The Oakland Athletics find themselves in a familiar situation as the 2021 season begins. Coming off their first division title since 2013, Oakland will once again be in the mix in a competitive AL West. The lack of offseason improvement, however, diminishes the likelihood that Bob Melvin’s squad will advance past the divisional round for the first time in this recent playoff run. Here’s how the A’s stack up as Opening Day gets underway in Oakland.
The A’s lost long-time shortstop Marcus Semien to the Toronto Blue Jays in free agency. Despite having a down year in 2020, Semien will be sorely missed at the top of the lineup. In response, the A’s signed a trio of veteran reclamation projects: Elvis Andrus, Jed Lowrie, and Mitch Moreland. Andrus has been historically consistent and will provide quality at-bats despite weak power numbers. Lowrie has impressed in spring training, likely earning the starting second base job. At the DH position, Moreland will hope to replicate his first half of 2020, in which he posted a 1.177 OPS in 22 games with the Boston Red Sox.
At the corners, the A’s are anchored by their two star “Matt’s”. Third baseman Matt Chapman is coming off season-ending hip surgery, but he’s an MVP candidate when healthy. First baseman Matt Olson only hit .195 in 2020, but his power numbers are always impressive. Behind the dish, Oakland has one of the best young catchers in Sean Murphy. The backstop finished fourth in 2020 AL Rookie of the Year voting with an OPS of .821.
Robbie Grossman left in free agency and Khris Davis was traded, leaving some depth issues in the Oakland outfield. The starting trio will be the familiar faces of Ramon Laureano, Mark Canha, and Stephen Piscotty. Laureano strikes out a lot, but he had a nice spring and is a candidate to break out in 2021. Canha and Piscotty are both solid, but a career season for either one would go a long way towards an Oakland playoff berth.
Minor leaguer Ka’ai Tom has been the star of spring training for the A’s. With a .963 OPS in 12 games, Tom has likely earned a spot on the Opening Day roster. Utility men Tony Kemp and Chad Pinder will also provide some depth in the outfield. Still, there may be some issues if the A’s outfield has to deal with slow starts or injuries. As a whole, the offense will be a point of focus for Oakland this year, as they finished with the second-worst batting average in the AL last year.
Chris Bassitt will be the 2021 Opening Day starter for the Oakland Athletics. Bassitt has established himself as the ace of this staff following terrific 2019 and 2020 seasons. 22 year-old lefty Jesus Luzardo will hope to replicate a fantastic rookie season, in which he had 59 strikeouts in 12 appearances. Behind him, Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea are solid big league starters in the primes of their careers. The fifth starter is up in the air, since Mike Fiers will start the season on the IL. It appears that youngsters Cole Irvin, Daulton Jefferies, and A.J. Puk will compete for the rotation spot. Irvin had yet to prove himself in two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies. Jefferies and Puk are both top-five prospects in the A’s system who have the potential to break onto the scene in 2021.
As for the bullpen, Oakland was hit hard by the loss of elite closer Liam Hendriks in free agency. They addressed that hole quickly, however, by signing Trevor Rosenthal, who was dominant down the stretch last year for the San Diego Padres. They also brought in a pair of quality veteran arms in Sergio Romo and Adam Kolarek. Other than that, they bring back much of a bullpen that led baseball with a 2.72 ERA in 2020. J.B. Wendelken, Yusmeiro Petit, Lou Trivino, and Jake Diekman form a solid core that should be among the best in 2021 as well.
2021 Oakland Athletics Outlook
Despite having the 23rd highest salary in baseball, the Oakland A’s should once again be vying for a playoff spot. The main concern for Oakland should be depth, specifically on the offensive side. If one of their top hitters goes down with injury or takes a step back this year, the A’s may find themselves struggling to score runs. Over the years, however, this organization has proven it can do more with less, finding talent and production in unexpected places. Expect Oakland to compete in a top-heavy AL West, and don’t be surprised if they make the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
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Liam Hendriks, Trevor Rosenthal, Sergio Romo, Adam Kolarek, J.B. Wendelken, Yusmeiro Petit, Lou Trivino, Jake Diekman, Chris Bassitt, Jesus Luzardo, Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea, Mike Fiers, Cole Irvin, Daulton Jefferies, A.J. Puk, Robbie Grossman, Khris Davis, Ramon Laureano, Mark Canha, Stephen Piscotty, Ka’ai Tom, Tony Kemp, Chad Pinder, Marcus Semien, Elvis Andrus, Jed Lowrie, Mitch Moreland, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Sean Murphy.