What the A's learned about their roster in 2023

October 5th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos’ A’s Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

OAKLAND -- Asked to assess how the year went for an A’s club coming off its second consecutive 100-loss season that set an Oakland record with an MLB-worst 112 losses, general manager David Forst said it would “sound a little fake” to talk about the season in a positive manner.

“Let’s be honest,” Forst said. “It was a really challenging year in a lot of ways. When you finish with the worst record in baseball, it’s clear that things didn’t go the way you expected.”

The numbers tell the story. The A’s ranked last in the Majors in team batting average (.223), slugging percentage (.370), and OPS (.668) this season, while their on-base percentage (.298) was second-lowest.

On the pitching side, Oakland issued an MLB-leading 694 walks and its team ERA of 5.48 was the highest in the American League.

Beyond the results, though, Forst did come away appreciative of how manager Mark Kotsay and his coaching staff navigated the second year of a rebuild and handled the development of a young roster filled with either rookies or players going through their first full season in the big leagues.

“We’ve gone through back-to-back 100-loss seasons and come out with a manager who I think has done a fantastic job, with a coaching staff who I maintain an incredible amount of respect for, the way they work with a player group that I think is really going to do great things in this game," Forst said. "That’s not always the case when you go through this.”

Forst added: “We learned a lot about our players this year, both good and bad, and I hope they learned a lot about themselves and what it’s going to take to be Major Leaguers going forward.”

Here’s a look back at the 2023 season:

Defining moment: Command issues by an inexperienced pitching staff were evident throughout a year that saw the A’s set an Oakland record for walks. Never did those issues rear their head more than the 17-6 loss to the Mets on April 14 at the Coliseum.

What we learned: Relying on a pitching staff low on experience entering the 2023 season proved to be a dangerous risk for the A’s that did not work out as they hoped. The team set a franchise record with 41 different pitchers used and only saw a starting pitcher complete seven innings on eight different occasions this season. The A’s are hopeful that some of those young pitchers will improve with this season of growing pains, but Forst intimated that the club could look to add experience with a veteran pitcher or two through free agency.

Best development: Several young players whom the A’s expect to form the core of their next playoff-contending clubs got their first taste of big league action. Headlining that group was second baseman Zack Gelof, who won AL Rookie of the Month honors for August and finished as one of just five rookies in A’s history with at least 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases in a season. Other top prospects who debuted in ‘23 and are expected to hit the ground running in ‘24 include catcher/first baseman Tyler Soderstrom, outfielder Lawrence Butler and right-handers Mason Miller, Joe Boyle and Luis Medina. This is aside from rookies like Esteury Ruiz -- who broke Kenny Lofton’s AL rookie record for stolen bases -- and first baseman Ryan Noda, both of whom were acquired by the A’s during the offseason and established themselves as regulars in the lineup this season.

Area for improvement: The A’s could improve in all areas, though it does feel like the offense has the highest potential at the moment based on the strong finishes of players such as Gelof, Ruiz, Brent Rooker and Shea Langeliers over the second half. Pitching is the obvious area of need, particularly the bullpen, which will likely see closer Trevor May leave through free agency.

On the rise: Boyle generated a buzz in his three-start cameo to end the season with the A’s, which he capped by carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Angels in his season finale. In three starts with the A’s, Boyle built up a scoreless streak of 15 1/3 innings that ended just shy of the Oakland record of 17 2/3 innings set by Vin Mazzaro in 2009. He finished having allowed just three earned runs over 16 innings with 15 strikeouts, setting himself up nicely for a rotation spot in 2024.

Team MVP: Gelof has a case here, but Rooker takes it for his emergence as a middle-of-the-order threat in a year that earned him his first career All-Star selection. He belted 30 home runs in 137 games -- becoming the first A’s player to reach 30 homers since Matt Olson in 2021 -- and posted an .817 OPS.