2010 Oakland A's Handicapping Preview

Ray MonohanContributor IMarch 23, 2010

PHOENIX - MARCH 17:  Starting pitcher Brett Anderson #49 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the MLB spring training game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on March 17, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Giants defeated the A's 6-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Teams have reported to 2010 Major League Baseball training camps and it’s time to start our team-by-team baseball gambling previews for the year. 

It’s strange to say it, but the team synonymous with Money ball, the Oakland Athletics, looks like a team without an identity in 2010.

General manager Billy Beane traditionally built his club around power and on-base ability and combined that offensive approach with dominant pitching; now, he at least has the seeds in place for a good staff, but Oakland looks more like a small-ball team on paper, rife with speedsters.

Does this mean Beane will take the shackles off everyone’s legs on the base paths this season? 

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Developing talented starting pitchers has never been a problem for the A’s. We’ve seen Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Rich Harden, Joe Blanton, Aaron Harang, and Dan Haren (via trade) come up through their system.

Though Oakland didn’t draft him, it’s still no surprise to see another ace in-training, Brett Anderson, ready to make a leap forward this season.

He went 6-4 with 86 strikeouts in 88 innings and a 3.48 ERA after the All-Star break in 2010. If Gio Gonzalez, another top prospect, can crack the rotation and become a viable big-league starter this year, Oakland’s staff could suddenly look pretty good.

If Gonzalez doesn’t grow, however, the A’s may struggle keeping runs off the board. Signing Ben Sheets to an incentives-laden deal wasn’t a bad idea but he’s brittle as can be and has looked terrible in spring training so far.

Justin Duchscherer has great control and a pair of All-Star selections but, between his arm injuries and depression, carries significant baggage.

Oakland’s greatest strength is its bullpen – assuming everyone can get healthy. Reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey emerged as one of the American League’s most dominant closers in 2009 but is battling tennis elbow and may not be ready for Opening Day.

Same goes for Joey Devine, who has tremendous talent but is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Beyond those two, however, the A’s still have strikeout machine Michael Wuertz and Brad Ziegler. This is a deep and effective group. 

Even if Oakland’s pitching pans out, scoring should be a problem. Rajai Davis has blazing speed and can hit for average while Coco Crisp is a decent reclamation project, but who can drive them in? Kurt Suzuki has probably peaked.

Kevin Kouzmanoff hasn’t been a terrible major leaguer but hasn’t become the star many scouts thought he would when he came up with the Cleveland Indians. Only Jack Cust has 30-homer pop in his lineup, but his ridiculously high strikeout rate makes him a relatively weak cleanup hitter.

Looking up and down Oakland’s roster, we can’t call this a good baseball team. But the Athletics aren’t an embarrassment either. With a few breaks, they could have one of the AL’s lowest team ERAs.

That said, the Mariners have made major improvements, the Rangers are on the verge of playoff contention and the Angels haven’t fallen too far back this offseason.

It’s hard to see Oakland rising out of the basement in the West.

Athletics Prediction: Fourth, American League West 

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