Thursday marks the first time since 2019 that the A's will have fans in the stands for a regular season game at the Oakland Coliseum.
It’ll be more than just faces in the crowd. A’s manager Bob Melvin recently said he viewed the fans are more of a partner. He’ll be able to feel that again at the beginning of a scheduled 162-game season as the A’s host the Houston Astros at 7:07 p.m. PT.
Baseball is back, baby!
The start of the 2021 MLB season means it’s time to break out the fake crystal ball and give the hottest of takes. So, that’s what I’m going to do. And before you come at me in my Twitter mentions, just remember -- I have a family.
45 Oly bombs
If anyone can lead the A’s in home runs (maybe in all of baseball), it’s the team’s power-hitting first baseman, Matt Olson.
He hit 36 homers in 2019, and despite a dip in 2020 (.195/.310/.424 with 14 home runs), he’ll be the first to admit he stunk last season at the plate. He did have 42 RBI, however.
We’ll give him that one.
Fangraphs’ ZiPS has Olson projected as one of the top first basemen in the game and also has him projected to hit 38 long balls.
Mark it. Journal it. I said what I said.
Jesús Luzardo, AL Cy Young Award winner
What? Hey, they aren’t called boring predictions.
Sure, there’s a lot of anticipation on Luzardo to perform in his first-ever full 162-game season as a starter.
For you pitching nerds, this one is for you.
Taking a quick look at Luzardo’s fastball spin rate will make you pay attention to this “hot take.” He also has multiple breaking balls in his arsenal he was perfecting this offseason and has the ability to use one of his high-velocity fastballs one moment, and make you fall to your knees by shaving off some of that speed with his 65 mph “turkey sub” curveball.
Across 12 games in 2020, Luzardo posted a 4.12 ERA with 59 strikeouts in just as many innings.
In addition to that, he’s just a mature pitcher -- way beyond his 23-year-old age. He’s able to calm his emotions while maintaining confidence.
“He digests things and is very understanding in what he needs to work on, he evaluates himself very well,” Melvin said before a Luzardo outing this spring.
I’m terrified just to type this take as there obviously is a ton of competition for the AL Cy Young award out there.
No matter what, however, pay attention to Luzardo this season. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
This “game-changer award” isn’t a real thing, but humor me for a bit.
For starters, New York Mets fans, cover your eyes.
Jed Lowrie returned to the A's for a third tour of duty after signing a minor league contract this offseason.
He recently found out he made the Opening Day roster and ultimately had a solid spring. In 34 at-bats, Lowrie had nine hits and two home runs. The A’s were slow to bring him back at full speed, using him as the designated hitter as he recovered from offseason knee surgery, but he absolutely thrives in green and gold.
Lowrie is a career .262 hitter at the Coliseum and was selected as an All-Star in 2018 with Oakland after hitting .267/.353/.448 with 23 home runs and 159 hits.
Despite two down years with the Mets (only nine games total), it might be the perfect fit for him once again. And we love a redemption story.
Laureano AL Gold Glove Award, All-Star selection
This isn’t super bold, but it needs to be put out into the universe.
Last season, Ramón Laureano was an AL Gold Glove Award finalist in centerfield after well -- reminding you not to run on him -- even if it’s on live television … while dropping an F-bomb wearing a microphone.
It’s a major career goal of his to win the award, and said he only plans to get better from previous seasons. If you know Laureano, you know he’s the biggest workhorse you’ll ever come across. He will get there.
Imagine Laureano … but better.
His hitting also has improved, which showed during the spring, so that All-Star selection is in the bag.
Oh yeah, that’s right.
Not only do I predict the A’s once again take the division, but I anticipate them taking over the win column in the process. Give me at least 90 wins.
It won’t be easy, of course. The Astros look really, really good, but they looked really, really good last year. Yeah, we know what happened in the postseason, and I can’t knock what Houston did with those bats at Dodger Stadium. Much respect, but …
If the A’s have the strong predicted rotation of Chris Bassitt, Luzardo, Montas/Sean Manaea … and Mike Fiers, Daulton Jefferies or Cole Irvin in the fifth spot, just imagine. That could be one of the best rotations in baseball.
The Astros currently are looking at Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier and Luis Garcia as their possible starting rotation, and the A’s, should they all stay healthy, could compete with that.
Don’t ignore the Los Angeles Angels either. I don’t anticipate them being in the AL West race, but any time you have to throw to David Fletcher, or that Mike Trout guy, you’re getting a headache of a lineup. And we’ll get to see both Shohei Ohtani’s: The hitter and the pitcher.
Those are my bold predictions for the A's in 2021. Tell me what you think.