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A's rotation will hold key to success in '18

Several candidates to compete for spots behind Graveman, Manaea
MLB.com @JaneMLB

OAKLAND -- Much has been made of the A's budding offensive star power, and for good reason. The club's young hitters are expected to lead the way in 2018, but it will need substantial support from the starting staff in order to compete.

Just two pitchers -- Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea -- are considered rotation locks entering Spring Training, setting up a fierce competition for the remaining spots between a myriad of candidates, including Paul Blackburn, Daniel Mengden, Jharel Cotton, Daniel Gossett, Andrew Triggs and Jesse Hahn.

OAKLAND -- Much has been made of the A's budding offensive star power, and for good reason. The club's young hitters are expected to lead the way in 2018, but it will need substantial support from the starting staff in order to compete.

Just two pitchers -- Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea -- are considered rotation locks entering Spring Training, setting up a fierce competition for the remaining spots between a myriad of candidates, including Paul Blackburn, Daniel Mengden, Jharel Cotton, Daniel Gossett, Andrew Triggs and Jesse Hahn.

In the meantime, MLB.com is taking a look at the projected rotations of all 30 teams before camp opens. Here's how the A's rotation may shake out:

ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
RHP Kendall Graveman
LHP Sean Manaea
RHP Jharel Cotton
RHP Daniel Mengden
RHP Paul Blackburn

STRENGTH
This group is packed with potential, but execution will be key after inconsistencies -- and, in some instances, health issues -- plagued A's starters last season. Several, including Manaea and Cotton, appear primed for a breakout, but it just hasn't happened yet. The good news is that there's still hope for them to put it all together.

Video: Cotton discusses next steps in development

For now, the strength of this rotation lies in its depth, which is why the A's haven't prioritized additional starting help this offseason.

QUESTION MARK
Though promising, these arms are seemingly unreliable, and their performance could ultimately dictate the course of the A's season no matter how well the offense performs. First and foremost, they need health back on their side. Graveman and Manaea both spent time on the disabled list last season with shoulder injuries, Triggs will be attempting a comeback from July hip surgery, and Blackburn missed the final six weeks of the season with a deep bone bruise in his pitching hand. Moreover, Cotton endured a blister, while Mengden and Hahn were seen on the Minor League DL. Simply making it out of Spring Training with five healthy starters will be a victory, it seems.

Video: TEX@OAK: Graveman fans four over seven strong innings

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
The A's insist that they'd be perfectly comfortable beginning the season without a veteran starter in tow, citing the cost and volatility of pitchers. That could change, however. More than a month remains before the advent of camp, and an historically slow free-agent market remains still. Could the A's pounce on one of the available arms out there? They could potentially regret not doing so, since they're lacking experience -- and there's no such thing as too much pitching.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

Oakland Athletics, Jharel Cotton, Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea