Athletics

A's 2019 Projections: Does Nick Martini improve on tail of successes?

nickmartiniusatsi.jpg
USATSI

A's 2019 Projections: Does Nick Martini improve on tail of successes?

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

Nick Martini was one of the best stories in baseball last season. After spending more than seven years in the minor leagues, the 28-year-old finally got to make his Major League debut with the A's, and he took full advantage of his opportunity.

Martini led Oakland with a .296 batting average and .397 on-base percentage, compiling an OPS of .811 in 55 games. The left-hander earned the A's starting left fielder role against right-handed pitchers and even led off 32 games.

The big question heading into 2019 is whether it was a fluke. Baseball Reference expects Martini to regress a bit next season, projecting a slash line of .265/.349/.415 with six home runs, 14 doubles, and 31 RBI.

Martini has proven in both the big leagues and the minors that he is an on-base machine. Last season at Triple-A Nashville, he reached base in 65 consecutive games, setting a Pacific Coast League record. He also owns the Division I collegiate record, reaching base in 93 straight games at Kansas State University.

Martini figures to enter the season as the A's primary left fielder against right-handed pitching. He will have to fend off the likes of Dustin Fowler, Mark Canha, and Chad Pinder, but if he performs at anywhere near last year's level, he won't have to worry.

A's manager Bob Melvin was impressed with Martini's sophisticated approach in the batter's box last season. For someone with limited big league experience, he understands how to work a count and rarely chases pitches out of the strike zone.

We expect another strong season from Martini in 2019. While it will be hard to match last year's numbers, we think he can at least come close. His plate discipline and opposite field approach should once again make him a solid leadoff option for the A's.

Projection: .281/.363/.414, 7 HR, 24 doubles, 44 RBI

Dave Kaval responds to Mark Davis' A's remarks, feels for Raiders fans

davekavalmarkdavisusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Dave Kaval responds to Mark Davis' A's remarks, feels for Raiders fans

Unlike Raiders owner Mark Davis, A's president Dave Kaval isn't one to take a blow torch to his stadium co-tenant.

Ten days after Davis blasted the A's front office before his Raiders move from Oakland to Las Vegas, Kaval was given the chance to respond.

“I just feel really bad for the Raiders fans," Kaval told The Athletic's Steve Berman on Saturday. "It’s been a really challenging situation with them. I grew up in Cleveland. I saw the Browns leave. I was a season-ticket holder. My family went to the Dawg Pound growing up. So I know first-hand the kind of pain that can come with a team relocating and [the Raiders] have relocated twice. So it’s just kind of a difficult situation for their fans.

"I’m hopeful that they can kind of manage their way through that. And I think from our perspective we just want to make sure we provide the best fan experience for A’s fans and Oakland residents here at the Coliseum.”

In an Aug. 8 interview with The Athletic, Davis labeled Kaval and the A's front office as "real pricks," among other things.

One day later, Davis apologized, but the damage already had been done.

While talking with Berman, Kaval never said Davis' name, but he defended the changes the A's have made to the Coliseum since the Raiders decided to leave for Vegas for the 2020 NFL season.

“Being the last team left in Oakland, we feel a great sense of responsibility to represent our community," Kaval said. "To make sure that we invest, both on the field and also off the field with all efforts to build a world-class stadium at the waterfront so we can be here 50, 100, 200 years, in perpetuity.”

[RELATED: Bassitt saves tired A's bullpen]

Kaval took the high road, sort of, but we still don't expect him to share a suite with Davis at either of their new stadiums.

Back to your corners, fellas.

Chris Bassitt's heroics save a tired A's bullpen in win over Astros

Chris Bassitt's heroics save a tired A's bullpen in win over Astros

OAKLAND -- After the first inning, Chris Bassitt seemed unlikely to get through five frames, let alone six. Sure, the A's right-hander didn't give up any runs, but he had to make 31 pitches to retire the side.

By the end of the third inning, Bassitt had thrown 69 pitches and surrendered two runs on six hits. With an exhausted bullpen that had thrown seven innings on Friday night, Oakland manager Bob Melvin was probably just hoping he could get his starter through four or five.

But Bassitt battled. He pitched a scoreless fourth inning, then gave up a run in the fifth, but got through the inning at 106 pitches with a 5-3 lead. His day had to be done, right? There was no way he could go out for the sixth.

Bassitt had other ideas: "The only conversation was, 'Are you good?' And the answer was, 'Yeah.' That was it. Our bullpen's gassed. I couldn't look at the guys and be like, 'Hey, I was tired.' Well, I mean, every one of those guys down there is dead tired. I was fine to throw the sixth and that's what I did."

Bassitt gave up a leadoff single in the sixth to Yuli Gurriel but induced a crucial double play off the bat of Martin Maldonado. Then on his career-high 116th pitch of the game, Bassitt got Jake Marisnick to pop out, ending the inning.

"He competes really hard," Melvin said. "He was struggling with his command all game and fighting himself a little bit out there. But I felt pretty good about how he threw the ball in the fifth. I was willing to go to 120 [pitches] if we had to. But he was able to do it in under 120."

Bassitt ended up allowing just three runs on eight hits and two walks, with four strikeouts, as the A's beat the Astros for the third straight day, 8-4. That is certainly no small feat.

"One through nine, it's just a headache," Bassitt said of Houston's powerful lineup. "It really is. Their nine-hole is [Jake] Marisnick and he can put it out anytime. And if it's not Marisnick, it's [Josh] Reddick. One through nine, it's a grind."

As Melvin noted, Bassitt didn't have his best stuff and struggled with his command throughout the afternoon. His curveball was electric, however -- he only threw it 13 times, but it resulted in three of his four strikeouts, as well as a pop out.

"I was just up (in the zone) all day long," Bassitt said of his command. "I wasn't able to locate my fastball down at all and it kind of played into having the curveball be a good pitch for me."

"That's kind of part of who he is," Melvin added. "He needs that pitch. It's a real slow pitch. After his fastball, when he has good velocity, that's a tough one to stay with. ... It's tough to track. It's got good break to it. It's a big part of his arsenal."

[RELATED: A's hope Puk, Diekman can steady bullpen in playoff push]

Entering this season, Bassitt had only won four games in his entire career. The 30-year-old has more than doubled that this year, now 9-5 with a 3.61 ERA.

"It's more so just the organization trusting me," Bassitt said. "The more and more they're trusting me this year, the better I'm getting."