Who will be celebrated as the best Oakland Athletic at season's end?
What if each of Major League Baseball's awards were given out to every team—who would end 2013 as the Oakland A's Most Valuable Player? Who would be their Cy Young winner? What about Most Improved Player or Comeback Player of the Year?
Whether any player actually wins any award is yet to be seen. Regardless, there's going to be a top hitter and a top pitcher. Someone will rebound. Guys will improve.
Count on it.
Here's an analysis of who could win these awards if they were doled out, one to each team.
Grant Balfour looks to close out a playoff game with an icy stare to home plate.
The "Rolaids Relief Man" award is given to the best relief pitcher. This award is not voted on, rather, it is awarded based solely on statistics.
The most focused upon statistic for relievers is saves. Naturally, the closer is the most likely to win the award if one RRM award were given out to each team.
So, Balfour wins by default.
He's a solid closer who will net saves in the 20s, possibly in the 30s. If it's close, there's no doubt the team goes to Balfour. He had a hiccup in 2012, but dominated the last half of the season.
Balfour has experience, great stuff and the kind of flair and guts it takes to effectively close out games. And he'll get the most opportunity to do so.
The Roberto Clemente Award is given to the player "who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team, according to MLBCommunity.org. The Catfish Hunter Award is similar. This is awarded specifically to an Athletic.
It would make sense that a role player has more time to give than an everyday player.
Last year, Jonny Gomes won the Catfish Hunter Award.
He contributed on the field very well when called upon. His work with the Petaluma National Little League team was especially highlighted regarding off-the-field efforts.
This year should be similar.
You can bet it'll go to someone who will step up when needed in the lineup and someone who will have the extra time and energy to make appearances in the community.
That guy is Adam Rosales.
He qualifies for both criteria above. He's able to fill in at all four infield positions, and he has the time and energy to spare.
A change of scenery may be all that was needed.
Brett Anderson and Scott Sizemore return from injury. Chris Young also suffered from a shoulder injury last season, but also from back-to-back down years.
In 2013, Anderson leads the rotation as the staff's ace.
Sizemore contends for second base and possibly third. Whether he earns a starting spot is yet to be seen. In fact, it's unclear what role he will have.
For the first time since 2006, Young will not serve as an everyday outfielder. Instead, he'll see time in all three outfield positions and at DH. Still, it's certain he will be in the lineup often.
For this reason, Young will be Oakland's comeback player.
Sizemore lacks the consistency. Anderson technically returned toward the end of 2012 and did so with thunder.
Arizona moved Young after essentially giving up on him. Now he finds himself in a new role in a new atmosphere. But between that atmosphere and reuniting with manager Bob Melvin, the prospect of Young rebounding looks good.
Now in Oakland, there's little pressure to be "the guy."
On the other hand, there may very well be a new focus for Young. When a man loses something he loves—playing baseball every day for instance—it usually motivates that man to earn it back.
It's easy to see Young fight his way back to the player he was and the player he is expected to be—a 20-plus home run hitter who produces double-digit stolen bases and just under 100 RBI.
Derek Norris is greeted with high fives.
This isn't actually a Major League Baseball award. This award is for the player who isn't a rookie anymore, but isn't attempting a rebound either. He simply got better from 2012 to 2013.
At such a high level already, it's fair to eliminate Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick and Jarrod Parker from this category. This one is more about the guys who performed at an average level last season who will increase to above-average or good this year.
Think of guys like Josh Donaldson, Jemile Weeks, Sean Doolittle, Pat Neshek, Derek Norris and Eric Sogard.
Doolittle and Neshek should pitch around the same as '12. Though it would be fun to see Weeks improve from last season and win the second-base job back, it doesn't look likely. The A's recently sent him down to the minors again.
Sogard tore up spring training. He ended camp hitting .480, striking out only three times and drawing six walks. He will first have to be named the starting second baseman, then be able to continue the hot streak in the regular season. It may be difficult.
Donaldon, too, had a quality spring training. He ended with a .315 average. Donaldson starts at third base, so he has the most opportunity to contribute. He hit .241 last season, so the bar isn't set too high.
But the player most likely to improve is Norris.
First he received a late call-up in 2012. Then he was hit-and-miss the rest of the year. Now he's had some MLB experience and has a spring camp under his belt. He's the clear starter and has the ability to be the A's catcher of the future.
It's not going to be hard to hit better than .201 in 2013.
But not just hitting, Norris should continue to improve behind the plate. Similarly, a caught-stealing percentage of 26 should be improved upon. He will also continue to develop his game-management skills and how to handle each pitcher.
Straily showed signs of flash last year.
Surprisingly, there aren't many rookies on Oakland's active roster heading into 2013. Nate Freiman, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Andy Parrino and Dan Straily are the likeliest options.
Throw Parrino out. He's going to be the last option off the bench.
Though Straily will start the season in the rotation, he could be bumped once Bartolo Colon returns from suspension. If that happens, Straily will either be sent to the minors or moved to long relief. Either way, his opportunity lessens.
Freiman has the chance to be this year's first-base platoon man.
In 2012, Brandon Moss and Chris Carter split duty. Moss earned more time by producing better overall numbers. The A's traded Carter earlier this year to the Houston Astros. Freiman takes over the vacancy left by Carter.
Still, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which an unproven Freiman sees as much time in '13 as Carter did in '12 and hits as well.
By default, Nakajima should see the field the most.
Just by playing time alone, Nakajima can be the Athletics' best rookie.
However, Straily is still going to be the best A's rookie in 2013. Here's how the scenario plays out: Straily starts in the majors, pitching at an average level, while Nakajima starts on the DL. Nakajima has to return to health first, then continue to develop in the minors.
It could be May before he receives a call-up.
Bartolo Colon will return to the rotation, sending Straily to the minors. Unfortunately, Colon is soon to be 40 years old and attempting to come back from a 50-game suspension. It's plausible it doesn't work out.
The fifth spot is his, the A's are rolling into June or July and he's spent time in the majors and minors. All he has to do is settle into the role of a fifth starter and he will be just fine.
Of course, this also depends on Nakajima never really getting a hold of the MLB style of play.
If healthy, Anderson is a beast.
Remember the commercial when Joe Blanton and Dan Haren decide to talk to "the old man?" Of course, that man was Barry Zito, then the veteran of the pitching staff.
Eliminating Bartolo Colon, the veteran arm this season is Brett Anderson.
Fingers crossed he'll be healthy all year. If he is, there's no reason he can't be the Oakland Athletics Cy Young.
He has the most experience of everyone in the rotation, except for Colon. The difference is, Anderson is still in his prime while Colon is more than a decade removed from his.
Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and A.J. Griffin are a talented trio. But Anderson is no slouch, either.
The sample size from 2012 is small, but last season Anderson allowed just one home run in six games. In that same span, he kept a 2.57 ERA and a 1.029 WHIP.
The point is, if he can stay healthy and carry on last season's production, Anderson is going to be the clear Cy Young pitcher for the A's.
Cespedes is a dangerous player at the plate.
This may be the easiest to call, but hands down Oakland's Most Valuable Player is Yoenis Cespedes. First let's make a case against everyone else.
Derek Norris and Hiroyuki Nakajima are fresh to Major League Baseball. Both guys are unproven.
Josh Donaldson, Scott Sizemore, John Jaso, Coco Crisp, Seth Smith and Chris Young are "what you see is what you get" guys. They're all good players, but look at their career stats and that's around what you'll see in 2013. Even a small increase from one of these guys won't touch a down year by Cespedes.
Brandon Moss had a wonderful 2012. But he split time, first of all, and he will have to prove he can consistently produce at a high level.
Josh Reddick is similar. The right fielder probably surprised the most of any A's player in '12. There's little doubt he can carry that success into 2013, but Cespedes has just a bit more power and speed.
Cespedes is a legitimate five-tool player.
He owns the most powerful bat on the team. He's speedy. He plays defense well with great glove work and range. He hits for a high average—the highest last year. He takes pitches, draws walks and plates runs.
Just look at the numbers from 2012.
The A's won about two-thirds of the games Cespedes played in. When he sat, they lost nearly two-thirds of the time (h/t Sussan Slusser of SFGate.com).
Next season will be no different.