While the Oakland Athletics didn’t have that one start last year, they managed to strike some magic, win the American League West and come within one win of the American League Championship series. This year, though, the A’s won’t need a supply of magic to bring out the big boy bats and pound opposing pitchers.
Last year, the A’s ranked 14th in the MLB in offense with 195 home runs and 713 runs. While the A’s hit just .238 as a team, they were able to hit a lot of home runs and avoid letting their strikeout woes bury them until Game 5 of the ALCS, when Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers overpowered the A’s to put an end to Oakland’s magnificent run.
Yoenis Cespedes was clearly the best hitter on offense, while Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss and Stephen Drew put together very good numbers as well. While Drew, Cliff Pennington and Chris Carter, all of which started games, are gone, the A’s offense isn’t gone.
Billy Beane and the front office made sure to be active in the offseason, filling holes in the infield with pure talent such as Jed Lowrie and Hiroyuki Nakajima. The outfield was also improved over the offseason, as the A’s snatched power threat Chris Young from Arizona in a trade where they parted ways with Pennington.
Cespedes, who hit .292 with a .356 OBP (on-base percentage) in 2012, is poised for an even better 2013 campaign.
Cespedes has the whole package. For one, he is a power threat, hitting home runs in 4.72 percent of his at-bats. He is also a speed threat (80 percent success rate for steals) with a cannon for an arm in left field.
On offense, the A’s will also be in great shape. Coco Crisp isn’t much of a power threat, but he has speed and is a force at the top of the A’s lineup. Josh Reddick hit 30 home runs in 2012, and while he strikes out a lot, he makes up for that with clutch hits.
The outfield is stacked, but the infield can’t be overlooked either. Last year, the A’s barely had anything in the infield, but Beane made some moves to fix these problems. Among those moves was the signing of Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, who hit .297 or better in all of his years in Japan. Nakajima is projected to be a .270 or .280 hitter in the big leagues, according to FOX Sports. That would completely change the dynamic of the whole offense, for the better.
Jed Lowrie also has the potential to change the dynamic of the offense, at another position where the A’s received nothing in 2012: second base or third base. Cliff Pennington started in the playoffs, and didn’t do much. Lowrie, on the other hand, got on base about one-third of the time while hitting a home run in 4.7 percent of his at-bats in 2012.
Second base lacked power or any sort of intimidation factor in 2012, and the same goes with shortstop, as Stephen Drew was hurt and didn’t do a ton on offense. If Nakajima can get on base, presumably at the top of the order, Cespedes will have tons of opportunities to drive in runs.
I can also see Lowrie in the middle of the lineup driving in runs, and if not, Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick, both players which can
whack the ball out of the park at any time, will be. Both strike out a lot, but both have power. In addition, Moss hit .291 in 2012.
At the bottom of the lineup, the A’s will have a new starting catcher in John Jaso. In 2012, Jaso posted a whopping .394 OBP with five more walks than strikeouts. I think Jaso can set up opportunities for someone like Young, who is powerful but won’t be at the top of the lineup. Jaso will get on base, and he can drive guys in while providing a power threat an opportunity to drive him in.
The batting order is stacked, because of the tinkering the A’s did in the offseason. There is no position of weakness that the A’s have on offense. Even Scott Sizemore, likely the starter at third base or second base, owns a career .329 OBP. Having a complete offense built around a star (Cespedes) is always good, and that offense will take the A’s far in 2013.
And if everything falls into place, the A’s could even be the last team standing once the season concludes.