OAKLAND -- The A’s are past the point of being satisfied with just contending. After two consecutive 97-win campaigns resulted in postseason exits in the American League Wild Card Game each of the last two seasons, they enter 2020 determined to make a deep run.
The strong core of position players, led by Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Marcus Semien, Khris Davis and Ramón Laureano, will receive reinforcements in the form of Jesús Luzardo, Sean Murphy and A.J. Puk, the club’s top three prospects, all of whom are expected to make an impact this season.
With a loaded club devoid of any real holes at any position, the A’s have legitimate hopes of competing for a World Series.
What needs to go right?
Health will be the key in a shortened 60-game regular season, as injuries could easily derail a team. The injury bug hit Olson, Laureano and Davis at certain points in 2019, but Oakland found a way to hold down the fort until they returned. So far in Summer Camp, the A’s are injury-free and expect to enter the regular season at full strength.
Big question: What role does Luzardo play in 2020?
There was a tremendous amount of excitement surrounding Luzardo, Oakland’s top prospect, entering 2020. The expectation was that he would enter the rotation, but that has been put on hold after he tested positive for COVID-19 at the start of camp. Now back with the club, Luzardo is working on building up his workload, though a rotation spot is out of the question for the early part of the season. Having impressed as a multi-inning weapon out of the bullpen last season, Luzardo is expected to be a major contributor this year, we just don’t know if the majority of his season will come as a starter or reliever.
Prospect to watch
Murphy has been given the reins behind the plate after his impressive stint with Oakland last September. He’ll be the primary catcher in charge of handling a talented rotation. Injuries have been a concern in the past -- he’s coming off offseason knee surgery -- but if he stays healthy, he provides both great defense and another strong bat in an already stacked lineup.
On the schedule
The A’s play 12 of their first 16 games at home, including a two-game series with the Rockies (July 28-29) and a pair of three-game series against the Rangers (Aug. 4-6) and Astros (Aug. 7-9). As is often the case due to having two Texas teams in their division, the A’s are among the top five teams that will travel the most this season, coming in at fourth-most miles, with 11,363. Three fellow AL West clubs -- the Rangers (14,706 miles), Astros (13,954) and Mariners (11,813) -- are ahead of Oakland as the teams with the most travel scheduled for 2020.
Team MVP will be ...
Chapman. Although it was Semien who placed third in AL MVP voting for 2019, Chapman’s defensive excellence -- along with an improving bat that earned him his first All-Star selection last year -- has him primed to stand out.
Team Cy Young will be ...
Frankie Montas. Having arrived at camp in great shape and with a built-up arm, Montas was entrusted as the Opening Day starter and is on a mission to prove 2019 was no fluke. Featuring a fastball that can hit triple digits to go with a slider he’s been refining during camp, Montas could end up being one of the top pitchers in the league this season.
This is the year the A’s overtake the Astros for AL West supremacy and capture their first division title since 2013.