2023 MLB Season Preview: Oakland Athletics

Image: Robert Edwards / USA TODAY Sports

2022 Record: 60-102 (.370 win%, 5th in Division)

2023 Payroll: 42,425,000 (30th)

2023 Projected Lineup:

1. 2B Tony Kemp, .253 AVG/.333 OBP/.366 SLG, 2.4 fWAR

2. UTL Aledmys Diaz, .249 AVG/.303 OBP/.405 SLG, 1.4 fWAR

3. 1B Seth Brown .236 AVG/.303 OBP/.433 SLG, 1.3 fWAR

4. DH Jesus Aguilar, .239 AVG/.303 OBP/.408 SLG, 0.6 fWAR

5. RF Ramon Laureano, .233 AVG/.304 OBP/.405 SLG, 2.4 fWAR

6. 3B Jace Peterson .236 AVG/.303 OBP/.433 SLG, 1.3 fWAR

7. C Shea Langeliers, .226 AVG/.287 OBP/.397 SLG, 1.5 fWAR

8. LF Conner Capel, .237 AVG/.307 OBP/.376 SLG, 0.4 fWAR

9. CF Esteury Ruiz, .237 AVG/.311 OBP/.366 SLG, 1.1 fWAR

10. UTL Nick Allen, .232 AVG/.292 OBP/.333 SLG, 1.2 fWAR

2023 Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Kyle Muller, 102.0 IP/3.87 ERA/1.29 WHIP, 1.0 fWAR

2. Shintaro Fujinami, 166.0 IP/4.43 ERA/1.42 WHIP, 1.4 fWAR

3. James Kaprielian, 132.0 IP/4.58 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR

4. Ken Waldichuk, 101.0 IP/3.85 ERA/1.27 WHIP, 1.0 fWAR

5. JP Sears, 128.0 IP/3.86 ERA/1.24 WHIP, 1.3 fWAR

6. Paul Blackburn, 151.0 IP/4.28 ERA/1.33 WHIP, 1.3 fWAR

2023 Projected Top 4 Relievers:

1. Trevor May, 62.0 IP/3.78 ERA/1.24 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

2. Domingo Acevedo, 64.0 IP/3.88 ERA/1.21 WHIP, 0.0 fWAR

3. Dany Jimenez, 62.0 IP/3.92 ERA/1.34 WHIP, 0.2 fWAR

4. Zach Jackson 65.0 IP/3.82 ERA/1.35 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR

2022 Offseason Recap:

The Athletics actually spent money this offseason (shocker!). However, it was almost if the franchise had to, as they had NO guaranteed contracts on the books for the 2023 season. Props to the A’s, though, as they signed somewhat relevant names that significantly bolster their lineup compared to one of the worst rosters in franchise history in 2022. 

Starting with the new additions to the team, the A’s brought in former All Star utility man and recent World Series champion, Aledmys Diaz, from the Astros. Although Diaz has regressed since his rookie year, he has been a serviceable utility player and adds some veteran leadership in the A’s clubhouse. Diaz looks to play all over the field, although can see significant time at shortstop to provide an efficient middle with second baseman Tony Kemp. 

Along with Diaz, the A’s fill their hole at third base with the signing infielder Jace Peterson. Peterson, although not a dominant player throughout his career, provides stability in the position that was nonexistent last year. 

The next three signings are what could give the A’s a little bit of life this upcoming season. Trevor May signed with the A’s and will be the closer for the team. An under the radar signing, May is coming off the worst year since his rookie season. He looks to bounce back and establish himself once again and hopefully relieves his 2019 and 2021 seasons where he was above average reliever for the Twins and Mets. If up to par, May is a guy to look out for come the July trade deadline when the A’s would begin selling. 

After having one of if not the worst offensive seasons in team history, the A’s needed to bulk up their offense and went out and signed Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar is set to be the DH for the team and hopes to boost the offense firepower with his big bat residing behind slugger Seth Brown. Aguilar hopes to relieve his days in Miami where his power numbers were more consistent. 

