The A’s had a good idea who they’d include on their 30-man Opening Day roster before this summer’s training camp began. There have been some adjustments as the three-week training session has gone forward. The A’s have to adapt to A.J. Puk on the injured list and Jesus Luzardo’s progress delayed by a positive coronavirus test.
They also have to comprise a roster that fits almost every situation, and that involves some tough choices now that will get harder when the squad maximum decreases to 28 and then 26 in the coming weeks.
Most of the names you’ll see on our A’s roster projection version 2.0 were stone, cold locks. There are a few adjustments from our previous attempt at the roster construction that could help the A’s situationally. The team has great depth and versatility, so skipper Bob Melvin has options when filling out a lineup card, arranging a bullpen or choosing a pinch hitter. That’s a good thing for a team with World Series aspirations.
Let’s take a look at players they should use trying to win a championship:
We had three catchers on the initial roster projection, but Jonah Heim ends up slipping off in the interest of adding depth elsewhere. It’s hardly his fault after a productive spring and summer camp. He will be a regular on the taxi squad, losing out to left-handed-hitting Austin Allen, who has some pop in his bat.
First base (1)
Olson is one of a few A’s who could end up playing every single day. Melvin should feel comfortable adding him to the lineup card with a Sharpie.
Second base (3)
Melvin said the A’s plan to platoon at this position, but it won’t be a simple Kemp-Barreto split. Chad Pinder will get some at-bats playing here, and the team likes Machin enough to put him in the rotation. Expect the top two, however, to get most of the playing time.
The A’s ironman enters an important stretch. He’ll be a free agent after this short season and surely wants to hit the open market on a high note. He’ll want every at-bat he can get to make sure that happens.
Third base (1)
He’s the world’s best defensive third baseman, and that’s considering some stiff competition. Chapman can flat mash when things are going right, and they have been going right during A’s training camp. Don’t be surprised if he starts hot.
We’ve made an addition since the last projection, and it marks our big change to an otherwise easy roster to predict. Seth Brown makes the 30-man roster here as a power-hitting left-hander that’s rare on the bench. He could be a solid pinch-hitting option late in games or help diversify an outfield group that is almost exclusively right-handed save a switch hitter in Grossman. Piscotty, Laureano and Canha should be the regular starters, but Pinder and Kemp can also fill in here.
Designated hitter (1)
Don’t expect Davis to play any outfield this year, especially with quality depth at each spot. He will, however, take every at-bat he can. When Davis gets hot, he can carry a team. That’s possible in 2020 with last year’s hip injury in the rearview.
This isn’t the rotation the A’s envisioned at the start of training camp, but setbacks kept their two phenom left-handers out of it to start the season. Luzardo tested positive for coronavirus during intake testing and missed two weeks in quarantine, meaning he’ll be a reliever until he ramps up. Puk will start on the 10-day injured list with a shoulder strain similar to what he dealt with this spring. There’s no timetable for his return. That means Bassitt and Mengden will have to hold up the back end of this rotation until the prospects can get back to a starting role.
Liam Hendriks (closer)
This group is thinner with Bassitt and Mengden in the rotation, but Luzardo excelled coming out of the bullpen in a Sept. 2019 call-up and could be tough over two innings in the early going. The A’s have stretched McFarland, Smith and Wendelken out to occupy middle innings before the starters are fully stretched out. Petit’s ready for anything, as always, and should see tons of action this summer. Hendriks is the closer, with some quality options in front of him.
While there’s talent here, the bullpen blew too many saves last year. They’ll have to tighten things up while working more than they’re used to in early portions of the year. That’s why we’ve got 10 guys in the crew, using extra roster spots to add needed depth. That includes surprise inclusion Jordan Weems, a converted catcher who has reportedly locked up a roster spot