2013 Oakland Athletics Preview
After taking the baseball world by storm in 2012, the A’s return almost their entire line-up for 2013 and look to make a push for their first World Series title in over two decades.
The Oakland Athletics were one of the most surprising teams in all of baseball last season, winning 94 games during a year that many predicted they would lose triple digit games when the season started. They did it with a group of very talented young players including potential MVP candidate Yoenis Cespedes, gold glover and power-hitter Josh Reddick and pitchers Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker and Ryan Cook, who made an appearance in the All-Star game in July. The A’s will have to work to take the AL West crown for the second straight season, but they certainly have the talent in place to do so and to make a run deep into the playoffs.
Oakland’s staff was tested mightily last season, with injuries and fatigue hampering several players and Bartolo Colon being suspended for PED use. The team jettisoned Tyson Ross and Graham Godfrey after the two did their best to hold the rest of the rotation back last season, and they will get Colon back after the first five games of the season, which means he will only miss one scheduled start. They will turn to Brett Anderson (4-2, 2.57 ERA) to anchor their starting five and if he can stay healthy he should continue his dominance over opposing hitters. After battling through injuries and rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Anderson used his impressive curve ball to keep opposing batters guessing in the second half of 2012. If the A’s can get a full six months of that in 2013, they will have little problem keeping pace in the AL West.
Colon (10-9, 3.43) missed the final 45 games of the season after being suspended for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone. Until his suspension, Colon was having his best season in years, allowing only 23 walks in 152.1 innings and was a strike-out machine. Whether or not Colon will be able to repeat his success clean this season remains to be seen. Even at his advanced age, Colon can still throw in the low-to-mid ‘90s, and if he can keep that going upon his return he will be the solid number two guy the rotation needs throwing behind Anderson.
The third and fourth spots will be filled by two of the best young pitchers in baseball right now. Jarrod Parker and Tom Milone both had fantastic rookie seasons in 2012, each winning 13 games and finishing with ERA’s under 3.75. Parker (13-8, 3.47) is a right hander with a wicked changeup and fastball, and if he can get his slider under control so that he has a quality third pitch, he could be good for 15 to 18 wins this season provided that he improves his approach on the road. Parker pitched much better at home last season, but he has a whole year of experience under his belt and should be better prepared for the rigors of pitching away from Oakland this year. He led the staff coming down the stretch and allowed just 11 home runs in 181.1 innings. Parker is likely the staff’s ace of the future, and he should be a lot of fun to watch this season if he posts numbers anywhere close to the ones he had in 2012.
Milone (13-10, 3.74) was a pleasant surprise for the ball club last season after coming over from the Washington Nationals in the trade that sent Gio Gonzalez to the Nations’ capital. Milone is the lone southpaw in the A’s rotation and like Parker possesses a very good changeup that will be his out pitch again this season. Unfortunately Milone also had his struggles on the road last season and both he and Parker finished with ERA’s in the mid-to-upper 4’s while away from the bay area. If he can also rebound from that, he will be a solid number four guy who will eventually work his way into the number two or three spot in the rotation in the years to come.
The last spot in the rotation is up for grabs this spring and A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily are the front runners to win it. Both are second year pitchers and both had great showings for the club in 2012. Griffin went 7-1 after being called up and was one of the keys to the ball club’s second half success that secured them the AL West crown. He is a very confident pitcher and while none of his four pitches are anything spectacular, he controls all of them very well and is not afraid to mix them up regardless of the situation. Straily had a great season in the minors, but struggled a bit when he was called up down the stretch. When his slider was on, it was unhittable, but when it was off it was hit out of the ball park as Straily gave up 11 homers in just 39.1 innings of work. He will have to really impress this spring if he’s going to beat out Griffin for the final spot in the rotation, but he will most certainly be a factor in the rotation before the end of the season as it is unlikely that they will get through all of 2012 without some injuries or setbacks to one of their top two guys.
The biggest strength of the A’s incredible 2012 campaign was their bullpen. It took the bunch until July to really start to gel, but much of that was due to the failure of closer Brian Fuentes, but once the front office pulled the plug on him and inserted rookie Ryan Cook into the role, things turned around quickly. Cook was more-or-less a throw away player that the team received in the trade that also brought Parker to the club, but once he was given the opportunity to show his stuff, he proved that he was an incredible asset to the team and was rewarded for his efforts as their only representation in the All-Star game. Cook was aided by his set-up man, veteran Grant Balfour who also closed out his share of games for the club last season. The two proved to be the right combination to give the A’s offense a shot at a win and the club will be very happy when Balfour returns from a torn meniscus at some point this season. For now, Cook will be their closer coming out of camp but expect the two to trade duties once Balfour is ready to come off the disabled list.
Jerry Blevins was another arm that surprised everyone last season, using his fastball, curveball, changeup and slider effectively to rack-up outs for the club and keep opposing offenses from making things interesting in the 7 th inning. Blevins will probably play the role of set-up man in Balfour’s absence, and if the A’s can get the same kind of season out of him in 2013, they will have three relievers that can solidly handle the 7 th, 8 th and 9 th innings, shutting the door on any chance of a comeback from their opposition. Hideki Okajima, Pat Neshek and Evan Scribner are all in camp to compete for spots in the rotation, and returning members Sean Doolittle, who did a fantastic job after he was converted from position player to reliever last season, Jordan Noberto Travis Blackey Pedro Figueroa and offseason acquisition Chris Resop will all factor into the bullpen at some point during the season as well.