The signing of the offseason was the signing of Japanese pitcher Shintaro Fujinami. Fujinami was the former first overall pick in the 2012 NPB draft, with many evaluators considering him to be better than Shohei Ohtani at the time. In Japan, Fujinami has been a three time All Star. However after these allstar seasons, he began struggling significantly with his command, as seen below in his strikeout and walk rates in the NPB.

A jump to the bullpen in 2020 split his appearances in starts. The 2020 and 2021 seasons showed a double digit rate, but in 2022 his 7.6% clip was the lowest of his NPB career, which was relatively average. This was after a stretch in the bullpen where Shintaro fixed his mechanics. 

His fastball averages 96.3 MPH and reaches triple digits. His splitter is his put-away pitch and averages the fastest MPH on a splitter in both MLB and NPB at 91.3. Fujinami should have a relatively productive season for the Athletics as he provides an upgrade in the rotation. 

Alluding to my season review of the A’s, I mentioned that Sean Murphy is coming off a career year hitting with significant improvements to his defense. I also mentioned that the A’s have a surplus of catchers in their farm which includes Tyler Soderstrom and Daniel Susac. There was little to no surprise, however, with the value Murphy created for himself, that the A’s shipped him to Atlanta in a three team trade. 

In return, Oakland received probable backup catcher Manny Pina, the Braves number three prospect Kyle Muller (LHP) number four prospect Freddy Tarnok (RHP) and minor league right handed pitcher Royber Salinas. The A’s also received Esteury Ruiz from the Brewers. 

Diving into the return for Murphy, the A’s hope they can get serious contributions this upcoming season from Kyle Muller and Esteury Ruiz. Kyler Muller had an excellent year in AAA for the Braves but struggled in his first stint in the majors and looks to breakout in his first full year. A concern for Muller in the innings he has had in the majors has been his low whiff rate and has shown a lack in quality pitches. 

A projected starter, Esteury Ruiz is looking to break on the scene. A prospect with an 80 grade in speed, Ruiz will have to be looking to get on base in his first full major league season. This will be huge as the A’s finished dead last on on base percentage last season. Ruiz is projected to be a top base stealer in the MLB this season and it will begin on opening day as he is projected to be an opening day starter. 

Manny Pina will serve as the back up to first year starter Shea Langiliers with the potential of top prospect Tyler Soderstrom being promoted a way through the year after his tear through the minor leagues. 

The A’s also parted ways with former top prospect, AJ Puk, to return for top prospect JJ Bleday. Bleday broke onto the scene in 2022 after being drafted number 4 overall in 2019. Although he hasn’t met expectations, the potential is still there. He’s a guy who has enormous power and shows discipline at the plate, although it hasn’t fully transferred to the professional level. Bleday did not break the opening day roster as he was optioned to the minors right before the end of spring training. He will get the showcase and work more on his abilities in AAA. 

2023 Regular Season Preview:

Although the A’s are projected to be a bottom two team in the league, I genuinely believe they won’t be as bad as critics perceive them to be. There are a lot more things to be optimistic about than last season. Although having the lowest attendance in franchise history last year, along with record low offensive franchise numbers and being only the second Oakland team to lose 100 games, things can’t get too much worse this season. Last year seemed like rock bottom and I think it was. 

The scrappiness of the A’s is somewhat back. Although this is another audition year for most of the players, there are some players that have a bigger impact on the team success as opposed to the lackluster roster the A’s put out last year. 

Returning to the lineup as starters Ramon Laureano and Tony Kemp. Ever since Laureano came back from the suspension of PEDs, he has not been the same player. With an always high strikeout percentage and low walk percentage, Laureano looks to turn it around this season and hopefully return to old form, as he is one of the longest tenure A’s on the roster. Tony Kemp, a fan favorite, looks to supply morale and high energy along with his contact and exceptional defense. 

