March 19th, 2016

Spring Training-My Look At The Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics are an interesting mix of veteran players and some that are younger and less experienced. While it may be a nice mix, I think they’ll struggle to score runs and to keep from yielding runs.

Against the Indians, the A’s sent quite a few of their regular lineup to Goodyear.
Jesse Hahn started the game. Frankly, he looked like he was “pushing” the ball. He actually looked like he was hurt. On some pitches his release point was solid and his extension good. On others, he looked like he didn’t even want to throw the ball. I haven’t seen enough of him to know if the inconsistent mechanics are just who he is. But failing to repeat a clean delivery was costly to him. His shoulder flew open and he got the ball up in the zone more often than not.

Years ago, as I was preparing to be a scout I was always taught how to spot the potential of shoulder, elbow or forearm issues. When Hahn kept flying open and then dropped his shoulder when he pitched, along with changing his arm angle, it looked to me he was looking for comfort-a spot away from pain. I hope I’m wrong. Or, perhaps the discomfort is a harbinger of later issues with his core or rib area. Or maybe that’s just how he pitches. But if I’m writing a scouting report, I have to mention exactly what I saw.

Believe me when I tell you that Billy Burns can flat out fly. He gives 100% effort on every ball he hits. The key to his success will be to keep the ball on the ground and take off running. He can get home to first at the magic 4.0 seconds or under. He also hits some nice, clean line drives that will yield his share of leg doubles. He really is perfect for the top of the Athletic batting order. And he really makes pitchers work. He has the ability to foul off pitch after pitch and lengthen his at-bats. Impressive.

I know that Stephen Vogt will do most of the A’s catching. He was hurt in the second half last year and his numbers declined markedly. However, in the first half he was a monster at the plate, showing power and an ability to drive in runs. But the second catcher on the club, Josh Phegley isn’t too shabby with the bat either. I think the team will give Vogt some time at first base or as a designated hitter to save his body. Enter Phegley. With the playing time I think he’ll get, I feel he can hit double digit home runs. That would be really big for a back-up catcher.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Yonder Alonso, even going back to his younger days with the Reds. Alonso should hit for a very decent average, but he won’t bring much power to the plate. His hitting style reminds me a great deal of the Rays James Loney, when Loney was a bit younger. Alonso may have some opportunities to drive in runs, but he’ll do it with gap doubles as opposed to the three run homer. And that’s fine.

To me, Sam Fuld doesn’t get enough love for the steady and “all out” player he is. A good defender, Fuld can play all three outfield positions with speed, a good read on the ball and a strong enough arm. What I like about him is the speed he can bring if he hits behind Billy Burns, as he did in the game I saw yesterday. Burns and Fuld provided a difficult duo of speed and contact hitting at the top of the A’s order. But the A’s have lots of outfielders including names like Khris Davis, Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick that will find playing time. Andrew Lambo and Jake Smolinski are on the 40-man roster as well.

Reddick, Vogt and Davis could provide some middle of the order power if Burns, Crisp and Fuld get on base the speed/power equation will be fine. But there are still those “ifs”.

I think we’re going to see another nice year from third baseman Danny Valencia. Nobody talks about him, but he very quietly hit .284 in his 47 Oakland games.

So while I don’t think Oakland’s lineup is dangerous from an overwhelming power standpoint, they have guys with adequate power, guys with speed and guys that make contact. The issues I see rest pretty much with the pitching staff. I’ll discuss that at more length when I do my team previews at the end of spring.

Thank you for reading my daily Spring Training blogs.

Tomorrow: The White Sox,

Thank you for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done. For now.