2019 Season Preview: Oakland Athletics

Oakland Athletics

by Erik McKeen

2018 Record: 97-65 (2nd in AL West)

2018 Payroll: $80,315,288 (28th)

Projected 2019 Lineup:

1. 2B Jurickson Profar, .259 AVG/.336 OBP/.420 SLG, 3.1 WAR

2. LF Nick Martini, .245 AVG/.330 OBP/.350 SLG, 0.3 WAR

3. 3B Matt Chapman, .249 AVG/.326 OBP/.470 SLG, 4.4 WAR

4. DH Khris Davis, .240 AVG/.323 OBP/.500 SLG, 2.0 WAR

5. 1B Matt Olson, .244 AVG/.337 OBP/.478 SLG, 3.1 WAR

6. SS Marcus Semien, .251 AVG/.319 OBP/.410 SLG, 2.4 WAR

7. RF Stephen Piscotty, .261 AVG/.339 OBP/.448 SLG, 2.3 WAR

8. CF Ramon Laureano, .252 AVG/.322 OBP/.415 SLG, 2.8 WAR

9. C Josh Phegley, .228 AVG/.289 OBP/.381 SLG, 1.0 WAR

Projected 2019 Rotation:

1. Mike Fiers, 152.0 IP/4.70 ERA/1.33 WHIP, 1.1 WAR

2. Daniel Mengden, 83.0 IP/4.88 ERA/1.39 WHIP, 0.4 WAR

3. Frankie Montas, 124.0 IP/4.67 ERA/1.42 WHIP, 0.6 WAR

4. Chris Bassitt, 89.0 IP/4.56 ERA/1.39 WHIP, 0.4 WAR

5. Marco Estrada, 130.0 IP/5.26 ERA/1.41 WHIP, 0.2 WAR

Offseason Recap:

The biggest Oakland Athletics news this offseason was centered around their first-round pick, Kyler Murray. Unfortunately, he chose to pursue a career in the NFL instead of honoring his contract with the A’s. Since he signed a contract, the A’s will not get a compensation draft pick in this upcoming draft.

In more positive news, the A’s received second baseman Jurickson Profar in a three-team trade with the Rangers and Rays. The former MLB.com number one overall prospect had a breakthrough year last season, posting a slash line of .254/.335/.458 and an fWAR of 2.9. Other new faces include starting pitcher Marco Estrada and relief pitcher Joakim Soria.

On the flip side, the A’s lost a few key players from last year’s team. Long-time second baseman Jed Lowrie signed a two-year deal with the Mets after posting fWAR seasons of 3.6 and 4.9 in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Relief pitcher Jeurys Familia re-signed with the Mets after they traded him to Oakland last season, starting pitcher Trevor Cahill signed with the Angels, and reliever Shawn Kelly signed with the Rangers.

Season Preview:

The Athletics were on fire late last season, going 42-23 in the second half. They finished with the 4th best record in the league despite having the 3rd lowest payroll. They got the last wildcard spot, but they lost to the Yankees 7-2. Assuming one of Boston or New York gets the first wildcard spot this season, the A’s will most likely be competing with the Rays for the second spot.

The A’s have a great infield. Every baseball fan knows Matt Chapman is one of the best defensive players in the game. He won the AL Gold Glove last year for third basemen, and he also won the AL Platinum Glove. Look for him to win many more in his career. Chapman also broke out offensively last season, with a WRC+ of 137. All in all, Chapman posted an fWAR of 6.5, 10th highest in the majors, and finished 7th in AL MVP voting. The other Matt across the diamond, Matt Olson, also won a Gold Glove. Olson went on a tear in his first season in the majors, hitting 24 homers in 59 games, with a WRC+ of 163. This past season, he cooled off a bit, but still had a WRC+ of 117, meaning that he was 17 percent better than league average. If he can improve his hitting, he could become a star. The middle infielders are solid as well: Marcus Semien was a finalist for the AL Gold Glove at shortstop, and Jurickson Profar broke out last year with the Rangers. Prospect Jorge Mateo will likely be called up at some point this season as well. He received an 80 run grade, but he had a .280 on-base percentage last season in AAA. He will need to improve on that if he wants to make an impact in the majors.

Josh Phegley and Nick Hundley will split time behind the plate this season for the A’s. Both are in their 30’s and have career OBP’s of under .300, but A’s fans have the call-up of top catching prospect Sean Murphy to look forward to this season. The A’s also have the most consistent player in baseball at the designated hitter position in Khris Davis, who hit .247 four years in a row. He also led the majors in home runs last season with 48 and finished 8th in AL MVP voting.

The A’s outfield is solid as well. Center fielder Ramon Laureano was called up last year and played 48 games in the majors. He had a great performance, compiling a 2.1 fWAR in that short amount of time. Only 16 center fielders had an fWAR of over 2.1 last year, and that’s over a whole season. Left fielder Nick Martini also got called up late last season and had a stellar .397 on-base percentage in 55 games in the majors, and right fielder Stephen Piscotty had a bounce-back year in his first season in Oakland. Look for all three of them to be solid contributors this season.

As for the pitching staff, the relievers are a strength for the A’s. Closer Blake Treinen had an amazing season in 2018. He even had a lower ERA (0.78) than WHIP (0.83)! Lou Trivino, Joakim Soria, and Yusmeiro Petit each had good seasons last year as well and will be key for Oakland in having one of the best bullpens again in 2019. Last year’s bullpen had the 3 lowest ERA in the MLB with 3.37.

In contrast, the starting rotation is not the strength of this A’s team, but it also shouldn’t hold them back from being one of the top teams in the MLB again this season. The top 5 projected starters according to RotoChamp are Mike Fiers, Daniel Mengden, Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt, and Marco Estrada. Fiers had a 3.56 ERA last year with the Tigers and A’s but had a FIP of 4.75 and only a 7.3 K/9 rate so there will be some regression for him. Mengden has a K/9 rate of only 6.7 in 230.2 major league innings but had a 4.05 ERA last year, three percent better than league average, so he should be a decent option for this season. Montas is another young starter that will be respectable if he can perform similarly to last year, where he put up an ERA and FIP of slightly under 4.00. Bassitt is in the same boat, having a career ERA and FIP of slightly under 4.00, but is 30 years old and has only pitched 191.1 innings in the majors so far. Estrada is a wildcard, having posted 2.5+ fWAR seasons recently but was terrible in 2018. The A’s top prospect, Jesus Luzardo, is expected to be up in the majors at some point this season. He is currently MLB.com’s #12 overall prospect.

Record Prediction: 87-75

Player to Watch: 3B Matt Chapman

Chapman is the best player on the A’s and should be for many years to come. With the combination of his standout defense and his improving offense, he is capable of being a perennial all-star and winning many more Gold and Platinum Gloves.

Player to Watch: SP Jesus Luzardo

A’s fans won’t have to wait long to see their top prospect in action this summer. He rose quickly through the minors last season, having pitched in A+, AA, and AAA. In spring training thus far in 2019, he has pitched 5.2 innings and struck out 10 batters. He will likely be called up early this season, and if he lives up to the hype, A’s fans should be in for a treat. 

Player to Watch: C Sean Murphy

Murphy is the A’s other top prospect that should see time in the majors this season. He is MLB.com’s #45 overall prospect and has received a 70 Arm grade and a 65 Field grade. The Athletics’ lineup could be rock solid top to bottom if he can live up to his potential as well.

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