MESA, Ariz. – The full Athletics squad reported to spring training on time Monday morning for the preseason’s first full-squad engagement. This group, as assembled, is stacked.
It doesn’t take advanced stats expert to see the 2020 crew is loaded with talent, depth and the superstars required to improve upon back-to-back 97-win seasons. That’s even true in an improved AL West and at a point on the calendar where hope springs eternal.
Bob Melvin was quick to point another reason for extreme optimism this season.
It starts with the Athletics superstars setting a proper tone throughout the organization. Their work ethic, Melvin said, proves contagious.
“We have a bunch of guys like that, whether it’s Matt Olson or Matt Chapman or Marcus Semien, those guys set the tone for how we do things around here,” Melvin said Monday morning. “When you have younger players coming up or new players coming in and they see how our top guys work, they have no choice to work the same way. It’s great when your best players are the hardest workers.”
Those players can absolutely mash. That was clear during the first full-squad workout. Several have been around taking swings in recent days but seeing so many established veterans alternating through the cages around Lew Wolff Training Complex certainly creates belief the Athletics can score with anybody in 2020. Pair that with a legit frontline starting rotation and all-star closer Liam Hendricks and even Melvin can see a clear path to great things this season.
Melvin has been around a long time and managed a lot of good baseball teams. His expectations for this group are sky high. He made that clear in his opening speech to the full squad here in major league camp.
“We always discuss in our first meeting what our goals and expectations are,” Melvin said. “We try to keep those to ourselves but, when you have two seasons with 97 wins and 97 wins and you feel like we have a better team this year, yeah. I think our expectations are pretty high.”
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Vegas oddsmakers set the over-under line at 89.5 wins for these Athletics, a significant sum that would put them back in serious contention for a third straight postseason berth. They’ll be gunning for a division title after two straight wild-card berths where the season died out in a one-game playoff.
This largely established group is focused on staying healthy and intact for when the games actually count. That doesn’t mean they’re content to sit back this spring and wait for good times to roll. The grind continues for the entire team as it works to become more versatile.
The Athletics are placing emphasis on situational hitting this spring, maybe going against type for a team that as historically liked walks and big blasts.
That will be important in working through offensive slumps like the A’s experienced near last season’s end.
“You can bludgeon teams at times, but there will be times where we go through offensive droughts as a team,” Melvin said. “The defense is always going to be there, but if we can win some games situationally by getting guys over and getting guys in by putting some focus on that, the team will be better because of it. We’ll continue to emphasize that.”