Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 3/28/12

The Oakland Athletics had a difficult year last season, and how did they respond going into 2012? Simple, they blew up their team (again) and gave it another whirl. Nearly the entire starting rotation is new, and a good bit of the lineup is too. The A's don't look like contenders in the loaded AL West this season, but it's at least a different look for A's fans.

Athletics on TOC
End of Season Postmortem
Top Ten Prospects
You May Say I'm a Dreamer

Depth Chart (as of 3/28)
C: Kurt Suzuki
1B: Brandon Allen
2B: Jemile Weeks
SS: Cliff Pennington
3B: Eric Sogard
LF: Coco Crisp
CF: Yoenis Cespedes
RF: Josh Reddick
DH: Seth Smith
SP: Brandon McCarthy
SP: Bartolo Colon
SP: Tyson Ross
SP: Tom Milone
CL: Grant Balfour

New Faces
The highest profile name brought in by the A's this offseason was Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who was lusted after by many teams, but eventually chose the A's. Despite rumors that Cespedes would start the season in AAA, he's the team's Opening Day center fielder. Whether that's a good thing or not is anyone's best guess. The A's also brought in an absolute host of other outfielders, including Josh Reddick, Seth Smith, Collin Cowgill, and Jonny Gomes. Oh, and there's also Manny Ramirez, who will be suspended for the first 50 games of the 2012 season before being allowed to debut.

Departures
Outfielders Josh Willingham and David DeJesus left as free agents. DH Hideki Matsui and starter Rich Harden were also free agents that haven't signed anywhere as of yet. The team also dealt a few pitchers, including closer Andrew Bailey (Red Sox), and starters Gio Gonzalez (Nationals) and Trevor Cahill (Diamondbacks).

Impact Rookies
Cespedes is the A's starter in center field on Opening Day, and after the money the team invested in him, I expect it would be difficult for the team to demote him to AAA. Rookie Eric Sogard is starting at third base, but apparently, the job does belong to Josh Donaldson. The A's also have a host of rookie starting pitching, including Tom Milone, Brad Peacock, and Jarrod Parker. Catcher Derek Norris could make a late season push for playing time if incumbent Kurt Suzuki is traded.

Position Battles
Sogard usurping Donaldson has the Opening Day third baseman was unexpected, but the point remains that Donaldson is still the starter. We'll see how that winds up. The A's are starting with a four man rotation due to off days, and the final spot will eventually come down to Peacock and Parker. Expect Reddick and Smith to get their playing time rotated with Gomes and Cowgill as well.

Injury Concerns
Projected starting third baseman Scott Sizemore blew out his knee, and won't play in 2012. It's a tough break for the A's, that has resulted in the situation currently at hand with Donaldson and Sogard. Reliever Joey Devine is hurt (again) and on the DL with biceps soreness. Starters Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden are on the DL to start the year, as Anderson recovers from Tommy John last July, and Braden recovers from shoulder surgery last May.

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

Best Case
The A's manage to contend early on with their young team before burning out down the stretch, but they still finish above .500 and give the Angels and Rangers a little bit of a scare in the West.

Worst Case
Ramirez is washed up, Cespedes can't handle the transition to America, the young pitching can't hack it in the majors, and the A's trade off a few more veterans in July, finishing 30 games out.

Realistic Prediction
The A's aren't going to contend in 2012. I think 75 wins could be a solid season for them. And hey, if they're really not contending in July, they can easily trade Suzuki, Crisp, and possibly Ramirez and try to get some value in return.

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