Continuing with the theme of last night's position players article (see: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/310728-heres-a-thought-nathaniels-extremely-premature-idea-of-who-should-break-camp-with-the-oakland-as-position-players), here is a look at who, among the current pitchers in the Oakland organization, is best served to break camp with the team in 2010.
As I said in the other article, a lot can happen between now and then, but this operates on an "if the season started tomorrow" premise. This is not a long-term setup, necessarily, but it's simply who's best-suited in the green and gold in April. I expect several players to step forward and alter this setup, particularly the rotation, fairly early in 2010.
Each slide will list a player, from those who are shoe-ins for the team to those who just make the cut. Following the 12 pitchers themselves, I'll make a 13th slide that shows how the pitching staff would be set up, with an explanation for why.
Without further ado...
Anderson is the A's present and future ace. He's a tremendous talent, doing nearly everything well on the mound, and he doesn't turn 22 until February.
The AL Rookie of the Year was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball last season, and should continue to be an important piece of Oakland's bullpen.
Devine's 2008 was possibly better than Bailey's 2009, but Tommy John surgery knocked him out all of last year. If healthy, he could actually be better than Bailey.
A fine front-to-middle-of-the-rotation starter, Braden was having an excellent year through late July, when a freak injury sidelined him for the rest of the season. He'll return as the No. 2 starter in 2010, and bring possibly the majors' nastiest changeup with him.
Batters miss Wuertz's slider on about half of their swings. He throws it 65 percent of the time. Need I say more?
He's one of the most dominant setup guys in the majors, in a bullpen full of talent.
Another talented setup guy, this sidearmer is another gem in an embarrassingly deep bullpen. His sinker, while it only travels 82-85 mph, is nearly impossible to lift; and his slider and changeup excel as well.
Death on righties, Ziegler will return as, amazingly, only the fourth-best reliever on the team.
Gonzalez's 4.47 FIP last year proves he's ready to start in the majors. He's still got some growing pains ahead of him, but he's got a dynamite fastball-curveball combo and enough strikeout ability to make him the Opening Day No. 3 starter.
Breslow did an admirable job as the A's most frequently called-upon reliever for much of 2009. A pitch-mixer with five solid pitches, the lefty should return as the No. 1 southpaw reliever in the bullpen.
This hefty lefty was near-unhittable at Triple-A and the majors in 2009, and should take some pressure off Breslow as the full-time second lefty in the Oakland relief corps in 2010.
With more Triple-A experience than Trevor Cahill or Vince Mazzaro, Simmons is better suited to open (not necessarily finish, of course) 2010 in the majors than they are. The 23-year-old had a solid 3.99 FIP last year and pitched well in the Arizona Fall League.
His solid command and flyball tendencies should make his transition from Sacramento to Oakland smoother than Cahill's or Mazzaro's.
Armed with an excellent changeup, Benacka was stellar between Midland and Sacramento in 2009; he didn't allow a homer all year. The former independent league closer is my pick to fill the final spot in the Opening Day bullpen.
Who, you ask?
Cramer is a 30-year-old journeyman, but he pitched well at Midland (2.73 FIP) and Sacramento (2.91 FIP) last year. He's a lefty with four pitches, solid control, and good groundball tendencies.
The veteran has pitched well in brief action in the Mexican Winter League and deserves a shot at keeping the seat warm for Cahill's and/or Mazzaro's call-ups later in the year.
Before presenting my final orientation of the chosen pitchers, I wanted to address a few other guys who don't appear on this list.
Josh Outman should certainly come back to the majors once he's healthy from Tommy John surgery, but that won't be until around midseason, so I left him off.
Trevor Cahill and Vince Mazzaro's poor performances should land them back in Triple-A; they need a bit more polish, and their futures are very important, so we don't want to ruin them.
I gave strong thought to Kyle Middleton and Graham Godfrey, who both pitched well at Midland last year, for Cramer's slot; but I went with Cramer due to the fact that he's got AAA experience. Middleton is also faring much worse (7.22 ERA) in winter ball than Cramer.
Henry Rodriguez needs more command to be trusted in the bullpen.
I gave consideration to Jerry Blevins and Jay Marshall for Kilby's slot, but both failed to impress in the majors last year while Kilby dominated.
Anyone else you think should have made it? Make your case in the comments.
#1: Brett Anderson (L)
#2: Dallas Braden (L)
#3: Gio Gonzalez (L)
#4: James Simmons (R)
#5: Bobby Cramer (L)
BULLPEN RIGHTIES (IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE)
BULLPEN LEFTIES (IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE):
The only spots I feel I have to really "defend" my choices for are Benacka, Kilby, and the back two spots in the rotation.
I find it hard to argue with Kilby's success in the majors last September (0.59 ERA).
Benacka has dominated every level of the minors, and shows good polish. He's also 27, so it's not like rushing him up after only two months in Triple-A is actually going to damage him like it could, say, Henry Rodriguez.
I know people are going to bring up Simmons' 5.72 ERA last year, but his FIP (3.99) showed this to be wildly unlucky, and he's more polished than Cahill or Mazzaro is. He's a flyballer, which plays well in the Coliseum, and he kept his homers to a minimum last year despite his flyball tendencies anyway.
Cramer's something of an off-the-wall pick, but like I said, I'd rather have him struggling in the bigs than Cahill or Mazzaro, who are a big part of the future. Besides, Outman should be back after 15 starts or so to take the spot.
None of the other Triple-A guys (Dana Eveland, Jerome Williams, Shawn Chacon, Clayton Mortensen, Edgar Gonzalez) showed much promise in 2009, so I'd rather go with an unknown than a proven failure. And, like I said, Cramer's FIPs were excellent.