A's roster analysis: Examining position battles before MLB Opening Day

A's roster analysis: Examining position battles before MLB Opening Day

MESA, Ariz. -- While A's manager Bob Melvin remains thrilled knowing he has plenty of good options to choose from for an Opening Day starter, that's not the main competition at camp.

After the A's traded Jurickson Profar to the Padres for Buddy Reed and Austin Allen, second base has more question marks than answers at the moment. 

At catcher, a position important to BoMel, there could be a competition worth noting as well. 

Let's make some predictions for the A's position battles as spring training continues ... 

Second Base

Acquiring Tony Kemp complicated the picture, perhaps, but for the moment, it appears the job is Franklin Barreto's to lose. However, he could be platooned with a lefty bat.

Barreto, in 23 games last season, slashed just .123/.138/.263 with two home runs and seven hits. 

He took advantage of his time in the PCL with a .295 average and .926 OPS, but obviously was inconsistent in the bigs. 

Melvin wants Barreto to realize his potential, not only to make his decision easier, but to further strengthen an already-formidable A's lineup. 

There are others vying for the job, as well, including Jorge Mateo and Sheldon Neuse, who put in some big-league innings last season at second base.

Chad Pinder could be used at any position and be successful at it, but Melvin doesn't see the utility guy being a factor in the competition.

"We're not intent on getting [Pinder] out there at second base yet," Melvin told the media on Monday before the Cactus League game against the Brewers.

"We want to take a look at some other options at this point, we have to make some decisions on some guys -- very difficult decisions on some talented guys, unfortunately. So yeah, he'll probably get more second base reps later and if we feel like we want to shorten it up, we don't carry as many guys that could potentially play that position, then he factors in there, too."

[RELATED: How Pinder's hard work won over A's fans, his teammates]

It'll be a tough decision with or without Pinder in the mix, it appears. 

The A's also acquired young Vimael Machin, who many believed would make a difference -- which could still be the case. However, he's simply trying to nab a roster spot at this point. He put up solid numbers with a .333/.369/.469 slash line in the offseason Puerto Rican League. 


Behind the plate sits -- well, squats -- Sean Murphy, one of the A's top prospects. He, along with Austin Allen and Jonah Heim, form the contingent of young guys hoping to claim the starting job. Murphy appears to be the main guy, as he saw plenty of major-league action last season with Oakland, slashing .245/.333/.566 with four home runs and eight RBI across 60 plate appearances.

Allen is a left-handed bat who put up strong numbers with the Padres last season. Melvin said he liked what Allen did with the lumber and he looks to be a great backup option.

Heim put up amazing numbers in Triple-A and took advantage of the PCL with a .412/.557/.968 line. He caught Liam Hendriks' short outing Monday and received some compliments from the Aussie. 

The infield and outfield positions are relatively secured and with many talents. You can check out the 26-man projections, here.  

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.