Athletics

A's 26-man roster projection: Rotation strong, second base a question

A's 26-man roster projection: Rotation strong, second base a question

You read that correctly, a 26-man roster. 

The new rule implemented by MLB will add an additional roster spot from Opening Day until Aug. 31. This creates more position battles as spring training goes on.

With that said, and knowing I can't predict the future, here are some projections for the A's 26-man squad:

Catchers

Sean Murphy and Austin Allen

For now, Sean Murphy looks to be the starter behind the dish for the A's with Austin Allen behind him.

The position is an important one for manager Bob Melvin. Murphy put up strong numbers in Triple-A before he got his big-league promotion where, in 60 plate appearances, he slashed 245/.333/.566 with four home runs and eight RBI.  

Allen, a left-handed bat acquired in the Jurickson Profar trade, could make an impact on the squad. He made his big-league debut with the Padres last season, but his numbers from his time in Triple-A were more impressive. The PCL gave him a boost, of course, but he boasted a .330/.379/.663 line with 21 home runs with El Paso. 

Melvin also told NBC Sports California at the end of January that Jonah Heim will have eyes on him as well.

Infielders

Matt Olson, Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman

We'll touch on second base in a moment, but for now, the rest of the infield looks solid. Very solid.

Both corners are more than taken care of with two Gold Glovers holding down the fort.

Chapman, also a two-time Platinum Glove Award winner, earned his first All-Star selection last season after putting up 36 home runs and a 125 wRC+.

Olson, who played in just 127 games last season, also hit 36 long balls.

The two have strong chemistry together, as evidenced by when they combine for amazing plays.

Shortstop Marcus Semien was third place in AL MVP voting after putting up a stellar season. He played in all 162 games and led the league with 747 plate appearances. He slashed .285/.369/.522 with 33 home runs and 92 RBI.

Second Base

Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo and Tony Kemp

This needed its own section because, at the moment, there isn't an every-day second baseman. 

Franklin Barreto might be the guy to get the job done, but there could be a possibility he platoons with a lefty bat. He's the main guy the team is looking at for the position.

The team does have options, however, and plenty of them.

Tony Kemp, acquired in a trade from the Chicago Cubs, bats left and he joins a group including Sheldon Neuse, Jorge Mateo and young Vimael Machin. 

Outfielders

Mark Canha, Ramón Laureano, Stephen Piscotty, Robbie Grossman and Chad Pinder

The outfield is pretty set as well -- a theme blanketing across the A's heading into 2020.

Mark Canha, recently was named to MLB.com's underrated team -- a title that perfectly suits him. And not only because he's on the A's.

Last season, he quietly slashed .273/.396./517 with 26 home runs in 126 games -- and played four positions. 

Ramón Laureano, well: 

He'll keep runners on their toes, and from advancing.

Chad Pinder can, and will, play anywhere. The utility player occupied every position except pitcher and catcher last season, even putting himself in to be a DH every now and again. His versatility has proven to be important to the team.

Stephen Piscotty was left off the playoff roster last season, but looks to make his return to full-form come Opening Day.

Robbie Grossman will also be part of the outfield and can be put in left field whenever needed as well. 

Designated hitter

Khris Davis

Davis is due for a comeback after facing an injury that appeared to linger throughout the 2019 season.

Perhaps another .247 season is in order?

Starting pitchers

Mike Fiers, Jesús Luzardo, A.J. Puk, Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt

The starting rotation on paper, at first, might have looked as if it were bare after losing some veteran names in the offseason. However, in all actuality, the team hasn't been this confident in the rotation in a while. 

Top lefty prospects Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk will give a full season to the A's barring injury, and the team will also get Sean Manaea back, who missed a chunk of the 2019 season with a shoulder injury. 

Luzardo will continue to make his presence known after teasing us with a 1.50 ERA and 33 strikeouts in just 12 innings last year.

Chris Bassitt could be the sixth man if that's the direction Oakland wants to go, but he could also come out of the bullpen if need be. 

[RELATED: Big Papi not a fan of way 'snitch' Fiers outed Astros]

Relief pitchers

Liam Hendriks, Lou Trivino, Yusmeiro Petit, Jake Diekman, Joakim Soria and T.J. McFarland

Speaking of the bullpen ...

