Oakland Athletics: Team preview and prediction for 2020 season

A dark horse in the American League, the Oakland Athletics head into 2020 with their eyes set on dethroning the Houston Astros and making a run at the World Series.

2020 will prove to be a big year for Oakland Athletics baseball.

This is a team that won 97 games a year ago and with everything that has transpired this past offseason with Mike Fiers at the forefront of the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, it’s not crazy to think this team will surpass the Astros and win the AL West this season.

Is this the season the A’s take over the AL West, or will they fall just short again to the resident owners of the division the past several years? Either way, I feel like they close the gap at the very least.

One of the big questions I have with this A’s team right now heading into 2020 is their pitching staff.

They lost Tanner Roark, Brett Anderson, and Homer Bailey in the rotation and Blake Treinen and Ryan Buchter in their bullpen, so will the guys left over be able to pick up the slack for the seeming lack of depth the A’s now have?

A lot is being put in the hands of the two young starters Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk. Both guys have tremendously high ceilings and possess nasty arsenals of pitches in addition to high-velocity fastballs.

But at the same time, both also have checkered injury histories and right now, Puk is working through an injury of his own in camp.

Are these two capable of being high-impact pitchers, going to be able to stay healthy this season in addition to getting their first cracks at a big-league rotation and the pressures that come with that?

What about the bullpen? Is Liam Hendriks going to have another great year or will he (much like Treinen last season) take a dip the season after his big performance?

Lou Trivino also has a lot to improve on with his 5.25 ERA season in 2019. With the loss of someone like Treinen, Trivino is the guy the A’s will look to as their eighth-inning setup man and possibly occasional closer.

They’re going to need him to step his game up and get back to what he was doing in 2018.

For the rest of the A’s bullpen, Joakim Soria, Jake Diekman, and Yusmeiro Petit are all solid, reliable arms, but I still feel as though their unit is not as strong as its been in the past.

This is a team that has had a top-three bullpen in the game and game-planned to suit that strength the past two seasons. But now they’ll probably have to lean more on their starting rotation, which has its fair share of questions surrounding it.

I already talked about Luzardo and Puk, but what about Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea, and Mike Fiers? Montas came up huge for this team last year but quickly got railroaded by popping hot for PEDs.

Does that mean he’s not the same guy we saw at the beginning of 2019? I don’t know. What about Sean Manaea? Manaea is about as underrated as they come, but will he be able to stay healthy? I surely hope so.

Finally, what of Mike Fiers? This is a national heroic figure to some and a golden snitch to others. Is that polarization going to affect his game? I worry the attention he’s gotten from this Astros scandal as a non-superstar will negatively affect him.

But let me stop with the negatives before I give the wrong impression. I still think this is going to be a really good team. I just have questions about the pitching staff and if it can keep up the pace the group has set the previous two seasons with offseason losses and injury concerns.

The reality is this A’s organization is one of the strongest in baseball right now and is held together by great leadership and a solid core of offensively and defensively gifted players such as Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Mark Canha, and Marcus Semien, two of whom are quiet MVP candidates past, present, and future (Chapman and Semien).

This is a team that wins in dramatic fashion on a seemingly regular basis, does so via the long ball, and (from the outside looking in) just seems like an all-around team you want to play for.

These guys have fun playing the game, which may seem like a menial thing nowadays with as much talent as there is around the league.

But when you have a team that’s 100 percent together and has great clubhouse leadership from just about every veteran player that walks through (Chad Pinder, Mark Canha, and Stephen Piscotty nowadays; Jed Lowrie and Matt Joyce a couple of years ago), you’re going to develop a strong culture of winning,

That’s what this Oakland Athletics team has done the past couple of seasons.

In terms of who’s new that will step up, not only is this team blessed with veteran players who facilitate a strong locker room, but the farm system is also rather potent.

We have Sean Murphy taking over the full-time starting catcher duties as well as a newly-acquired Austin Allen from San Diego via the Jurickson Profar trade to back him up.

Sheldon Neuse should be starting the year in Triple-A, but we all know the numbers he can put up given the opportunity.

Seth Brown is an interesting player who I think could get a spot on the active roster with the injury to Stephen Piscotty. Brown is another guy with a ton of power and the capability to play first base as well as the corner outfield positions.

And finally, there is a battle right now between Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo for the starting second base position that might not even go to either of them but rather a third option in Tony Kemp.

Mateo tore it up last year in Triple-A, but these past two seasons there hasn’t been any room for him on the A’s active roster. Barreto, on the other hand, is another highly-touted prospect but he’s actually gotten a few chances at securing his spot.

Both guys are on the bubble for the A’s to lose if they don’t make the roster, so it’s going to be interesting to see who comes out with a roster spot between the two of them, if at all.

What should we expect from this year’s A’s team? I would say a lot of home runs once again and, if the pitching can keep itself together, another season in the top 10 of team ERA.

Look, this is a very good team and they have about as good a shot as you could want right now to knock off the Astros. Can they pull it off and win the division? Absolutely. Will they? I’m going to say no because I still feel as though the Astros are better.

Before the outbreak, I had the A’s finishing 2020 with a record of 93-69 — two games out of first place in the division (as I had the Astros winning 95 games) —  and hosting the Wild Card Game for a second-straight year; hopefully to a more successful outcome.

Now, I have no clue how many games will be played, but I still feel as though the Oakland Athletics will come close but fall just short of the division.

Make no mistake about it, though — this is a really good team that can do some damage in the postseason this year.