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2022 MLB season preview: Oakland Athletics

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

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It felt like the writing was on the wall for the Oakland A’s entering the 2021 season. I had a bet on Under 87.5 wins, which did come through, but it took losses in five of the last six games to get there.

The A’s started the season 1-7 before a crazy 13-game winning streak vaulted them to the top of the AL West, where they pretty much stayed until mid-June. The A’s were 19 games over .500 at 68-49 on Aug. 14 but proceeded to go 18-27 the rest of the way to finish nine games behind the Astros and miss the playoffs. Little did we know it would be Oakland’s last hurrah with that core.

Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are gone, leaving gaping holes at the corner infield positions. Starling Marte and Mark Canha signed with the Mets. The bullpen took heavy losses with Andrew Chafin, Sergio Romo and Jake Diekman all signing elsewhere. And the A’s have made it apparent to other teams that Frankie Montas (author's note: Previous version mentioned Sean Manaea, who has already been traded) is there for the taking. The A’s haven’t had a payroll in the top 20 since 2007 and that streak isn’t ending anytime soon. How they’ve contended with limited financial flexibility is impressive. Now, however, they don’t have a single guaranteed contract for 2023 and a full-fledged rebuild is underway.

2022 VSiN MLB Betting Guide

Offense

As of now, the A’s highest-paid player for 2023 is Stephen Piscotty, who has a $1 million buyout on his club option. Given that he had a bum shoulder during spring training and hasn’t been worth more than 0.6 fWAR over any of the last three seasons, it seems the A’s will spend that million and cut bait. Also, he’s projected to hit in the middle of the order with a .313 wOBA in 2019, .293 in 2020 and 289 in 2021.

The biggest problem for Oakland is they don’t have many exciting prospects. They acquired Cristian Pache from the Braves in the Olson trade, and he hasn’t shown much at Triple-A in parts of two seasons. Pache’s bat comes and goes, but he is an elite center fielder and that won’t hurt at the spacious Coliseum. He was once a top-20 prospect and he’s still young at 22, but scouts have soured on his offensive profile.

Shea Langeliers was also acquired from the Braves in that trade, and he immediately became the A’s second-best prospect behind fellow C/1B Tyler Soderstrom. Teams looking for a catcher are likely to get one in Sean Murphy, who is nearing arbitration and will be traded at some point this year. Murphy walks at a good clip, hits for some power and is elite from the crouch. Murphy’s defense was so good that he was third on the team in fWAR despite posting a 99 wRC + .

With Olson and Chapman, the A’s lost an elite defensive third baseman and two of their best hitters with 66 combined home runs and two of the highest walk rates on the team. Based on Oakland’s roster construction, they’ll be replaced by below-average players such as Kevin Smith, Billy McKinney, Sheldon Neuse and Chad Pinder. If you asked 10 people if those guys were baseball players or rock-band drummers, you might get more musician answers.

Tony Kemp is a solid leadoff man and one of the few guys left that projects to walk a lot. For a team that was built on platoons and on-base percentage, the A’s look like a shell of themselves. They have a lot of guys that strike out a lot and don’t get on base. Kemp walked more than he struck out last season, but unless he plans on stealing a bunch of bases, he may not advance all that often. His 127 wRC + was second behind Olson, due in large part to a .382 OBP. He doesn’t hit for much power.

Murphy will walk a lot and hit in a prominent spot in the order. Otherwise, the A’s don’t have many guys that create offense. Eric Thames is back in the big leagues after a season in Japan where he hit four home runs in just 10 games. Ramon Laureano is a nice player and he’ll be back after serving the rest of his 80-game suspension for a banned substance. Elvis Andrus is a name people know but he’s a bad offensive player.

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