Originally posted on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 3/4/12

As TSHQ continues our MLB preview for the 2012 season, we find ourselves in the Bay Area: Billy Beane’s Oakland Athletics. Last season, many speculated that the Athletics starting pitching might be enough to propel them into the playoffs. Instead, the A’s finished third behind the Rangers and Angels and Beane shipped off two of his better starters, his closer, and a reliever for prospects. Sound familiar? With all the moves that shook up this division this offseason, how will the A’s fair in 2012?

Projected Position Players

C – Kurt Suzuki (Anthony Recker)

1B – Daric Barton (Kila Ka’aihue)

2B – Jemile Weeks (Eric Sogard)

3B – Josh Donaldson (Adam Rosales)

SS – Cliff Pennington

LF – Coco Crisp (Seth Smith)

CF – Yoenis Cespedes

RF – Josh Reddick (Collin Cowgill)

DH – Johnny Gomes (Manny Ramirez)

The Good

Jemile Weeks (younger brother of Milwaukee Brewers 2B Rickie Weeks) came on strong in the second half for the Athletics last season. The rookie showed off speed while also hitting over .300 during his rookie campaign. Speed might as well be the Athletics M.O. as Coco Crisp was able to swipe 40 bags in Oakland last season. He was able to regain a starting role to call his own last season, something that hasn’t been easy for Crisp since Jacoby Ellsbury took his job in Boston.

Crisp was the center fielder for the A’s last season, a position he has held for the majority of his career. Just weeks ago, Billy Beane shocked the baseball world by signing Cuban superstar Yoenis Cespedes. The highly touted 26 year old is pegged as an immediate starter in the Major League’s. He is seen as a five tool player with plus speed and defense making him an ideal center fielder. Cespedes also set the Cuban League record with 33 homeruns in a mere 90 games last season. He is the most intriguing Cuban import since Jose Contreras singed with the Yankees. With this acquisition, Crisp will be forced out of his natural position. His glove and speed will keep Crisp in the everyday lineup, but it will be interesting to see if his numbers drop with a change of position in the field.

Beane was not done shocking the MLB after inking Cespedes, however. The Athletics recently signed Manny Ramirez to a one year deal worth $500,000. While ManRam will miss the first 50 games of the season per MLB suspension, he certainly brings a lot of fan fare to the Bay Area. He will be used primarily as a DH, but he could earn himself s few more million over the next few seasons with an impact over the last 112 games of the season. Another failed drug test… I don’t even want to think about that.

The Bad

Outside of Ramirez and journeyman Johnny Gomes, the A’s have no power to speak of. Yes, Cespedes is projected as a 20 homer guy but he is also known to feast primarily on fastballs. It is suspected that off speed pitches and curveballs will be his demise early on in his career. Unless Kila Ka’aihue beats out Daric Barton for the job at first base, this team, is going to live and die by small ball.

Shortstop Cliff Pennington needs to make a big jump at the dish this season. The 27 year old will turn 28 in June and he will need to improve greatly on his career .259 batting average. He is entering his third full season in Oakland and has the luxury of playing with no one behind him looking to steal his job. He is also not a liability in the field so as long as he can stay away from making errors he will remain in the lineup. But Oakland’s defense is not their problem. Their problem is the lack of a major threat in the lineup. They hope they struck gold when they signed Cespedes, but their former first round pick, Pennington, needs to be an offensive catalyst in order to help this lineup grow and succeed.

Projected Rotation and Bullpen

SP – Brandon McCarthy, Dallas Braden, Bartolo Colon, Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone
RP – Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, Faulino De Los Santos, Jeremy Bievins, Joey Devine, Tyson Ross
CL – Brian Fuentes

The Good

Somehow, Beane is always able to stockpile young, talented, front line starters. Usually, he exploits them to their fullest potential and trades them away for more building pieces for Oakland’s future. Ahh, Moneyball.

Anyway, Brandon McCarthy is the ace by default after Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez were traded away in the offseason. While McCarthy is not an ace right now, he is an impressive pitcher. Last year, McCarthy went 9-9 with an astounding five complete games in only 25 starts. McCarthy held a 3.32 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP. Perhaps his most impressive stat, McCarthy only walked 25 batters over 170.2 innings. McCarthy has excellent control and should be primed for his best season at 28.

Bartolo Colon proved he could still pitch effectively in the MLB last year for the Yankees. His ERA (4.00) will drop in the friendly confines of The Coliseum. His 8-10 record may flip around, but with this lineup behind him and the Rangers and Angels on the schedule, plenty of losses will be on tap for the veteran righty.

A player to watch for this staff is rookie Jarrod Parker. The 23 year old is a former top ten pick for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was acquired in the Cahill deal, and while he was not the Diamondback’s best pitching prospect, he was certainly one of the top pitchers in their organization. According to scouts, Parker has a plus fastball with an above average slider. Paired with excellent command, Parker has top tier stuff to potentially be an ace of this organization, assuming he can stay healthy.

The Bad

Other than one perfect game and a minor tiff with Alex Rodriguez, Dallas Braden hasn’t been much of anything for the A’s. The 28 year old only started three games for Oakland last season. His 1-1 record last year was the only time Braden finished with a .500 record by season’s end. In 2010, Braden had his.. Uhh.. “best” season when he went 11-14 with a 3.50 ERA, and five complete games (two shutouts) in 192.2 innings pitched. If he wants to improve in Oakland, he must do it this season and he must keep his ERA in the threes.

For the bullpen, Brian Fuentes will likely assume the closer role at the beginning of the season after All Star Andrew Bailey was shipped off to Boston for three middle of the road prospects. Fuentes has had opportunities to close for Anaheim, Colorado, Minnesota for nine games, and Oakland last season while Bailey was hurt. His first season as an Angel, Fuentes was able to shut the door on 48 games but also blow seven. He has been as inconsistent as relievers come. Fuentes has a career 24-41 record with 199 saves and 38 blown saves. He has a 3.44 career ERA. In 67 appearances for the A’s last season, he went 2-8 with 12 saves, three blown saves, nines holds, and a 3.70 ERA. What I’m basically trying to tell you… Don’t be surprised to see Joey Devine closing games for this club midway through the season.

2012 Projection

If the A’s played in the Cuban League, they would be favorites to win it all. Sadly, they play in what is now one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball and could potentially finish in last place this season. The Mariners have better pitching and arguably better hitting than the Athletics but by trading away three of their best players, the A’s have once again stockpiled young talent. While they should take a step back this season, the A’s will at least be semi-exciting with Yoenis Cespedes and Manny Ramirez in the clubhouse. Keep the faith Oakland, you can always re-watch “Moneyball” if you’re beginning to doubt Billy Beane.


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