least until Game 5 of the ALCS, when Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers overpowered the A’s to put an end to Oakland’s magnificent run.
Yoenis Cespedes was clearly the best hitter on offense, while Josh Reddick and Brandon Moss put together very good numbers. While Drew, Cliff Pennington and Chris Carter, all of which started games, are gone, the A’s are ready to bring out the bats in 2013.
Billy Beane and the front office made sure to be active in the offseason, filling gaping holes in the infield with pure talent. The outfield was stacked and improved over the offseason, as the A’s snatched power threat Chris Young from Arizona in a trade that included Pennington.
Cespedes, who hit .292 with a .356 OBP (on-base percentage) in 2012 is poised for an even better 2013 campaign. He has the whole package, as he is a power threat who hit a home run in 4.72 percent of his at-bats. Cespedes is also a speed threat (80 percent success rate for steals) with a heavy dose of defensive talent.
Coco Crisp is another great defensive player, and we’ve seen Josh Reddick lay out and make some great catches as well. Young can play some great defense in his own right, so the A’s will be in great shape when it comes to outfield defense.
On offense, the A’s will also be in good shape. Crisp isn’t much of a power threat, but he has speed and can hit the ball well. Reddick hit 30 home runs in 2012, and while he strikes out a lot, he makes up for that with big, clutch hits.
The outfield is stacked, but the infield can’t be overlooked either. Last year, the A’s barely had anything in the infield, but Beane made some moves to bolster the unit. Among those moves was the signing of Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, who hit .297 or better in all of his years in Japan.
Nakajima is projected to be a .270 or .280 hitter in the big leagues, according to FOX Sports. That would completely change the dynamic of the whole offense: for the better.
Jed Lowrie also has the potential to change the dynamic of the offense. He got on base about one-third of the time while hitting a home run in 4.7 percent of his at-bats.
Second base lacked power or any sort of intimidation factor in 2012, and the same goes with shortstop, as Stephen Drew was hurt and didn’t do a ton on offense. If Nakajima can get on base, presumably at the top of the order, Cespedes will have tons of opportunities to drive in runs.
I can also see Lowrie in the middle of the lineup driving in runs. If not, Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick—both players which can whack the ball out of the park at any time—will be. Both strike out a lot, but both have power. In addition, Moss hit .291 in 2012.
At the bottom of the lineup, the A’s will have John Jaso, who will start at catcher. In 2012, Jaso posted a whopping .394 OBP with five more walks than strikeouts. I think Jaso can set up opportunities for someone like Young, who is powerful, but won’t be at the top of the lineup. Jaso will get on base and he can drive guys in while providing a power threat.
The batting order is stacked because of the tinkering the A’s did in the offseason. Oakland let go of Chris Carter, but reeled in Lowrie in that deal. Nakajima will get on base at the top of the order, and Jaso will do so at the bottom of the order. Cespedes will do part of the cleaning up while providing more opportunities for power threats such as Moss and Reddick, who will finish the job.
There is no position that the A’s are weak at on offense, as every player is capable at the plate. Even Scott Sizemore, likely the starter at second base, owns a career .329 OBP. Having a complete offense built around a star (Cespedes) is always good, and that offense will take the A’s far in 2013.
And if everything goes into place, the A’s could even be the last team standing once the season concludes.