Athletics

AL West champions? Five A's predictions for upcoming 2020 MLB season

AL West champions? Five A's predictions for upcoming 2020 MLB season

The A's have yet to make any significant moves during the offseason. The Jurickson Profar trade was the highlight of the transactions thus far, but their needs remain in the bullpen and still finding an everyday second baseman.

With those needs in mind, the outlook for the 2020 season for the Green and Gold remains unknown. What we do know is the team desperately hopes to avoid history repeating itself.

Earlier, I tweeted a bold prediction for the A's to face the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series -- that was pretty bold ... but not necessarily out of the question. 

Here are five more attainable predictions for the A's upcoming season.

Big trade at the deadline

Remember the defeated look on Dallas Keuchel's face in 2017 when the Houston Astros didn't make any significant trades at the deadline? Then -- BOOM -- Justin Verlander was on the team a month later. Yeah, something like that -- only the A's will more than likely not acquire a pitcher like Verlander, no matter how well he pitches at the Coliseum.

It can cause some worry for those excited for the young talent if a trade would require some prospects, but A's vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane likes to keep things interesting. He's mentioned before if the team is around the .500 mark at the deadline, they will be aggressive, especially without that Aug. 31 waiver deadline. 

Here's thinking the A's are one of those aggressive teams. 

Winning the AL West

The Astros have continued to be a thorn in the side of the A's season after season. But that could change in 2020. 

With Houston saying goodbye to Gerrit Cole, who will sport pinstripes next season, that could give a slight edge for the A's to dominate the division. 

Don't worry, we haven't forgotten the fact that the Angels got the studly third baseman Anthony Rendon to assist in making that fight to the finish interesting, but neither have the A's. 

The constant headache of losing the one-and-done wild-card games is a subject A's manager Bob Melvin and general manager David Forst are tired of discussing. It's imperative the team is successful enough to win the division and forgo the game that has forced the A's to pack up and ship out early the last two years.

Just win the whole dang division so the team can skip out on the do-or-die game. 

Chappy, MVP

Matt Chapman is the best defensive third baseman in the game.  His former high school teammate Nolan Arenado has not only praised Chapman, but said the A's star probably better than him at this point.

On top of earning consecutive Gold and Platinum Glove Awards, he's been in AL MVP discussions for the last two seasons as well. That's a start.

His Steamer projections on FanGraphs has him hitting 30 homers next year and increasing his batting average. To be fair, his .249 average last season didn't characterize what he did overall. 

Luzardo, Rookie of the Year

Jesús Luzardo's pitching debut was worth the wait and anticipation. Despite a few setbacks, he owned a 1.50 ERA and 0.667 WHIP while surrendering just five hits in six big-league games and 12 innings.

Across three minor-league teams last season, he was strong as well, with a 2.51 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 43 innings. 

Fans and prospect hounds were left wanting more, and that's exactly what they'll get in 2020. 

He's already listed as the A's intriguing Rookie of the Year possibility next season according to MLB Pipeline, and should be in the A's starting rotation come Opening Day.

Khris Davis returns to form

When Khris Davis was in the midst of his slumps last season, Melvin knew the A's would pick up for him as KD did for the A's when they needed him the most. Davis fell victim to a left hip contusion when he collided with the left-field wall against the Pirates on May 5. 

He wasn't the same after that. Throughout frustrations and loss of confidence, the snowball effect occurred from then on. 

When the season concluded, Melvin and Forst doubled-down on the fact that designated hitter would bounce back. He has to.

[RELATED: Eight memorable moments that defined A's decade]

The .247 consistent hitter who is known for hitting balls over the fence signed a two-year, $33.5 million contract extension with the team last April. 

In 2018, Davis led the league with 48 home runs and now, he leaves a season behind hitting a .220/.293/.387 line with just 23 home runs. 

Mark Canha Q&A: A's slugger discusses favorite breakfast, grooming

Mark Canha Q&A: A's slugger discusses favorite breakfast, grooming

MESA, Ariz. -- Although he was drafted by the Florida Marlins in 2010, Mark Canha has been fortunate enough to play all significant levels of baseball in the Bay Area.
 
The San Jose native became Bellarmine College Prep’s 15th major league player. His college years were spent at Evans Diamond on Cal's campus. And since, all 445 of his MLB games have been in an A’s uniform.
 
The self-proclaimed “@bigleaguefoodie” on Instagram also is a flashy hitter, blasting a career-high 26 homers in 2019. Many punctuated with a bat flip on his way up the first base line.

[RELATED: Why A's players want to wear Kelly Green uniforms even more]
 
At Spring Training in Mesa, we gave the slugger all of the tough questions so you can get to know the real Mark Canha.
 
NBC Sports Bay Area: Teammate you would trust most to babysit your daughter?
Mark Canha: Oh, wow, that’s a thinker. Not a lot of them. You’ve got to be careful, this is no joke watching a kid. Maybe Marcus [Semien] because he’s got kids. I think he’d handle it just fine.
 
How many times can you wear the same jeans without washing them?
I usually go twice. Date night we go out and I wear them, and then there’s just the male part of me who takes a look -- didn’t spill anything -- I think I could wear them one more time without washing.
 
