Key Additions—Hideki Matsui, Rich Harden, Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes
Lineup—This lineup got a minor overhaul with the addition of Matsui at DH, David DeJesus in LF and Kevin Kouzmanoff at 3B. However, although those are upgrades, it is not exactly a splash that will put this lineup in a position to be consistent. Coco Crisp is a solid leadoff hitter, but other than that, this lineup is very weak. They just don’t have a lot of pop with the projected lineup, and will need career years from numerous people to make an impact on the division. I do like Kurt Suzuki at the catcher position, but all in all this is one of the weaker lineups in baseball.
Rotation—This is where things look up for A’s fans. This rotation is both young and good, something you don’t see too often. I like the addition of Rich Harden, a high risk/high reward type of signing considering he will fill a back of the rotation spot. The controversial Dallas Braden is a good young pitcher, and goes along well with other youngsters Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Trevor Cahill. Either of these 3 could emerge as a top of rotation type of pitcher, and best case for this team is they all progress to give them a very good rotation. That is the good news, but the bad news is that they will need the rotation to come up big in order to offset the lineup.
Bullpen—I have to say I do like what they did to try to overhaul the bullpen, and providing some help to Andrew Bailey could go a long way in helping win the close games they are going to play. Bailey is as good of a young closer as there is in baseball, and with the addition of Fuentes to man the 8th inning and Balfour to man the 7th this has the makings of a very good pen. Not only can they expect their young starters to give them quality starts and long outings, but they also have the ability to shorten games. Combine their bullpen with their rotation, and I am a big fan of this pitching staff as a whole.
Impact Rookie—Chris Carter, 1B/OF. The #46 prospect in baseball according to Prospect Junkies, Carter has light tower power with contact issues to match. Carter knocked 31 HR in AAA last season but hit just .186/.256/.329 in 70 MLB at bats. The acquisitions of DeJesus and Matsui and the A’s general satisfaction with Daric Barton at 1B will mean that Carter will have to fight to earn playing time.
Outlook—As much as I think this is a very good pitching staff top to bottom, I just don’t think their offense is going to do enough to be a strong contender within this division. But with that being said, I am not completely set that it will take more than 86 or so wins to take home the division crown. If things fall into place and this pitching continues to develop, this will be a fun team to watch, that is when they score enough wins.
Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent
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