Oakland A's: Breakout Performances from the First 2 Weeks of Spring Training

Nick HouserCorrespondent IIMarch 14, 2014

Oakland A's: Breakout Performances from the First 2 Weeks of Spring Training

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    Whether it's Josh Reddick returning to form or Michael Taylor desperately trying to prove himself, the Oakland A's are witnessing a variety of breakout performances that are making key decisions more difficult.

    After one week of camp, four guys in particular were incredibly impressive. Now with more than two weeks worth of games under their stirrups, three of those four have continued to stay hot in Arizona while a handful of others have stirred things up.

    What makes a breakout star? Well, one guy isn't at all familiar to A's fans. Three others are fighting for a job on the 25-man roster. Another once had a starting role, saw it vanish and now wants it back. And the other, well, he's breaking out of a year-long slump, which was likely due to injury.

    And heck, let's rank 'em. Ranking is based purely on spring training performances. The best performance gets the No. 1 spot.

    All statistics are courtesy of MLB.com.

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Honorable Mentions

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    A couple of guys are doing well, but they just miss the list because it's hard to consider them a breakout star. This may be because of their current standing on the team (they're already a star) or because, while the performance is good, it's not quite great like the rest of the men on the list.

    These are listed in alphabetical order, not by performance ranking.


    Billy Burns

    The speedy outfielder, acquired via the Washington Nationals, doesn't make the actual list because he's hitting only .237.

    However, he's turning heads for other reasons.

    So far, Billy Burns has seven stolen bases, six more than any of his teammates, and second to Dee Gordon's eight for all MLB teams. He may not have any power, but his speed certainly is gaining him national recognition.


    Brandon Moss

    In eight games and 22 at-bats, Brandon Moss is hitting .409, which is great. Then again, this is spring training and he is Brandon Moss. This kind of production is somewhat expected.

    But while Moss definitely makes the 25-man roster, his role is uncertain. Fans have come to know Moss as a platoon first baseman who thrives against right-handed pitching and recedes against southpaws. A strong spring that includes a breakout against lefties will help Moss prove himself as an everyday starter.


    Nick Punto

    Utility infielder Nick Punto doesn't quite make the list because he's not necessarily dazzling anyone. That's not to take anything away from what he has done. 

    Duking it out with incumbent second baseman Eric Sogard, Punto is outhitting the Face of MLB runner-up, .346 to .154. Of Punto's nine hits, which have plated three runs, two have been doubles. He also has walked four times and stolen a base. If he keeps this up, filling second base may be a no-brainer.


    Addison Russell

    A batting average of .280 is solid already. For a veteran in spring training, it's not all that surprising. But for the Athletics' No. 1 prospect, 20-year-old Addison Russell, it's pretty darned good. He got off to a slow start, so his 7-for-25 clip could be a lot better, but he's coming around and that shows an ability to adjust.

    Russell has hit two doubles, a triple, knocked in three and has stolen one base. He's also struck out five times.


    Evan Scribner

    The team high for innings pitched so far is 9.1. Evan Scribner has pitched in 5.1 innings so far. In that time, he's allowed three hits and zero runs. Furthermore, he's struck out five and walked just one. Essentially, he's pitching one inning here and there, striking out at least one batter he faces. There's certainly nothing wrong with that.

    If he did just an itty-bit more, he'd make the list for sure.

Daric Barton

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    The pro about Daric Barton is that he owns the fourth-highest batting average on the team so far. Throw out the top two men who are both 1-for-1 and he has the second-best. Even then, that's only in nine at-bats.

    Still, he's hitting .444 in those ABs.

    Even better, he's showing that he still has the attributes that made him appeal to the A's in the first place: a good eye at the plate with power. Barton has two doubles, four walks and zero strikeouts.

    He could be kept around for his defensive work. This spring, he has a 3.57 range factor, has not committed an error, has been a part of two double plays and has one assist.

    Some may have scoffed at the idea of Barton making the 25-man roster. Clearly it hasn't psyched him out.

Josh Reddick

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    Josh Reddick is back folks. Even if it is only spring training.

    In the first week, Reddick provided not one but two candidates for play of the year. You can check both out here.