The A’s biggest power bat returns to the lineup this year in Seth Brown. After putting up career numbers in every offensive category, Brown looks to man the three hole this year and carry his offense prowess into this season. 

Shea Langeliers takes the reins at the backstop this year after he was called up in late July during the 2022 season. Langeliers showed promise late in the year and looks to make bigger contributions in his first full year in the majors. 

Conner Capel, who had a cup of tea with the A’s last year, is projected to be the opening day left fielder. Capel went 13/35 with an OPS of 1.025 in only 13 games last year. With just a small sample size, he looks to translate this throughout the season and break onto the major league scene. 

Utility man Nick Allen looks to shift around the infield as he looks to have an audition year with the A’s. The former third round pick looks to have a more productive year with the A’s as he put up numbers last season that contributed to a blistering offense the A’s had. 

The A’s return pitcher and all star Paul Blackburn. Blackburn had a career year with the Athletics last season and got the nod as the team’s only All Star. An injury cut Blackburn’s 2022 short. He will start the season on the IL, but will help boost the rotation upon his return. James Kaprielian is scheduled to be in the rotation again as he looks to stay healthy despite having a past of many injuries. 

After dealing Frankie Montas to the Yankees at the deadline last summer, the A’s received two pitchers in Ken Waldichuk and JP Sears that will be a part of the rotation this season. Waldichuk is an interesting prospect with good stuff however, got absolutely blown up in spring training this eason with a 10.63 ERA while giving up 16 earned runs in 13.2 innings while also walking 12 batters. This isn’t a good sight to see as the A’s hope Waldichuk can make changes to his mechanics to where he’s not getting lit up in his first start. Sears also struggled in spring training but had a good year in 2022 in a short sample size. 

The Bullpen for the A’s consists of free agent signing Trevor May, Jeurys Familia (recently signed as of 3/26), Dany Jimenez, Domingo Acevedo, Sam Moll, Zach Jackson, Chad Smith, and Adam Oller. Shockingly the A’s bullpen isn’t as bad as it looks on paper. 

Alluding to my season review, the A’s bullpen was their biggest strength last season with career years and break through players including Domingo Acevedo, Sam Moll, and Dany Jimenez. You throw hard throwing right hander Zach Jackson in the mix and the A’s actually and average to slightly above average bullpen. 

Player to Watch #1: 1B Seth Brown 

Brown is coming off career numbers in every offensive category and should be the main staple on this A’s roster. He will look to aim for a 30+ home run season and looks to add on offensively as career is on the upward trend. 

Player to Watch #2: P Shintaro Fujinami

Fujinami is an exciting sign for Oakland. This international signing should bring in people from throughout the Bay Area since it’s a very diverse area, as well as international fans. Shintaro should be an exciting player to watch pitch every fifth day and could be in line for ROY consideration by having a good season. However, he could also be a trade piece due to his one year deal and his agent being Scott Boras. 

Player to Watch #3: C, Tyler Soderstrom

Soderstrom will be a guy to look out for throughout the year. Excelling through the minors, he will likely start the year in AAA. Injuries to the current roster and or Soderstrom tearing up AAA can get him a promotion to the show potentially as of July. 

Position Group to Watch: The Bullpen 

The bullpen was shockingly the best part of the A’s terrible roster last season. Many guys had break through seasons and with the additions of Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, and Zach Jackson, the A’s can hopefully keep the bullpen modest throughout the season and provide stability. 

2023 Record Prediction: 64-98

Critics will say this is the worst roster in baseball. However, they are wrong, they’re the second worst roster in baseball behind the Nationals. The scrappiness of the A’s are back this year and they muscle out some close wins and hit quite a few walk-offs and will not have a back to back 100 loss season. Their hitting is better and if their bullpen remains consistent they will not have as bad of a year as 2022.

Categories: 2023 Season Preview, Articles, Season Analysis

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