Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 3/29/12

From yesterday's A's season preview...

Burning Question
Who should get most of the playing time at first base and in the outfield for the A's?

In Oakland's first two games during the season opening series (a week before everyone else) in Japan, they trotted out the same outfield of Crisp-Cespedes-Reddick. At first base, Brandon Allen and Kila Ka'aihue each got a start, while at DH, Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes each also got a start. The only two players in their multi-headed platoon that haven't gotten any playing time yet are Daric Barton (who didn't make the trip to Japan) and Collin Cowgill, part of the Trevor Cahill deal.

With Cespedes seemingly locked into center, and Crisp locked into left, there are essentially three positions that will have a rotating cast of characters vying for playing time: right, DH, and first. At first, I think the real battle is between Allen and Ka'aihue, due to Barton's relative impotence with the stick. Ka'aihue vastly struggled during trials with the Royals over the last two years, but raked in AAA. Allen has never gotten much of a chance in the majors, but struggled in extended action last year with the Diamondbacks and Athletics. However, his struggles were nowhere near as bad as Ka'aihue's with the Royals. I would pretty much just alternate the two until one of them clearly steps up, because there's not really a correct choice right now.

The other two spots are more of a problem. I assume Reddick will get a ton of playing time after .784 OPS in 87 games with the Red Sox last season, and an .841 OPS in 52 games for AAA Pawtucket. In the majors, Reddick featured a 100 point platoon split against lefties in comparison to righties, but the samples were much too small to make a judgment on.

Cowgill raked as a 25 year-old in AAA last year, OPSing .984 in 98 games. He struggled in a 37 game stint in the majors, OPSing just .604 with the Diamondbacks. He doesn't have the experience in the majors as any of the others, and will likely get the least playing time as a result.

Smith and Gomes are the quintessential platoon, although it comes at DH instead of in the field. Smith's OPS versus righties is nearly 300 points higher than against lefties (.881 to .588), and sure enough, he got the start against a righty this week. Gomes has a platoon split the other direction, with an .877 OPS against lefties and a .732 OPS against righties. And guess what? Gomes started against the left-handed Jason Vargas this morning.

So it looks like this is Oakland's plan right now...a starting outfield of Crisp-Cespedes-Reddick, letting Allen and Ka'aihue battle to the death for the starting first base job, letting Barton wave around in the wind in case he ever develops any power, platooning at DH with Smith and Gomes, and having Cowgill as the fourth outfielder. Somehow, this has all worked out for the A's, after looking like it would be a disaster this offseason. Kudos to Billy Beane and Bob Melvin for making it all work.

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This article first appeared on The Outside Corner and was syndicated with permission.

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