Found March 01, 2012 on isportsweb.com:
PLAYERS: Kurt Suzuki
TEAMS: Oakland Athletics

Although the Oakland A’s finished at .500 in 2010, they weren’t able to carry that momentum forward for the 2011 baseball season.  The A’s fell to 74-88, their worst finish since 1998.  Since their last postseason appearance, they have had four losing seasons and the 2nd place A.L. West finish in 2010.  With a slow start after a promising 2010, the A’s fired manager Bob Geren and hired Bob Melvin.  The former Seattle and Arizona manager will be heading into his first full season after going 47-52 taking over for Geren.

[2012 MLB Preview Central]

Oakland has been very active in the off-season.  They traded two starting pitchers (Gio Gonzalez to Washington and Trevor Cahill to Arizona) and their closer (Andrew Bailey to Boston).  These trades netted a slew of prospects for Oakland.  Besides these three pitchers, they lost their leading HR and RBI man from last season to free agency (Josh Willingham to the Minnesota Twins).  They have added to the roster in recent weeks signing veterans Manny Ramirez, Jonny Gomes, and Bartolo Colon.

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Best Case Scenario for 2012

The A’s have only been at .500 once in the last five seasons.  Winning the A.L. West would seem to be a stretch with the massive improvements made by the Angels and the defending champion Rangers.  However, under the best case scenario for Oakland in 2012, they would go back to the .500 level they reached in 2010 and even move over it to the 84-87 win range.

Kurt Suzuki

Most Important A’s

With Willingham now in Minnesota, someone is going to have to lead the offense for the A’s.  For that role, the A’s will hope for a bounce back season from C Kurt Suzuki.  His average dropped to a career low .237 last season as he hit 14 HR and 44 RBI.  For the A’s to succeed, Suzuki will need to be closer to his RBI totals of the previous two seasons – 88 and 71.  It has already been announced that the starter for the A’s opener in Japan later this month will be Brandon McCarthy.  McCarthy becomes the ace of the staff with the departures of Cahill and Gonzalez.  In his first season with Oakland last year, the 28-year old righty was 9-9 with a 3.32 ERA and 123 K’s in 170.2 IP.

Potential Breakout Players in 2012

The A’s outbid several other teams to sign Yoenis Cespedes to play CF.  Oakland hopes that he makes a quick adjustment to major league ball as the Cuban defector has no pro experience.  Cespedes was named to the World Baseball Classic All-Tournament team when he played for Cuba in 2009.  Dallas Braden is hoping to add to an A’s rotation that lost two starters via trades.  Braden showed great potential in 2010 going 11-14 with a 3.50 ERA in 192.2 innings pitched but was limited to three starts last season due to injury.  He is now pain free, and the A’s hope to have him back at full strength by mid-April.

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Worst Case Scenario for 2012

The A’s are banking on a lot of young players to have a successful 2012.  In a division with two deep offenses and hitters like Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols, it might be hard to keep pace when two successful starters and the closer have been traded away.  If the youth doesn’t step up for the A’s, the worst case scenario would be the A’s looking at their fifth losing season out of the last six.

Areas of Concern

The A’s have to be concerned about their offense going into 2012.  They have lost three of their top four RBI guys from last season with the departures of Willingham and Hideki Matsui, and the season ending injury to Scott Sizemore.  Seth Smith, who came over in a trade from Colorado, has never played in the American League.  New starting CF Yoenis Cespedes has never played pro ball, period.  Josh Reddick, who came over from Boston in the Bailey trade, is coming off a wrist injury.  With the injury to Sizemore, the A’s will be going with an unknown commodity at 3B in either Adam Rosales or Eric SogardManny Ramirez will have to serve a 50-game suspension before he can help the A’s.  To avoid a slow start, the A’s need a lot of guys to come together and click right away, or they might find themselves in a big hole.

Who Needs to Bounce Back From a Down 2011

After signing as a free agent, Bartolo Colon has been named the No. 2 starter for Oakland.  For the A’s to break back over on the right side of .500, Colon has to have a good season.  After being out of baseball in 2010, Colon put on the pinstripes and threw his most innings since 2005 with the Angels.  However, even with the New York Yankees’ loaded offense, Colon was under .500 as a starter at 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA.  Colon needs to be better than that in 2011 or it could be a long season for a young A’s team.

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