Beefing it up was another big mission of the team heading into the offseason.

They brought back lefty Jake Diekman on a two-year deal and acquired T.J. McFarland from the Arizona Diamondbacks in November. 

Yusmeiro Petit had an under-the-radar 2.71 ERA last season with 71 strikeouts and a 0.807 WHIP over 83 innings.

If Liam Hendriks is even a fraction of his 2019 All-Star self, who posted a 1.80 ERA with 0.965 WHIP over 85 innings, he'll add another monstrous season to his career. 

A's legend Dave Stewart describes coronavirus scare, testing process

A's legend Dave Stewart describes coronavirus scare, testing process

Dave Stewart is down 15 pounds, and feeling “about eighty percent” healthy.

All of this part of an illness, which two weeks ago, the former pitcher-turned NBC Sports California A's analyst feared was coronavirus.

“I was very, very much afraid,” Stewart said, who also suffers from asthma.

The 63-year old’s symptoms began while on a baseball business trip in Monclova, Mexico. The return flight to California is when he knew something was wrong, and testing for COVID-19 was imminent.

“Went straight from the airport, to the testing place,” Stewart said. “They didn’t even give me two minutes, rushed me into the tent, put a mask on me. And started the testing.”

That testing, as you might well already know about, is invasive through the nasal cavities.

“Two swabs, up these big tunnels of mine,” Stewart said about the testing process. “They put those things up there, I felt like they were in my brain. One for the flu, the other for the virus.”

Stewart’s breathing and blood pressure were also observed, in addition to an X-ray of his chest region. 

Eight painstaking days later, he received good news: Everything was negative.

But that didn’t stop Stewart from self-quarantining the moment he got home. And for good reason: He has a 93-year old mother and 102-year old step-father.

“If I’m carrying it, and I don’t know it, then I’m responsible for two very elderly people,” Stewart said.

“The people that I could touch, and possibly give this to, and possibly endanger their lives.”

[RELATED: Why Astros serving bans despite hiatus stings for A's fans]

The 1989 World Series MVP is set to resume his role on "A’s Pre and Postgame Live" once baseball resumes. Stewart also was set to have his jersey retired with the A’s on May 23. But that is now inevitably better suited for a later date.

“This is certainly something I can live with, that’s for sure,” Stewart said.

Why Astros' bans ending in 2020 despite MLB hiatus stings for A's fans

Why Astros' bans ending in 2020 despite MLB hiatus stings for A's fans

We're currently in the midst of unprecedented times due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

But sports have faced major setbacks, with postponements and cancellations affecting leagues worldwide. MLB has not played a regular-season game, and the date of Opening Day still is undetermined. And yet, the Houston Astros, who were scheduled to face the A’s this week, might get a small break due to the delay.

Former Houston manager AJ Hinch and ex-general manager Jeff Luhnow’s one-year suspensions would be served this year, whether an MLB season is played or not. 

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Thursday, citing a source, that MLB will view both Hinch and Luhnow serving their discipline this year in 2020 because the suspensions were tied to the end of the upcoming postseason.

The league also announced the Astros would lose their first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB Draft as part of the disciplinary actions, and they also were fined $5 million. 

Astros owner Jim Crane then took an additional step and fired the two. 

With the A’s originally set to face the reigning AL champions this week in Oakland, it would have created many storylines centered around Mike Fiers.

Fiers was the whistleblower who exposed the Astros of their cheating ways during their 2017 World Series run. This subjected him to much scrutiny from fans, but Fiers also was dubbed a hero to those around the game.

For now, the earliest the season could start is around mid-May. That’s in addition to agreement between the league and the MLB Players Association that states the season cannot begin until there are no bans on mass gatherings, no travel restrictions and medical experts have determined games will not post a risk to the health of teams and fans.

The Astros-A’s series could have been the series that set the tone for the rest of the season across the league

[RELATED: What Canha misses most about baseball during hiatus]

It appears that the tone is different now. Not because baseball hasn’t started yet, but Hinch and Luhnow would be getting a free pass in a way. None of us are playing baseball right now. 

That has Hinch and Luhnow waiting around, just like the rest of us.