    After one week, he was hitting .428. That of course has dropped a bit, as expected, but his average is still an admirable .346, eighth best on the squad. That includes three doubles, seven RBI (second on the team matching Yoenis Cespedes) and a stolen base.

    Read that again: Josh Reddick, along with Cespedes and Jed Lowrie at the top, is in the top three in run production. And he makes home-run-robbing catches in the outfield.

    Score runs. Save runs. That's the Josh Reddick way, at least so far this spring.

Michael Taylor

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    Michael Taylor is a man possessed. Or, at least, he's a man playing to avoid being designated for assignment. In a year in which Taylor is out of options—if he doesn't make the 25-man roster, he will have to pass through waivers to stay with the A's organization—Taylor is turning heads.

    His .353 average is better than Reddick's, and Taylor has had eight more at-bats.

    Of 12 hits, four have been doubles and two have left the yard. Half of his hits are for power. And only Josh Donaldson has matched the home run total. Most importantly for Taylor, though, is that he is outhitting Sam Fuld. He and Fuld are battling to fill in for fourth outfielder Craig Gentry while Gentry is sidelined with an injury.

    This could be a difficult decision.

    Taylor is the better hitter right now, but Fuld has versatility and experience at the big-league level. If Fuld doesn't make the team, he can opt out of his contract. And we know what happens if Taylor doesn't make it. So either way, it's very likely that the A's will lose one of these men.

    It would be unfortunate to see Taylor not make the 25-man roster after such a great spring and on the verge of "finding it." But if the A's lose one guy, they can at least get something in return for a hot Taylor where they would get nothing for Fuld.

Arnold Leon

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    Your first question may be a fair one: Who is Arnold Leon? You may remember him from this brawl-inducing episode, but hopefully not. 

    Leon makes this list because in a quality amount of innings, he's produced on a high level. For instance, starters Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir have pitched seven innings. So has Leon. And in those innings, he's allowed two hits and zero runs. He's also walked one and struck out six. That's fewer walks, fewer hits and more strikeouts than Gray and Kazmir.

    Comparatively, this is better than Gray, Kazmir, Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker. Three of the four are in the starting rotation, and the other is on the fringe.

    It's unlikely that the 26-year-old Leon will make the final cut, but he's done enough to come from a non-thought to being a consideration. At minimum, he's a fantastic candidate for an injury fill in or a late-season call-up.

     Leon offers flexibility.

Stephen Vogt

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    Stephen Vogt, ladies and gentlemen.

    Will he be the definitive backup to Derek Norris while John Jaso fills the DH role? Will he platoon with Norris? Will he be the odd man out if Jaso remains as the backup catcher and someone else pulls DH duties?

    How about Option D: he forces his way into consideration.

    At this point, the A's may just have to carry three catchers. Sure, it's crazy. Sure, you could use Jaso at DH. Either way, you can't ignore Vogt's .458 average, better than all other A's regulars. In 24 at-bats, he's only struck out twice. And he's even hit a triple for crying out loud.

    His counterparts, in the same amount of games, have hit .308 (Norris) and .208 (Jaso).

    Vogt's role likely was going to be decided by Jaso's production. Now that might be reversed.

Jesse Chavez

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    Pitcher A: 12.2 IP, 3-0, 0.00 ERA, 8 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 12 K
    Pitcher B: 9.1 IP, 0-0, 10.61 ERA, 11 H, 11 R, 4 BB, 8 K

    Pitcher A is Jesse Chavez. Pitcher B is Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker.

    Chavez has pitched in more innings than any other A's pitcher. His ERA is still 0.00. He's started two games, won three and even has a save. At this point the question may no longer be "where did Jesse Chavez come from?" It may now be "what can't Jesse Chavez do?"

    Not only has he pitched in more innings than anyone else, he's struck out more batters.

    It's clear he leads the team. How does he stack up against the rest of MLB?

    Of the 50 pitchers with the most innings logged so far, exactly three have a 0.00 ERA.  The two others have pitched in less innings (nine) so they've had less opportunity to mess up essentially. The most strikeouts so far is 16, courtesy of Ivan Nova. Chavez has 12.

    Spring helped Josh Donaldson break out at a position no one considered him for. Perhaps Chavez is aligning himself to do the same this season.