Oscar Wilde noted, “To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” perhaps the same can be said getting shot in the left arm every time the calendar turns to the 20th of the month. Luckily, I won’t need another dose of the vaccine on April 20th, which is good because this morning my toes don’t ache but everything above them does and my temperature of 99.2 is reaching Trevor Rosenthal good fastball levels. (My fever also has a high spin rate, so look out.)
So if I say anything stupid, you can chalk it up to delirium instead of just the usual lack of intelligence. Just 11 more days until we can watch “Mr. Bloopy” and the “Turkey Sub” in games that matter, and much is coming into focus.
Clearly, Matt Olson is in beast mode and Matt Chapman is back making diving stops on balls seemingly already in left field. As for the real competitions:
– If there was any doubt about Ka’ai Tom’s readiness to grab a roster spot, the Rule 5 pick has come out looking like clearly the best choice, independent of options.
Granted, I am a sucker for a short and forceful swing, but Tom’s ability to control the strike zone and then make contact with high exit velocity are traits he has shown throughout the minor leagues.
If Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano, and Stephen Piscotty are all healthy, perhaps Tom will not see the opening day lineup even against the right-hander Zack Greinke. But bet on Tom to make the club and too soon find his way into the starting lineup against RHPs.
– At backup catcher, unless Carlos Perez sneaks in it is a battle between two opposites. Austin Allen gives you a left-handed bat and potential offensive firepower with defensive skills that are very much in the learning stage. In contrast, Aramis Garcia has shown a bazooka behind the plate and comes very polished defensively with a bat that has a history of missing pitches.
There are reasons to favor Allen, including balancing the right-handed bat of Sean Murphy at catcher, and more generally giving the right-handed heavy lineup another left-handed bat. But knowing the A’s, they will put defense first and I am predicting that Garcia wins the job out of camp. And it probably doesn’t hurt that Garcia is a strong 6 for 18, with 3 BBs, in the Cactus League.
– Assuming his body holds up for another 11 days, Jed Lowrie is making the team, it’s just a question of in what capacity — and at whose expense on the 40-man roster.
I still think that Tony Kemp will be the opening day second baseman, and the Lowrie will be eased on to the field slowly. With Framber Valdez out, it may be a while before the A’s see a left handed SP (Clayton Kershaw?), which might open up a start at 2B for Lowrie in the Astros series.
But look for Jed to start at DH against every LHP, and to be the footsteps Kemp hears at 2B. As for the corresponding move the A’s would have to make to add Lowrie to the 40-man roster, barring an injury that solves the problem I see the A’s DFAing (that is, D’ing FA) either Seth Brown or Skye Bolt in consideration of Tom, Luis Barrera, and Greg Deichman as LH outfield depth. Brown is older, and less versatile defensively, so his head may be first on the chopping block.
So along with Chad “I don’t makeouts anymore” Pinder, the A’s bench is rounded out with Lowrie, Tom, and Garcia. Vimael Machin, who has had a good camp but has options, is at the ready from the alternate site.
– As for the pitching, I will boldly predict that AJ Puk will not make the team out of camp, the front office preferring for Puk to build up arm strength and continue figuring out who he is with his current 92-93MPH velocity.
In the rotation, I see Cole Irvin narrowly losing out to Daulton Jefferies, whose name will be misspelled 4,352 times on AN when he makes his first start against the Dodgers.
Meanwhile, Trevor Rosenthal, Sergio Romo, Yusmeiro Petit, J.B. Wendelken, Lou Trivino, Jake Diekman, Adam Kolarek, and Nik Turley seem like they will win bullpen spots, but if there is an injury, with the A’s interested in a long reliever — especially early in the season when Oakland will want to nurture its starting pitchers following a short season — I see Irvin nabbing the last bullpen spot. Otherwise, Irvin is at AAA with James Kaprielian, Grant Holmes, Burch Smith, and Jordan Weems vying for “next man up” honors.
Everything I have written is subject to “never mind” as injuries make decisions for the team the next week and a half. But given the current health status of each player, does this look right to you?