A's outfield depth is a good problem
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OAKLAND -- The term "good problem" was thrown around a lot last season in Oakland. Guess what? It's back.

The A's have five Major League-caliber outfielders and three spots for them -- four if you count the designated hitter. The rationale is well known by now. When the A's acquired Chris Young in a trade with the Diamondbacks, general manager Billy Beane cited that Yoenis Cespedes and Coco Crisp combined to miss 75 games last season. An extra outfielder would have come in handy.

"Similar to last year we have five guys who are going to carry the load and from what I've heard we are going to be rotating quite a bit and getting some more DH days in there," Josh Reddick said. "I'm not expecting to get any more DH days than I had last year."

Utilizing the DH role will keep each of the A's outfielders fresh over the course of the grueling 162 game season. But will it provide enough playing time to keep the A's outfielders happy? These are all talented, competitive, and prideful athletes we are talking about here.

"Given the depth of the outfield I think all of those guys are going to have to move around a bit and they are all probably going to be fine," Beane said.

Good thing the A's have the reigning 2012 American League manager of the year, Bob Melvin, running the show.

"When you have so much respect for a manager you know you don't have to get home and stress out about what's going to happen," Young said of Melvin who was also his manager with the Diamondbacks. "You let everything kind of fall as it may."

Too many good outfielders? Good problem. It's better than having not enough.

So how do they solve the quandary? For starters, Seth Smith had a .352 on-base percentage with 12 of his 14 home runs last season against right-handed pitching. You can expect to see him platooned and starting predominantly against righties.

Last season Jonny Gomes replaced Smith in the lineup against lefties. That role will now belong to Young -- who hits for a higher average, OBP, and slugging percentage against lefties. He won't be strictly platooned, however. He has better power numbers in his career against right-handed pitching, and is a very capable outfielder.

"I see he is in very good shape," Yoenis Cespedes said of Young though interpreter Manolo Hernández-Douen. "I can see that he prepares himself. He is going to help us a lot."

Young has only played center field in the big leagues. He will have to learn to be a corner outfielder as well. As we all know by now it will take a demigod from the heavens to replace Coco Crisp (when healthy) in center.

Josh Reddick had a career year as the A's starting right fielder. He won a gold glove and clobbered 32 home runs. He has certainly earned the starting job in right field. Reddick can also play center in a pinch.

Yoenis Cespedes will be in left field. He was a center fielder by trade when he joined the A's, but worked hard and became an above average left fielder by the end of he season.

"You have four players and all of them could be regulars," Cespedes said. "Of course the manager and the coaches know better. They are the ones that are going to decide who plays where and how much they're going to play."

"Our DH is a gold glove outfielder probably," Beane said. "So that's pretty good."

Reddick, Crisp, Young, and Cespedes are all plus defenders. Having one of them relegated to hitting only doesn't necessarily hurt the team when the options are so solid.

The depth gives the A's security in case of injury and affords Melvin the opportunity to exploit match-ups and play the hot hand on any given day. Oakland has five options in the outfield, several more in the minor leagues if you count Michael Taylor, and Michael Choice -- who is expected to spend 2013 in Triple-A Sacramento.

And now you see why it is possible to have a good problem.