Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

A's exciting young core eyes big leap in '18

MLB.com @JaneMLB

MLB Network's Spring Training series, 30 Clubs in 30 Days, continued Saturday with the focus on the A's.

MESA, Ariz. -- Though it's been said that the A's are in rebuilding mode, they proved in the second half last year that they already have many pieces in place that could help them contend sooner than expected.

MLB Network's Spring Training series, 30 Clubs in 30 Days, continued Saturday with the focus on the A's.

MESA, Ariz. -- Though it's been said that the A's are in rebuilding mode, they proved in the second half last year that they already have many pieces in place that could help them contend sooner than expected.

It's a stretch to think that it could happen as early as this year, but the A's maintain they can at least be better than their previous versions, with three consecutive last-place division finishes behind them.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Previewing the 2018 Oakland A's

First, the A's need to get better performance from their starters, who struggled mightily at times last year but remain packed with potential.

What's the goal? The A's need to see continued development from their young players if they want to see more improvement in the standings. They finished the 2017 season on a 17-7 run to tally 75 wins on the year -- six more than they totaled in '16.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Graveman on his slot in rotation

If the A's want to keep making progress, they need their starting rotation to be more reliable after a disappointing showing last year. A dependable staff, coupled with a strengthened bullpen, can complement a potent lineup and give these A's a fighting chance.

It's unlikely they contend in a formidable American League West, but the goal is to be competitive.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Davis on 'old school' approach

What's the plan? The A's passed on adding a veteran starter to the mix this offseason, electing to stick with their young starters and push them into competition with one another. Injuries derailed many of them, though: Jharel Cotton succumbed to Tommy John surgery, and their top pitching prospect, lefty A.J. Puk, is likely headed for the procedure, too. Paul Blackburn will begin the season on the disabled list with a right forearm strain, leaving five healthy A's starters to get the job done: Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Andrew Triggs and Daniel Gossett will be asked to keep this team in games.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Lowrie on youth, launch angles

What could go wrong? Plenty. Injuries have plagued the A's rotation for years. In four straight seasons they've used at least 11 starters, and it's proved taxing on their bullpen. With youth comes uncertainty, and the A's are facing a lot of that with their current group.

Who might surprise? Trevor Cahill is back with the A's, and so is Brett Anderson, who returned on a Minor League deal. Cahill is expected to be a rotation option within a couple of weeks, and Anderson could be on a similar timeline. The veteran right-handers, key members of Oakland's rotation several years ago, could be a pleasant surprise should they flash their old form.

Video: 30 Clubs in 30 Days: Piscotty on joining A's, his mom

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

Oakland Athletics