Fresh off of winning their second straight American League West championship, the Oakland A's look to the last week as preparation for a well-deserved return to the postseason. There is still much to play for, with the opportunity for home-field advantage in all rounds still very much a possibility.
So the next phase of a championship puzzle is setting up the roster for the postseason push itself. Who stays, who plays, who sits and who is on the roster? That is what the last week of the season poses for the A's, who sit in good shape to host the American League Division Series, likely against the Detroit Tigers in a rematch of 2012.
There have been clues as to how some of the roster might be set up but nothing set in stone. So what better time for some armchair prognostication than right now? Here is my projected roster for the Oakland A's heading into the 2013 postseason.
No major surprises here, especially with the bat Alberto Callaspo has been swinging since his arrival (.281, 4 HR, 18 RBI in August/September). Barton's play has been so good that the A's will likely keep Nate Freiman off the roster and keep a third catcher.
Vogt could very well get starts against right-handed pitching, but Norris is the incumbent and has been swinging a good bat (.337, 5 HR, 12 RBI in 86 at-bats) in the summer. He gets the nod, barely. The other slots are pretty much a given, assuming no injuries.
I personally think Donaldson is perfect in the No. 2 slot, and Lowrie gives the A's versatility hitting behind him. You could see Moss slide down against lefties, but I could see him playing still. Smith is a surprise for some, but he is the best option with the other options, unless Barton continues to rip. That could move Moss to the DH slot.
I had slotted Parker as the No. 1 starter for the playoffs, but the Latin Buddha has clearly earned and deserves the distinction. An all right-handed rotation really doesn't mean all that much. These are the best starters for the A's right now. It will be really interesting to see how Gray performs in a potentially high-stress start, which could be on the road.
Grant Balfour, Closer
Ryan Cook, Right-Handed Setup
Sean Doolittle, Left-Handed Setup
Brett Anderson, LH
Jerry Blevins, LH
Jesse Chavez, RH
Dan Otero, RH
With the rumors of Dan Straily being left off the postseason roster initially to get ready for the American League Championship Series, Chavez and Otero are the benefactors. Pat Neshek simply can't be trusted at this point. It will be interesting to see if Anderson gets used in any stressful situations. He has been mostly used to mop up games since returning to the club.
Ultimately, it comes down to whether the Big Three of Balfour, Cook and Doolittle can return to their more dominant ways. The A's will need them to be great to make postseason noise. Good won't be good enough.
So that's 25. For now. The A's all year long have been perhaps the deepest 25 in baseball. Now, they have a chance to be the best.