I agree that there is a lot of talent on this team, much more than I thought going into the 2012 season. They made a couple moves in the off season, signing free agent SS Hiroyuki Nakajimi and trading for CF Chris Young, C John Jaso and SS Jed Lowrie. While I think the team has improved offensively, I think the organization is counting on too much of the same to happen in 2013. We all know it does not work that way.
The addition of Young forces a little bit of a log jam in the OF. He hit .231, 14, 41 in an injury plagued season with the Diamondbacks last season. The corner OFs carried the offense last season with Josh Reddick (.242, 32, 85) and Yoenis Cespedes (.292, 23, 82). Young, in a full season, can be expected to finish somewhere in between the other two as far as a home run total. Nakajimi, a Japanese free agent signing, is expected to be a solid fielder and a disciplined hitter. Josh Donaldson (.241, 9, 33 in 75 games) is expected to be the team's everyday 3B, with Lowrie (.244, 16, 42 in 97 games with Houston) should start at 2B. Adam Rosales and Jemile Weeks could also be in the mix. Brandon Moss (.291, 21, 52 in 84 games) will be the everyday 1B and has the most underrated 30-40 HR power in the game. Jaso (.276, 10, 50 in 108 games with Seattle) takes over as catcher with Derrick Norris waiting in the wings as the catcher of the future. My lineup would look like this. Coco Crisp (.259, 11, 46, 39 SB) LF, Lowrie 2B, Reddick RF, Cespedes DH, Moss 1B, Young CF, Donaldson 3B, Jaso C, Nakajimi SS. The lineup does not look bad, as it could have four 30 plus HR hitters in the middle of the order. In my opinion, the lineup looks better than last season.
Their ace starting pitcher will be back for a full season after missing over a year due to Tommy John surgery, as Brett Anderson (4-2, 2.57 in 6 starts) will start opening day. This allows Jarrod Parker (13-8, 3.37), Tom Milone (13-10, 3.74) and Bartolo Colon (10-9, 3.43) to slide back in the rotation. They will, however, miss Brandon McCarthy who signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Dan Straily (2-1, 3.89 in 7 starts) and AJ Griffin (7-1, 3.06 in 15 starts) expect to battle for the number five spot in the rotation.
The bullpen was phenomenal last season. However, a case could be made that everything simply clicked last season and we all know bullpens change from year to year. The Athletics managed to have one of the better bullpens in all of baseball last season led by rookie All Star closer Ryan Cook (6-2, 2.09, 14 saves with 80 Ks in 73 1/3 IP). Grant Balfour (3-2, 2.53, 24 saves) should be ready for opening day recovering from a minor injury. The Athletics have a chance to carry four left handed pitchers in their bullpen and that may not be a bad thing. Sean Doolittle (2-1, 3.04, 60 Ks in 47 1/3 IP over 44 games) can be a solid 7th or 8th inning pitcher. Jerry Blevins (5-1, 2.48 in 63 games) and Jordan Noberto (4-1, 2.77 in 39 games) should make the team and Travis Blackley (6-4, 3.86 in 24 games, 15 starts) will make the team as a long reliever, spot starter. Veteran Pat Neshek (2-1, 1.37 in 24 games) could be that extra righty to get some important outs late in games. The only caution is the fact that everybody performed well in the A's bullpen, and that cannot be counted on as a norm. However, there is reason to be confident with this group.
Vegas puts the Athletics generously at 83 wins this season. I have a hard time seeing this team duplicate what they did last year. They won a lot of games in their last AB and it just seemed like whoever was pitching always got the job done. I think this will be a setback season for the Athletics, even though I think they improved their offense. I see them getting the under and finish at 78-84, 4th place in the AL West. Unlike last season, I am acknowledging the fact that they have talent and they are good; I just see them losing more close games than they did last season.