Oakland Athletics: Who has the edge in the second base race?

Oakland Athletics (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Oakland Athletics (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

The Oakland Athletics will go into Spring Training looking for their starting second baseman. But which of their young players has the edge in the competition?

The Oakland Athletics are just finishing up a very uneventful offseason and are already looking ahead to the spring. The vast majority of the roster was kept intact with few positions battles expected to take place come March.

But one position that remains unsolved is second base.

The A’s have a collection of young and unproven players all vying for playing time at the position. In reality, there are five players who could all emerge as the primary starting option by the time Opening Day rolls around.

In an ideal scenario, the A’s would love to see someone like Franklin Barreto claim the job. Barreto has long been one of the Oakland Athletics’ top prospects, but the soon-to-be 24-year-old is running out of time to make a positive impression.

Barreto has seen three separate stints in the majors over the past three seasons and each time he’s failed to impress. The worst of those stints came last season when he slashed an abysmal .123/.138/.263 in 57 at-bats.

It would great to see Barreto finally break out with a strong spring, and given that he’s out of minor-league options, it might be his last chance to prove that he could be a legitimate MLB starter.

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Elsewhere, former top prospect Jorge Mateo finds himself in a similar position. The 24-year-old is also out of minor-league options meaning that it’s now or never for the former New York Yankees prospect.

He excelled last season down in Triple-A Las Vegas, but translating success in the notoriously hitter-friendly PCL to the MLB isn’t something that should be expected.

Perhaps the player with the best chance to earn an early role on the team is veteran Tony Kemp. Kemp was one of the few additions in the offseason and his versatility should give him an edge on the competition.

But more importantly, Kemp is the only one of the five who bats left-handed meaning that a lefty/righty platoon is likely in the future plans. If that’s the case, expect Kemp to play early against righties as long as he performs admirably in the spring.

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Elsewhere, the A’s have 25-year-old Sheldon Neuse who’s fresh off making his MLB debut last September. Perhaps Neuse is the best bet as the second baseman of the future, but it’s more than likely he begins the year down in the minors.

Finally, there’s 26-year-old Rule 5 pickup Vimael Machin who was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies back in December. Machin played most of last season in Double-A and is considered a longshot to win the job.

However, given that the Oakland Athletics will have to send him back to the Chicago Cubs (his original team) if he doesn’t make the team, expect the A’s to try and find a way to keep him on the 26-man roster.

At the moment, there’s no way of knowing which player(s) will earn the starting job and roster spots. Billy Beane doesn’t typically put much stock into spring performances, but the A’s will likely have to this year to determine who has the edge in this tight race.

If we’re making bets, expect Kemp to be one of the players to make the roster with Barreto also earning a job provided he at least performs respectively in the spring.

The wild card in the equation is Machin who could make an intriguing case for a roster spot if he excels in March.

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Either way, expect multiple players to see time at the position in 2020 regardless of the outcome of the spring.