American League teams are generally built on offensive production. The A’s are no exception.
This year, though, the A’s traded some serious pop in return for more speed and balance. And it’s been made clear that they plan to steal bases. A lot of them.
Bob Melvin told reporters just that in February, and has the roster to do it.
Third baseman Brett Lawrie, shortstop Marcus Semien, second baseman Ben Zobrist and even first baseman Mark Canha are capable.
The A’s infield is an entirely different unit from the 2014 season. And the major disparity is power — this year’s team just doesn’t have much.
It’s actually totally realistic that Semien hit as many home runs as Lawrie, which is unheard of in the American League.
Without adieu, lets break it down:
First base: Mark Canha, Ike Davis, Billy Butler, Nate Freiman.
Freiman is on the disabled list open the season, and won’t be much of a factor throughout the year.
Mark Canha may have taken the leap from minor league nobody to starting first baseman on a perennial playoff contender.
He may even be the only infielder with real pop, and the A’s will take full advantage so long as he shows big league plate discipline.
Canha slugged 20 homers during 537 plate appearances in Triple-A New Orleans last season.
Ike Davis also has some oomph in his swing, but has never been a consistent hitter. He was waived by the Pittsburgh Pirates early in the offseason, and Oakland swooped him up with haste.
Davis hit 32 home runs in 2012, though his batting average was a pedestrian .227 and his on base percentage was equally bad at .308.
Billy Butler will likely play some first base, but not much, and is Oakland’s primary designated hitter.
Second base: Ben Zobrist, Eric Sogard.
Oakland made a big time acquisition in Zobrist, perhaps the league’s most versatile and productive middle infielder.
Since 2008, Zobrist has hit double-digit homers every season and his OPS has dipped below .740 only once in that span.
He can play shortstop and second base, along with some outfield. Zobrist is the ultimate platoon guy.
Sogard returns to Oakland as a backup, and may not be long for the 25-man roster. He has room for improvement, though he also has time.
If Sogard sees action, it’ll be after poor performance or injury. But should Zobrist transition to outfield, a thin position group to begin the season, Sogard should squeeze in.
Shortstop: Marcus Semien, Ben Zobrist.
Semien is a new face to Oakland, and perhaps the best offseason acquisition of the winter. He’s a power hitting shortstop, with speed and range. A’s fans should buy his jersey while it’s cheap.
A’s New Faces Marcus Semien.
Third Base: Brett Lawrie.
Lawrie comes to a pitcher’s mecca from a hitter’s paradise, and the transition could be a rocky one.
He’s never been a steady player, with average power and decent speed. Injuries, though, have held his full potential at bay, and the A’s hope they can help change that.
Playing on natural surfaces should be helpful, the artificial turf in Toronto being a likely culprit in some injuries.
Despite his shortcomings thus far, Lawrie has made improvements every year since he arrived in the bigs.
A’s New Faces Brett Lawrie.
Outfield: Coco Crisp, Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry, Josh Reddick, Billy Burns.
Coco Crisp, the oldest player on the A’s roster, will open the season on the disabled list along with Josh Reddick.
Both players are careless in how they treat their bodies while playing, making spectacular grabs with incredible effort.
Neither are plus hitters, Crisp being a steady swinging leadoff man, and Reddick being an inconsistent power hitter.
Fuld is an average hitter with plus speed and solid defensive prowess. Gentry is similar, and a serious base-running threat.
But no player on the A’s roster can run the bags quite like Billy Burns. Burns stole six bags in three at bats last season. You read that right. He’s one of only two or three players in baseball who can steal third consistently and has a ceiling like that of Rickey Henderson.
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