Here’s some post-Christmas cheer for Oakland A’s fans as they count down the weeks to spring training.
ESPN’s Buster Olney ranked the top 10 lineups in the major leagues, and the A’s came in No. 6 on his list. That’s pretty lofty status. And for those who feel the team needs another impact hitter, it probably seems a stretch to rank the A’s in the top one-fifth of offenses in the majors.
But Olney points to the A’s success over the past two years in taking walks and hitting home runs, and how that’s helped fuel back-to-back division titles. They’ve led the majors in homers after the All-Star break each of the past seasons. They finished fourth in the majors in runs scored in 2013, which is easy to forget if only because the A’s pitching staff grabs most of the attention.
Here’s a look at one potential batting order that manager Bob Melvin could write in for 2014, as the roster currently stands:
Coco Crisp CF
Josh Donaldson 3B
Jed Lowrie SS
Yoenis Cespedes LF
Brandon Moss 1B
John Jaso DH
Alberto Callaspo 2B
Josh Reddick RF
Derek Norris C
It’s a familiar-looking cast from 2013, right? It also comes with a few question marks.
Can Lowrie duplicate last season’s production? He’s not the prototypical No. 3 hitter. Can Cespedes become a more disciplined hitter, closer to what he showed in 2012 than last season? Will better health result in a better season at the plate for Reddick? The A’s need more than Gold Glove-caliber defense from him.
Judging from the moves made (or not made) this winter, it’s obvious that Oakland’s front office doesn’t see a major need to upgrade the offense. The A’s have spent big to re-stock their rotation and bullpen, but the most noteworthy position-player additions have been infielder Nick Punto and outfielder Craig Gentry. Neither is projected to start.
“You could always use more” offense, A’s general manager Billy Beane said in October. “But we were third or fourth in runs scored (in 2013), so scoring runs wasn’t an issue for us.”
It should be pointed out that although Olney ranked the A’s lineup sixth in the majors, that was only good for third in their own division. The Texas Rangers, who added first baseman Prince Fielder and outfielder Shin-Soo Cho, topped the rankings. The Los Angeles Angels were fifth.
But let’s also remember that much can change between now and Opening Night. Two offseasons ago, the A’s shocked everyone by landing Cespedes, a coveted international free agent, just a couple of days before spring training began. In 2009, they signed both Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra after camp was underway.
Beane and his staff seem content with the status quo offensively. But no matter how you sketch out the A’s potential starting nine, make sure and do your sketching in pencil.