MESA, Ariz. -- You can never have too much depth, and that’s certainly come into play for the A’s over the first two weeks of Spring Training. A rib injury to right fielder Stephen Piscotty and Sean Murphy's easing back from offseason knee surgery has allowed the A’s to get a better look at some of the younger promising players that the club has developed through its Minor League system.
Meanwhile, the starting rotation that is expected to be a strength for the A’s is looking as good as advertised so far, as four of the projected five starters have yet to allow a run in Cactus League play.
Now that baseball games are actually being played again, it’s time for our first Spring Training A’s Inbox:
What do you see the A’s doing with that extra roster spot?-- @_aharris916
In deciding what to do with MLB active rosters now expanding from 25 players to 26, Spring Training numbers are going to come into play for the A’s. It’s far too early to tell who has the upper hand, but what we do know is that the A’s certainly value players who show versatility. Players like Vimael Machin, who can play all four infield spots and even some outfield, Seth Brown, who can play first base in addition to the outfield, and Jorge Mateo, the electric shortstop who can also play second, are all players in camp who fit that mold.
The feeling I get from talking to scouts and some within the organization is that the final spot will come down to Mateo and Machin, which will be a difficult decision because if either one is left off the Opening Day roster, they are gone for good. Since Machin was a Rule 5 Draft pick, he would have to be returned to the Cubs, his original club. Mateo is out of Minor League options and would have to be placed on waivers, where he’d likely get scooped up by another team.
Has any prospect jumped out to you as a potential dark horse to make the roster?-- @bflannerydc
Outfielder Luis Barrera, the A’s No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline, has opened some eyes in big league camp. He’s demonstrated quick hands at the plate and nice athleticism in the outfield, playing a little bit of right and center. It’s unlikely he makes the roster right out of spring since the A’s will probably want him to get some reps at Triple-A Las Vegas given he’s never played above Double-A, but Barrera stands a good chance to get the call to Oakland at some point in 2020. He’s already on the 40-man roster, has a lot of fans within the A’s front office and is a left-handed bat, which would bring some more balance to what is expected to be a right-handed-heavy A’s offense.
What are the odds Ramon Laureano moves to right field and Mark Canha takes over every day in center field?
When Laureano went to the injured list last season, Canha really impressed with his work out in center. This even allowed the A’s to keep Canha in center while the A’s eased Laureano back from the shin injury by playing him in right to end the year. For 2020, Laureano is likely to start back out in center. He’s been playing the position in spring so far, but the A’s also are aware of how much of a weapon he can be in right field given his cannon of an arm.
I’d expect Laureano to play mostly in center, but he will definitely get some games in right field throughout the regular season.
Will J.B. Wendelken get a real chance in the Majors this year? He looked great in limited appearances last year.
Funny thing about Wendelken, he actually pitched a lot better in his stints with Oakland last year than he did at Triple-A Las Vegas. That actually shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as the Las Vegas Ballpark has become a notorious house of horrors for pitchers, with the ball seeming to fly off the bat due to the heat and elevation in the desert.
As of right now, Wendelken is likely the frontrunner for that final spot in the bullpen. Here’s what A’s manager Bob Melvin had to say about the right-hander: “I fully expect him to make the team. He’s had periods with us where he’s looked as good as anybody we have down there. It’s just being consistent. If you look at his stuff and evaluate his stuff, he’s a big league pitcher. If he’s consistent, he should be on this team.”
How is Jorge Mateo looking? Does he have a shot to make the Opening Day roster?
As he’s done in past big league camps, Mateo has impressed with his electric speed and athleticism early on. His numbers will be a factor -- Mateo was 3-for-12 entering Friday’s game against the Reds -- and given his lack of options, he’ll get plenty of action this spring. He certainly has a shot to make the club on Opening Day.
Brian Howard’s role on this team assuming a competitive season?
First off, let me say I never thought I’d meet a baseball player taller than A.J. Puk until I watched the 6-foot-9 Howard duck objects as he walked into the A’s clubhouse this spring. Howard, the A’s No. 23 prospect, is intriguing. He was an eighth-round pick by the A’s in 2017 and quickly moved through the Minors, even getting some starts at Triple-A last year. Assuming his role is still as a starter, Howard is likely still about a year away from a big league callup. But he’s part of that depth in the Minors the A’s feel good about and will be ready to go should the need arise in Oakland sooner than expected.