If you could clone yourself, what would you make that clone do?
So many things. Dishes, I hate doing them, but I do them a lot. And then I’d make him take the night shifts on waking up when my daughter gets up in the middle of the night, at three in the morning.
 
Were you named after anybody?
No, not that I know of.
 
Best smell of baseball season?
Pine tar. I put it on my helmet and the smell is oddly appealing. It makes me feel good in the [batter's] box, I can smell it. I really cake it on my helmet.
 
Can you still write in cursive?
Yes. Well, I don’t know how prevalent it is, but I can do it if I need to.
 
Teammate you would assume spends the most time personal grooming?
I think I’m the biggest personal groomer, you could ask everyone, they’d say that. It’s something I’m passionate about as I get older, and use all the face creams and moisturizers, it’s important. You’ve got to take care of your skin.  
 
Only one breakfast for the rest of your life, what’s on that plate?
Pancakes and bacon is my favorite combo.
 
If you were a media member covering the A’s spring training what would your number one story be?
In my five years here, it’s been the least amount of turnover from one season to the next, and all the youth, and so I’d try to focus on that.
 
Amount of time on average you spend preparing for the opposing pitcher?
Forty-five minutes, I’ll say, going over video and pitches, and tendencies -- charts and that stuff.
 
Can MLB players be friends with their coaches?
Yeah. I think of Bob [Melvin] as a friend, [hitting coach Darren Bush] as a friend. Good relationships and we’re not just talking business all the time.
 
If there’s an MLB player you were a fan of, you weren’t a player?
I think Matt Chapman would be my favorite player.
 
Best way to split a lunch or dinner tab with a teammate?
If we’re talking strategically, you go with a guy that has more service time. Then you don’t have to pay for anything. The guy with the most time pays it, usually.

Why A's closer Liam Hendriks refuses to let himself feel comfortable

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AP

Why A's closer Liam Hendriks refuses to let himself feel comfortable

The A's closer job isn’t up for grabs. It belongs to Liam Hendriks.

That isn’t a fire take or dismissal of other relievers on a quality staff. There’s simply no position battle or thought of one, and rightfully so.

Hendriks was a 2019 All-Star, after all, a right-hander who can reach 96 mph and freeze foes with a "wicked sly-dah." He converted 25 saves for last year’s 97-win A’s team and was a “savior in that bullpen.”

That’s pitching coach Scott Emerson’s opinion, at least. The phrase was followed by more praise for the 31-year old Australian finally coming into his own over a long and winding professional career.

Emerson’s compliment ended with an unwavering vote of confidence.

“Liam has proven that he can get big outs with the game on the line,” Emerson said. “That’s our guy.”

Hendriks would’ve wanted to earmuff it for that last part.

He doesn’t believe he has a job title at this point, with no interest in hearing otherwise. He certainly doesn’t want to be known as, Liam Hendriks: All-Star closer. Definitely not in spring training.

“Oh God, no. I don’t see myself in that regard,” Hendriks said Wednesday. “I’ve told people even heading into this year that I don’t want anything given to me. I’m coming into camp trying to make the team. I’m here to prove I belong and prove that I can fill any role they need me to. I have no idea what my role will be next year, and I need that mindset. I don’t want to become complacent. If I come in assuming that I’ll be given something, even a roster spot, that’s when trouble sets in for me. That’s a sign I’m taking things for granted and I don’t want that. Ever.”

That’s Hendriks’ experience talking. You know his story well, the one where a scrappy right-hander with great stuff was designated for assignment five times but never gave up and finally reached the pinnacle of his profession.

Fellow A’s reliever Jake Diekman believes young players should commit Hendrik's experience to memory and lean on it during tough times trying to make it big.

“Any minor leaguer should look at [Liam] as an example,” Diekman said. “You’re going to get brought up and you could easily get sent back down even if it doesn’t seem warranted. He’s proof that you have to trust your ability and stick with it, because at some point it can all click.”

[RELATED: A's closer Hendriks can relate to Sharks' Jones struggling]

These inspirational, finally-make-it-big baseball stories are often about the convergence of talent and timing. Hendriks was in the midst of a season where he was borderline unhittable while A’s incumbent closer Blake Treinen struggled with injuries and performance. The A’s looked to Hendriks for help, providing save opportunities upon which he capitalized.

He plans to do that again in 2020 for a loaded Athletics squad with high expectations. He plans to earn and convert his chances and be even better than he was a year ago. There’s humility in his words but confidence in his stuff, his demeanor and his ability to persevere.

That last trait is vital and was ultimately learned by doing. Hendriks went through real highs and lows getting to this point, experiences that made him the person and pitcher he is today.

“I spent several years in the minor leagues, a lot more than some and a lot less than others,” Hendriks said. “You sit there and learn and struggle with certain things, but you need perseverance to get through them. There were multiple years where I thought I played well and deserved to move up to the next level and it didn’t happen. It was a humbling experience that taught me to stop worrying about what everyone else does or focus solely on getting called up. Life isn’t always direct or easy or straight forward. You just have to keep on fighting.”