Is Jorge Mateo the second baseman next year? Could use some elite speed at the top of the lineup.
My prediction in the last Inbox was that Sheldon Neuse would open the year as the starting second baseman. I’ll stick with that, but it’s certainly looking like a toss-up at this point when trying to figure out who claims that spot. Mateo, Neuse, Franklin Barreto and Jurickson Profar could all be vying for the same position in Spring Training. You also can’t count out the A’s pursuing a second baseman through trade or free agency.
Mateo is an electric player who earned his way back to top prospect status with a solid year in the Minors last season. Whether or not he gets the second base gig is to be determined, but I think he stands a good chance to find a spot on the roster, even if it comes as a utility man.
Any chance the A’s shuffle their batting order in 2020? Semien batted leadoff while some of their less-clutch hitters hit in the middle of the order.
I see more of an if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach here when it comes to the lineup. Part of what made Marcus Semien’s MVP-type season so incredible was the fact that he was putting up some crazy production from that leadoff spot that hadn’t been seen around these parts since Rickey Henderson was doing his thing back in the day.
There are always some tweaks likely to be made as player production can vary year to year. In an ideal world, Semien leads off, followed by the two Matts -- Chapman and Olson -- back-to-back, and Khris Davis returns to form to take back the cleanup spot after his struggles led to a drop in the order last season. You might also see rookie Sean Murphy bat higher in the order if his production from the final month of 2019 carries into 2020.
Besides the bullpen, what are the positions that need addressing?
Improving a relief corps that led the Majors with 30 blown saves is no doubt the main target. After that, you think about backup catcher. Murphy should take over as the starter, but then you start to look at Josh Phegley, who turned in a career year at the plate but is set to go through arbitration, and Jonah Heim, a young catcher with promise but little experience, as he’s only played 35 games above the Double-A level. The A’s could look at a possible reunion with Stephen Vogt or another veteran catcher on the free-agent market to pair with young Murphy who can also serve as a mentor.
When all is said and done with the stadium saga, do you believe there will be a new ballpark and the A’s remain in Oakland or should we enjoy them before they move?
There was a recent bit of good news to come out regarding the new ballpark when the Oakland City Council directed the City Attorney to immediately drop a lawsuit which would allow the A's to purchase half of the Oakland Coliseum property.
Look, anyone who has been in the Bay Area long enough has seen this up-and-down journey to a new stadium before over the last couple of decades. The A’s efforts to get a new park have only ended in disappointment in the past, but the one thing different about this latest attempt is that there seems to be a good working relationship between the A’s, the city and the county for the first time. There’s also A’s president Dave Kaval, who has earned the right to be trusted after successfully bringing a beautiful new stadium for the San Jose Earthquakes just down the road, leading the charge.
In short, yes, I believe the A’s will remain “Rooted in Oakland” and we’ll see a new ballpark in the town.
I’m curious whether A.J. Puk’s performance last season raised any concern about how he’ll fancy as a starter. He seemed to lack control and only have two quality pitches. Am I missing something?
The control was an issue early on for Puk in the Majors, but let’s not forget the situations he was brought into. His Major League debut came in a late-inning high-leverage situation against the Yankees. His next appearance came three days later in a similar situation against the Giants. After that, his command settled down for the most part and he looked more like the exciting starter the A’s project him to be. Puk also began to throw his curveball and changeup over his final six or seven outings in addition to his fastball and slider, which was also around the time he started to make opposing batters look downright silly.
Entering 2020 with all four of his pitches available and a taste of meaningful big league experience in a playoff race, I wouldn’t be too concerned about Puk’s viability as a starter. Sit back and enjoy Puk, who along with Jesus Luzardo forms a nice one-two punch in the A’s rotation for years to come.
Corey Dickerson seems like a perfect fit for left field. Do you think there’s any chance the A’s spend on him?
A left-handed bat who plays good defense like Dickerson is one that certainly fits the mold the A’s like to go after. However, Dickerson might be a bit too expensive, and with a healthy Stephen Piscotty, Ramón Laureano and Mark Canha in house, Dickerson might be looking for a club that would offer more playing time.
Which A’s player(s) on the 2019 roster is most likely to be traded prior to the 2020 season?
I look at the guys who are out of options -- Barreto and Mateo -- as guys who could get moved in a package for a relief arm or second baseman. There’s also a surplus of outfielders like Chad Pinder, Dustin Fowler, perhaps even Canha, who could be dealt in order to address a position of weakness. This is not to say I expect any of these players to get traded, just ones in spots with extra depth who could position the A’s for the best return.