Astros Competition: Scouting the A’s
By Issa Cook
For day two of my Spring Training Astros competition scouting reports, I traveled to Hohokam Park to watch the Oakland A’s take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. But before I recap the game and assess the Athletics, here’s a scouting report that I wrote on the Los Angeles Angels from Friday:
Astros Competition: Scouting the Angels
Athletics versus Dodgers
Yesterday I was treated to an outstanding pitching matchup between Clayton Kershaw and Sonny Gray. Both teams had split-squad lineups going, so I wasn’t able to get a great sense of how the starting nine for Oakland will look on Opening Day. However, I was able to see starters like Stephen Vogt, Ben Zobrist, Billy Butler, Coco Crisp, and Marcus Semien.
The game started out as the pitcher’s duel that everyone expected it to be. Both pitchers were very efficient through the first two innings, giving up no hits and only one walk, when Sonny Gray walked Scott Van Slyke in the top of the second. Gray actually cruised through the top of the third inning as well, but it was in the bottom of the inning when the A’s lineup began to create a little chaos against the 2014 NL Cy Young Winner.
Scary Moment for Dodger Fans
After Matt Olson, a first base prospect, led off the inning with an infield single, then third baseman Andy Parrino lined a single right of off Clayton Kershaw‘s face (Kershaw would be ok, returned immediately). Next, the Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe made an errant throw, causing Olson to advance to third. Then, centerfielder Craig Gentry singled to right field, scoring Olson. This was the only run that Oakland would score on the dominant lefty.
Comparing the Hitters of Athletics to the Astros
Overall, I didn’t see much of anything from the A’s hitters today. This is understandable considering that they were in a split-squad game and were facing Clayton Kershaw. Even when Kershaw was relieved, I didn’t see much firepower. I think Ben Zobrist will be a major upgrade at second and Brett Lawrie will be a solid replacement for Josh Donaldson at third, I don’t see them having a better lineup than the Astros this season.
The outfield combination of Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick, and Sam Fuld isn’t as good as the Astros outfield combination of Evan Gattis, George Springer, and Colby Rasmus/Jake Marisnick. Billy Butler will need to produce more than nine home runs, and Ike Davis will need to get his batting average up from .230.
On the Athletics Pitching
As far as pitching goes, an adjustment will definitely need to be made this season. Losing Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija, two of the top pitchers in the game, will be a really tough blow. But, Billy Beane didn’t let those two aces walk for no reason, he knows that he has a lot of quality young arms in his system, and they will all be showcased in 2015. Sonny Gray returns as the ace, as well as Scott Kazmir and Jesse Chavez. The two starters to replace Samardzija and Lester will most likely be Drew Pomeranz and Jessie Hahn, who was acquired in the trade with the Padres. Hahn has struggled so far this spring, posting a 6.14 ERA and giving up 11 hits in seven and a third innings pitched. Pomeranz has been decent, posting a 2.00 ERA and 15 strikeouts in three games started.
I don’t think that Billy Beane and Bob Melvin are expecting the same production out of this rotation, which isn’t nearly as star-studded, but the expectations should still be high, as there is still plenty of talent in that group. I think that the Astros lineup definitely won’t be intimidated by the starters that Oakland throws out there night after night, but there’s also no room to take a night off with that staff. As far as comparisons go, I think that the A’s still have the better rotation, as the Astros don’t have the same quality from the 1-2-3 guys. At the back end, however, I think that they are even and the Astros might have better options there.
All in all, I think the A’s will be very similar to the Astros in 2015. The season series should be pretty even, maybe giving a slight edge to Oakland. When it’s all set and done, the Astros will probably have the better hitting statistics and maybe these two teams will be competing for a Wild Card spot in September. After watching the A’s play, I can’t say that they are head and shoulders above Houston, as has been the case in recent years. However, I still can’t say that the Astros have surpassed them. In all honesty, I think that if the Astros can get a couple of young bats going (Jonathan Singleton, George Springer) and add another quality pitcher, we could see the Astros pass the A’s sooner rather than later. Either way, I’m very intrigued by this matchup in 2015.
Next: Top Astros 30 prospects Part 1
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