Oakland Athletics Look to Repeat in AL West

Oakland Athletics Look to Repeat in AL WestOakland “A’s” Are In Camp

Oakland is not content with its 94-68 record in 2012.  After winning the AL West, and making the playoffs, they are hoping to go farther this year.

Entering Spring Training Camp today are the pitchers and catchers, the remainder to follow next Saturday.  Although General Manager Billy Beane said the 25 man roster was complete, today they signed reliever Hideki Okajima.  Okajima took a year off to play in Japan. He posted a 0.94 ERA in 48 innings.

He would be a valuable addition to a good pitching staff led by Jarrod Parker who had 14 wins, an ERA of 3.47, and 140 strikeouts.   Grant Balfour led the bullpen with 24 saves.

In October, after the “A’s” lost to Detroit in the Divisional Championship,  Beane completed a three way trade to acquire Miami outfielder Chris Young.  Young has averaged 24 homeruns a season, and will give Oakland 5 quality outfielders.  Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, Seth Smith, and Young are all available to be starters.

Brandon McCarthy and Jonny Gomes were lost to free agency, but the likeable Hiroyuki Nakajima, Japanese shortstop will please fans.  Last week they signed Jed Lowrie in a five player deal from the Astros.  The switch hitting shortstop had 18 homeruns last season and hit for a .244 average.  Nakajima is expected to start at shortstop, and Lowrie will most likely move to 2nd base.

“A’s” Manager Bob Melvin was asked if the rest of the AL would be looking for them to continue to be a force, or if winning 94 games instead of losing 100, as many predicted last season, was just a ‘fluke’.

“I think we proved last year that if we do things in the right fashion, we have a chance to win,” Melvin said. “We’re the defending division champs, and I think if you ask other teams within our division if they’re worried about us, there’s probably some that will say yes based on what we did last year.”

Oakland’s “feeder” system produced more than adequate results last season.  Josh Reddick was proof that special advisor Grady Fuson has a good eye for  talent.  Shortstop Addison Russell, is the top A’s prospect on MLB.com’s list, but he won’t be on the 25 man roster this season.  He is only 19 years old  He is expected to be ready at the start of the 2015 season.

Their number two prospect is right-hander Dan Straily.  Straily, 24, made it up for seven starts and a 3.89 ERA last year at the big-league level.  If he’s not in the rotation in April, he could be called up mid-season.

Ranked number 3 is outfielder Michael Choice.  He might already be on the roster, but he broke his thumb in AA ball.  Besides, the outfield situation is already overcrowded.  He will most likely be sent to AAA in Sacramento.

Grant Green, who is a middle infielder will be groomed to play second base.  He is another possible mid-season addition.

The “A’s” fifth rated prospect is third baseman Matthew Olson, who is not expected to be brought up until 2016

Both the present and the future look promising for Oakland.  This season will be no surprise if the are the AL West champs.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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