The 2011 season is not going well for the A's.
And so, once again, it is better to look to the future.
The 2012 season starts in less than eight months, and while it is going to be difficult to predict exactly who will take the field wearing the green and gold, I figure I might as well take a shot.
I'm working under a couple of assumptions:
The A's will bring back Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham, Hideki Matsui and Brandon McCarthy, while allowing Michael Wuertz, Rich Harden, Conor Jackson and David DeJesus to leave via free agency. (Realistically the A's will likely keep Jackson, but this is more fun without him.)
Here is the A's 2012 depth chart.
Kurt Suzuki is under contract until 2013, and the A's aren't likely to pry the catching position away from him anytime soon.
Josh Donaldson will likely be the backup as the A's can't be happy with Landon Powell's performance the past two season.
Anthony Recker will begin at AAA, but I expect he might get the nod if he A's are in need of offense.
Stassi is still a few years away and probably will begin at AA.
I have a feeling the A's will see enough out of Allen in 2011 to give him a strong shot at the starting role next season. Allen was stuck behind other prospects in Arizona but now only needs to beat Chris Carter.
I don't have faith that Carter will ever pull it together but might earn a backup role next season.
Willingham shouldn't be in the outfield, and first is a position he should try to learn to help the team—if he returns.
Weeks has been the lone positive offensive surprise this season, and it appears that management has full faith in him for the future.
Cardenas should make the team in a utility role next year, as an infielder and an outfielder.
Sogard is mostly glove, and until he shows he can hit consistently will probably remain injury insurance in AAA.
Pennington is a solid yet not spectacular major leaguer. The A's don't have any impending shortstop prospects since Grant Green moved to center field. Pennington is the A's shortstop unless they acquire one in free agency or via a trade.
Cardenas and Sogard remain backups as previously mentioned.
Many A's fans probably don't want to hear this, but Kouzmanoff might be the A's best in house option for the hot corner. He's been solid since his stint in AAA and few options remain.
Scott Sizemore started off well but has gone into a massive cold streak, showing he may be the 4A player the Tigers believed him to be—can you say Jack Hannahan?
Cardenas still doesn't have a position, but despite lacking pop, he could find himself in the mix.
A long shot, but Chris Carter played a few games in Sacramento at third. It wasn't pretty, but if they want to squeeze Carter in somewhere, third might be the option.
Matsui has played very well in the second half, both at the plate and in the field. He is a surprising solid outfielder with decent reaction times and routes to the ball.
Willingham, on the other hand, is pretty awful, and I'd much prefer he spend his time at first or DH.
Michael Taylor is having an excellent season at AAA after struggling last year. He could find time in left next year.
Crisp has been a good sparkplug in the A's lineup. Although he doesn't walk much he has excellent speed on the basepaths and in centerfield. The A's will likely try to retain his services.
Sweeney is never quite good enough to earn a starting role but will be on the team in some capacity.
Jai Miller is having a tremendous AAA season and could earn a look in spring training to make the opening day roster.
Jermaine Mitchell is having a good showing in Sacramento after destroying AA the first half of the year. He will begin the season in AAA but could force his way onto the big league roster before long.
I'm really pulling for Taylor to get the starting nod in 2012. He is a five-tool player who deserves at least a chance to play everyday.
Sweeney, as I said before, doesn't have the power to be a starting corner outfielder.
Jai Miller should make the team but will probably need an injury to gain a starting role.
Willingham is a DH plain and simple. He should not be in the field if the A's can help it.
Matsui could spell Willingham at DH if need be.
Carter is a such a terrible fielder that DH is really his only position, although he won't find himself in a starting role any time soon.
No. 1 Gio Gonzalez
No. 2 Trevor Cahill
No. 3 Brandon McCarthy
No. 4 Josh Outman
No. 5 Tyson Ross
Gio has shown himself to be the ace of the staff this season, and with Brett Anderson not likely to return until the middle of the season, at least the A's will need to fill from within. Trevor Cahill needs to figure himself out, but I believe he will do so.
Brandon McCarthy needs to be retained; he's been very good despite little run support all year.
Josh Outman was moved out due to lack of room in the rotation, but with the expected departure of Rich Harden, I see him regaining a spot in the A's rotation. Tyson Ross has struggled to return from injury, but by next spring he should be ready to rejoin the A's rotation.
Godfrey did well in one start this year and will probably be AAA insurance. Marti is an interesting story who hasn't been great at AAA but has the raw talent for a future bullpen spot.
Closer: Andrew Bailey
Righty Setup: Grant Balfour
Lefty Setup: Brian Fuentes
Middle Reliever:Joey Devine
Middle Reliever: Fautino De Los Santos
Middle Reliever: Craig Breslow
Long Reliever:Guillermo Moscoso
Bailey will be the A's closer until he's traded.
Balfour and Fuentes are under contract for the next two years no matter how much the A's might want to get rid of Fuentes. Devine, De Los Santos and Breslow are serviceable relievers with Devine hopefully figuring out his mechanics issues. Moscoso pitched well as a starter and will be the long man and emergency guy out of the bullpen.
The A's have a few guys who will be at AAA until they are called upon. Norberto has the best chance to make the team, especially if Breslow is traded or released.