In my last article, I looked at the Mariners' bullpen candidates.
Continuing my tour of the AL West bullpens, here's a look at the following nine A's bullpen possibilities:
Let's have a look!
The Rookie of the Year for a reason, Bailey dominated as the A's closer, using a lethal cutter/curve combo to post a 1.84 ERA.
He's one of the most dominant relievers in baseball, and a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) north of 2.50 would be a disappointment.
The Devine of 2008 was even better than the Bailey of 2009, as he posted a 0.59 ERA, 1.97 FIP, and 1.91 tERA.
Armed with a shockingly effective fastball (3.83 runs above average per 100 pitches in 2008; I've never seen anything like that for a fastball) and a fall-off-the-table slider, Devine will be returning from elbow surgery that cost him all of 2010.
He probably won't pick up exactly where he left off, particularly command-wise, but I'd expect more dominance after the All-Star Break.
I can't tell if Ziegler is underrated or overrated.
He would appear underrated because most sidearming setup men get little attention, no matter their success.
However, Ziegler gets a lot of hype for his 39-inning scoreless streak to open his career in 2008.
That sort of dominance makes some think Ziegler is a shutdown reliever, which he isn't.
He's a solid middle man who gets a ton of ground balls, but he doesn't have plus command and he doesn't miss many bats. Ziegler also criminally under-uses his slider, which is by far his best pitch.
Ziegler should be good for about a 3.00 ERA. You don't want this guy as your "best reliever," but he's an asset.
Hefty lefty Brad Kilby was dominant as a September call-up last year, posting a 0.53 ERA (and 1.99 tERA) in 17 innings, with a 20/3 K/BB ratio.
Kilby has solid stuff, with a low-90's moving fastball and low-80's sweeping slider. Both pitches grade out as solid-average.
The secret to his consistent minor (and major) league success is a tricky delivery in which Kilby removes the ball from his glove early, draws his left arm back to his left side, and does a sort of pump-fake, before finally coming forward and delivering the pitch.
Kilby's not the most in-shape person, so he uses his girth to his advantage; his delivery keeps the ball hidden behind his stomach until the last second, until the ball leaps out. His 92 mph fastballs can look like 97 to a hitter.
(You can view Kilby's odd delivery by clicking the video on the left at http://oakland.athletics.mlb.com/search/media.jsp?player_id=489020)
Effective against both lefties and righties, Kilby should take over as the primary lefty in the Athletics' pen this year. He should be very good.
Another solid lefty, Blevins will be competing with Craig Breslow for the second lefty slot in the bullpen.
He's got a fastball comparable to Kilby's, and he backs it up with a 68-73 mph curve with sharp lateral movement. A solid changeup gives Blevins a third weapon.
Blevins has a low release point, at sidearm or a tick above, that minimizes the effect of his impressive height. It's also led to a large platoon split in his career (2.32 FIP vs. LHB; 4.00 FIP vs. RHB).
Bad luck stranding runners last year (58.6 percent) gave Blevins a bloated 4.84 ERA and put him on the outside looking in for a job this spring. It wouldn't surprise me to see him or Breslow traded at the end of camp.
Breslow is out of options, so unless he's traded or he or Kilby struggles this spring, Blevins will start the year in Sacramento. He'll be a fine pitcher if the A's need him, however.
Blevins posted a 3.11 ERA with the A's in 2008; look for similarly strong pitching from the 26-year-old lefty if he gets another shot.
Meloan is a journeyman who, like Blevins, is something of a wild card. He'll need to beat out Rule 5-pick Bobby Cassevah and Blevins for the last spot in the bullpen.
Meloan threw 8 1/3 knockout innings down the stretch for the A's, walking two, striking out 11, and allowing no earned runs.
He pitched for four different Triple-A teams last year and was met with decent results.
A fastball-cutter-curve pitcher, Meloan works in the low 90's with his heat. The high-70's curve is a plus pitch.
Meloan has poor mechanics and doesn't always repeat his delivery, leading to spotty command. If he can clean that up, he has the stuff to be a very solid reliever for many years.
I'm encouraged by the 25-year-old's progress last year and I see him being a 3.50-4.50 ERA pitcher if he makes it to the bigs this year. That's fine for mop-up duty.
Owner of possibly the majors' deadliest slider, Wuertz was every bit as good as Bailey last year.
The veteran also has a low-90's fastball, but he works almost exclusively with the deadly slider. He, Kilby, Devine, and Bailey are deadly.
A Rule 5 pick from the Angels' Double-A team, Cassevah is a groundball specialist with a hard low-90's sinker.
His command isn't sharp—he's never managed a K/BB ratio above two in the minors—but he could be a decent groundball specalist in the majors.
Cassevah will have to beat out Meloan and at least one other pitcher (likely Blevins) to stick. His odds are decent, although I'd rather have Blevins or Meloan than Cassevah.
Breslow was solid in relief last year, although a .220 BABIP helped deflate his 4.68 xFIP into a 3.36 ERA.
A rare four-pitch lefty reliever, Breslow throws a low-90's heater with explosive late life that sneaks by hitters, complementing it with an average slider, curve, and changeup.
He's not a star, but he's a solid middle reliever.
Two pitchers have to be eliminated.
Bailey, Devine, Ziegler, and Wuertz are definitely all going to make it. I think Kilby will as well (although he got touched up for three runs in an inning in his first spring outing today).
I don't think Cassevah belongs on the roster. He might make it over Meloan, but I don't think he belongs.
That leaves Breslow, Blevins, and Meloan.
I'm going to take both lefties and have Meloan start in Triple-A, since he was only OK there last season. Meloan would be first in line to receive a call to the majors in case of injury or ineffectiveness on the part of any of the MLB relievers.
The other possibility is to keep Meloan and trade Breslow before his BABIP goes backward, which makes a good amount of sense if the A's can get much for Breslow. He's out of options, so if Kilby and Blevins both impress this spring (Kilby's performance today notwithstanding), monitor Breslow's status.