Athletics

A's Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks on MLB's 2019 breakout players list

A's Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks on MLB's 2019 breakout players list

The 2019 season gave us a little bit of everything. The A's season gave us a little bit more. 

Beyond the top bat flip of the season from the talents of Mark Canha, two of his teammates earned respect by landing on the top breakout players list.

In no surprise, Marcus Semien landed on the MLB.com list, and at the No. 3 spot -- the exact place he landed during AL MVP voting.

"Semien did it all for the A's in 2019, becoming one of baseball's biggest surprise performers," wrote Manny Randhawa.

He led the league with 747 plate appearances and started in all 162 games at shortstop.

As his defensive game drastically improved, Semien also more than doubled his home run numbers from the previous season with 33 long balls while slashing .285/.369/.522 with 187 hits and 92 RBI.

He should have been an All-Star selection, but ultimately landed on MLB's inaugural All-MLB Second Team.

Reliever Liam Hendriks was also given All-MLB Second Team honors and landed on the breakout players list, joining Semien.

"A big part of the club's success was Hendriks," Randhawa wrote.

[RELATED: Chapman, Semien aim to be top duo in MLB]

Hendriks took over the closer role and did exceptionally, well finishing the season with a 1.80 ERA and a 0.965 WHIP with 124 strikeouts in 85 innings.

He earned just one of the two All-Star selections for the A's last season joining Matt Chapman in Cleveland for the game.

Why A's wild-card loss to Rays still stings Sean Manaea months later

Why A's wild-card loss to Rays still stings Sean Manaea months later

OAKLAND -- "Yeah, that was -- that was tough -- it was really tough. That sucked."

It was as if it were yesterday.

Sean Manaea was sitting in the A's clubhouse which was filled with chaos and yet hauntingly quiet. The starting pitcher had a plate of food in front of him -- pasta and steak. It was untouched. He was staring off into space.

It was Oct. 2, 2019, and Oakland had just lost 5-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card Game, in front of a record-breaking crowd of 54,005. The A's pitcher received starter responsibilities over a possible Mike Fiers. 

That's where the finger-pointing began. But Manaea blamed himself. 

He was credited with the loss. In two innings of playoff ball, he gave up four hits and three home runs.

"At that point in time, I really felt like everything was on me, so I was just wearing the brunt of that and just feeling really down on myself and then -- I was very sad and very upset," Manaea told NBC Sports California at A's Media Day on Friday. 

After a while, Manaea got away from it all, realizing that the weight of the loss was not all on him even though he started that day.

"Honestly, I'm really happy that kind of happened, he said. "I'm not happy that we lost, but that experience, that whole 'learning how to deal with that,' how to deal with a situation where there's that many people there and in a playoff game.

"Just being there and knowing I could have done way worse and I'm still here, I'm still kicking, just valuable information."

The A's didn't help Manaea in the cause. In 33 at-bats, the team accumulated just eight hits and eight total bases with one RBI. 

Manaea appears to possess one of those -- what I like to call -- resting smiley faces. Always happy. He shifted a bit when I brought up the wild-card game, but just as he said, he bounced back to his normal, happy self. 

"Honestly, I think it just spring-boarded me into how I feel now which is as confident as I'll ever be."

That confidence shows.

Nobody blamed Manaea for the loss. Not A's manager Bob Melvin, not his teammates. Not even Mike Fiers, who some argued should have started that day. 

Nobody.

Now, he doesn't blame himself, either. 

[RELATED: Matt Chapman discusses where he ranks among elite 3B]

Manaea heads into the 2020 season as part of a promising starting pitching rotation including Fiers. Top prospects A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo could join them, and the A's should get a full season of Frankie Montas after he was suspended for 80 games in 2019.

One of the team's main goals is to avoid the one-and-done game scenario the wild-card matchup brings. That way, Manaea can hopefully enjoy his steak and pasta in peace. 

Matt Chapman Q&A: A's star discusses life in MLB, favorite actor

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Matt Chapman Q&A: A's star discusses life in MLB, favorite actor

Matt Chapman was drafted by Oakland in 2014 and has been with the A’s since mid-2017. You’d think by now, we’d have a pretty good grasp on who the multi-platinum third baseman actually is. However this past weekend at A's FanFest, we got to learn more about the real “Chappy."
 
NBC Sports California: Number one piece of tech in your backpack for road trips?
Matt Chapman: The number one piece of tech that I make sure is on every flight and trip is our giant team speaker that goes on the bus and on the plane. I’ve been the DJ for the last two or three years, but I’m always willing to give up the reigns.
 
Most important aspect of a good walk-up song?
It gets you fired up.
 
Something you need to get done in the on-deck circle?
Make my bat feel light, I use one big donut.
 
Best thing to tell a teammate after they made an error?
Nothing. You should always let your teammate know you are there for them, and everything, but if I made an error and somebody came up to me, I would be like - get away.
 
Team potluck dinner, what does Matt Chapman bring?
I wish I could bring fish tacos. That’s one of my favorite foods. I just don’t know if I’d be able to cook them.
 
Which teammate gives the best interviews?
Liam [Hendriks], because of his accent.
 
Teammate who you think hates interviews the most?
Probably Marcus [Semien].
 
Teammate you’d be a fan of, if they weren’t your teammate?
I’d probably say [Matt] Olson because of how good he is. I’m sure if [Mark] Canha wasn’t on my team I’d probably be pissed when he flipped his bat, but since he’s on our team, actually I love it. Ramon [Laureano], I’d love his defense and arm, and the emotion he shows… that guy’s a badass.
 
Song that you know all the words to?
“Neighbors” by J. Cole.
 
Are audiobooks considered reading?
No.
 
Tougher sport to play tonight, if you had to: football or hockey?
Ice hockey, because I couldn’t tell you the last time I’ve been ice skating. But football would be scarier. I’d probably rather play hockey, I’d feel more comfortable there. And football, I feel like I would die.
 
What matters most to you, launch angle, spin rate or exit velocity?
Exit velocity. If you’re hitting the ball hard, good things are going to happen. If you’re so concerned about launch angle, you start trying to get under the ball more and more. If you’re trying to hit the ball hard, you’re right where you need to be.
 
We’ll give you a free trip this weekend: Napa, Tahoe, or Monterey?
I’m going to Tahoe. Beautiful in summer or winter.
 
Theme park ride that you go visit first?
If I was at Six Flags, and the park opened, I would probably run to Goliath. That big one with the drop, big and fast roller coaster. When I was a little kid, I could ride those forever. Now I might get a headache. 
 
Favorite person or account that you follow on social media?
I don’t have Instagram. But I will say on Twitter, Brett Anderson makes me laugh, a lot. Dallas Braden makes me laugh a lot too. He’s funny.
 
The best actor in your lifetime so far is Tom Hanks, agree or disagree?
Disagree. Christian Bale, that’s my favorite actor.

[RELATED: Why BoMel is excited to see young A's catchers this season]
 
A-F, grade your use of emojis.
Probably like a C, right in the middle
 
Any car could be in your driveway tonight, what would it be?
An S 63 AMG Mercedes.  It’s a nice car.  It’s a dream car, maybe one day.  Even though I have a Tahoe that I’m pretty attached to.