Houston Astros: A Snapshot of the 2017 AL West competition
Oakland Athletics (+5000 to win AL Pennant)
Key Additions: OF Matt Joyce
Key Departures: OF Josh Reddick (Mid-season trade), IF Danny Valencia
Billy Beane‘s crew could be in for another long season. They will likely be sellers at the trade deadline. They lost one of their best players in Reddick to free agency, and a solid player in Valencia as well. There is much speculation that SP Sonny Gray could be on the trade block if he can return to his 2015 form.
What happened in 2016.
The Oakland offense ranked dead last in the AL in runs scored per game (4.03 R/G). Losing Reddick and Valencia will not help an already anemic offense. Joyce was brought in, but has only excelled as a platoon player thus far in his career due to his inability to hit LHP (.185 career BA vs. LHP).
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Oakland projects to have rookie 2B Joey Wendle leadoff this year, and will have their leading home run hitter, Khris Davis likely in the cleanup role. It is impressive that Davis hit 42 long balls last season spending half of his games hitting in the spacious O.co Coliseum. Third baseman Ryon Healy broke into the majors last year. In the 72 games of his rookie campaign, hit .308 with 12 home runs, and will look to build off of that solid effort in 2017.
Starting pitching for the A’s in 2016 was a train wreck. Their team stats do not present many crazy outliers but keep in mind that Rich Hill‘s 9-3, 2.25 ERA effort hid the poor performances of Gray (5-11, 5.69) and Daniel Mengden (2-9, 6.50). Sean Manaea had a good season and looked to be a player that will be a piece of their rotation for the future. Oakland will likely count heavily on two rookie RHP’s Jharel Cotton and Frankie Montas to eat up some starts this year.
The bullpen is a solid crew, featuring the names of John Axford, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle. Doolittle was lost to injury last year, and Madson took over the closer role. Doolittle will likely earn that spot back this year.
What about 2017?
The A’s are in another rebuilding year but could hang around if their young offense, mixed in with some role playing veterans can produce more at the plate than last year. The real hurdle for this club, which could knock them from contention early is their lack of starting pitching. Gray’s off year was a disaster for this staff, and he must return to form. Last season Oakland had a total of 14 different starting pitchers, so more consistency would be nice to see.