A's roster projection: Predicting 30-man squad for 2020 MLB season

A's roster projection: Predicting 30-man squad for 2020 MLB season

There isn’t much wiggle room on the A’s roster, even with some extra spots afforded in this unique, 60-game season brought upon us by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We have 30 spots to work with, a number general manager David Forst seemed comfortable with setting a while back.

"It sounds like we’re going to start the season with 30," Forst said on A's Cast. "We almost know exactly what our roster looks like given everybody’s health."

That steals some drama from this summer training session, where position battles don’t carry the same drama as they might have during a spring where manager Bob Melvin had to whittle the team to 26.

The A’s have 30 spots available right away, with the list trimmed to 28 two weeks later, and 26 two weeks beyond that.

Given the short, three-week runway leading into the regular season, we added extra pitchers and quite a few capable of going two-plus innings on the original roster. A’s baseball czar Billy Beane was frank about the starters being limited going deep into games the first few times through the rotation during a recent interview on the TK Show, so options will help should things go wonky in the early going.

While we reserve the right to completely change our minds during summer camp, here’s the initial 30-man roster projection for a team that should compete for a championship:

Catcher (3)

Sean Murphy
Austin Allen
Jonah Hein

We’ve got three catchers in the early going, which hurts depth in other places. This is baseball’s toughest position, and you can’t have enough quality there when the schedule is so compacted. Murphy should be an every-day starter and is young enough to become a lineup fixture, but three's still the right thing to do. Hein deserves a spot and should get one.

First base (1)

Matt Olson

Olson should be a superstar. Hang a poster of him on your kid’s wall.

Second base (3)

Franklin Barreto
Tony Kemp
Vinmael Machin

The one primary position battle on the A’s roster is settled by having some extra spots. Barreto’s out of options, but that’s not the only reason why he should be included. He’s a good player who deserves a shot. That said, Kemp’s experience is invaluable, and he should get most starts. Machin was a savvy Rule 5 pickup who should be kept.

Shortstop (1)

Marcus Semien

He should play every game and take every at bat. Oh, and he should get an extension.

Third base (1)

Matt Chapman

Melvin was convinced back in the spring that Chapman could be an MVP this season. There’s no reason that opinion should change.

[RELATED: Why A's excellent defense should provide great value in 60-game season]

Outfield (5)

Steven Piscotty
Ramon Laureano
Mark Canha
Robbie Grossman
Chad Pinder

This group has great talent and versatility. Pinder can play anywhere. Canha’s in a contract year and could blow up. Grossman deserves at bats, but might have to fight for them.

Designated hitter (1)

Khris Davis

The A’s will only live up to their potential if Davis goes back to his normal self. 2019 has to be an outlier.

[RELATED: Why A's pitching depth could prove beneficial in 60-game MLB season]

Starters (6)

Mike Fiers
Sean Manaea
Frankie Montas
A.J. Puk
Jesus Luzardo
Chris Bassitt

Naming six starters should not imply that we think the A’s will go with a six-man rotation to start the year. Five sounds right, even in a weird year. Bassitt deserves the distinction even outside the starting five, considering his value and the fact he’ll be the man to often take the A’s through middle innings early in the year. And, in a pinch and over a compacted year, he could be called into action.

Relievers (9)

Liam Hendriks (closer)
Jake Diekman
Joakim Soria
Lou Trivino
Yusmeiro Petit
TJ McFarland
Daniel Mengden
Burch Smith
J.B Wendelken

We went heavy on relief pitchers in the early going, with several capable of pairing with a starter to reach the seventh and eighth innings until starters get properly stretched out. The number will get trimmed after two weeks, when rosters go to 28 and starters can go longer. That would set up a normal shut-down at the end, with Hendricks a legitimate closer. Mengden was on the 60-day IL, but reports suggest he could be ready for this opening day. That would be a benefit.

Astros vs. Oakland A's live stream: How to watch MLB games online, on TV

Astros vs. Oakland A's live stream: How to watch MLB games online, on TV

The A's are rolling.

Oakland has won six straight games as they welcome the rival Astros to the Coliseum for the first time since Houston's cheating scandal was unearthed in the offseason.

The A's (9-4) are coming off a sweep of the Rangers, while the Astros (6-6) lost two out of three to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Here's how you can watch the A's play the Rangers online (download the MyTeams app here!) and on TV:

Friday, Aug. 7

When: A's Pregame Live at 5:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 6:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

Saturday, Aug. 8

When: A's Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 1:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

Sunday, Aug. 9

When: A's Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. PT -- First pitch at 1:10 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports California
Stream: MyTeams app

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Marcus Semien's hard work paying off as he builds A's culture, tone

Marcus Semien's hard work paying off as he builds A's culture, tone

Austin Allen’s single to score Matt Chapman in the bottom of the 13th set the things up for Marcus Semien in the A’s 3-2 win over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Semien sealed the deal with a walk-off single to center field. Semien smiled celebrated with an ice bath from Tony Kemp. It was a much-need victory over the Astros for both Semien and the A's.

For Semien, the big hit was a long time coming. 

“For me, it’s trying to be on time,” Semien told reporters following the 13-inning game. “I’ve been struggling with my timing a little bit, so just being on time, and same thing with Austin. Like I said, that guy was getting guys to chase up, so anything that is hard and a little lower, just attack it. I put a lot of work in earlier in the day just trying to hit line drives to the opposite field and it’s a good feeling when it clicks because for a while it hadn’t been clicking.”

Semien wasn’t hitting the ball hard, he explained. And when that happens, there’s a reason for it.  

“My stroke feels good, but sometimes it’s approach, sometimes it’s timing -- body position, a lot of things that could be,” Semien added. “That’s what early work is for, cage work. Once you get in the game, you just have to compete.”

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Semien said he has to create habits that work.

“It’s tough because you think you have to tinker with everything,” Semien added.

Semien wasn’t sure what that tinkering would consist of: Would he need to work on his swing? Not necessarily. The timing was definitely a factor, but Semien also believes opposing teams were attacking him differently.

That seems to be the case when he leaves a third-place AL MVP season behind him in 2019.

“They’re being more careful, you saw that with Texas,” Semien said. “I’m trying to take the low pitches, sometimes they’re calling them, and you just find yourself in 0-for-3 like that. I think today was a good day to build off.”

“They know last year I put up some good numbers and you’re not getting as much to hit. You think that you’re just going to get the same pitches that they threw last year and that’s part of it, kind of created some bad habits early on. Even since spring and Summer Camp, just hadn’t really been driving the ball well.” 

Semien said he’s working on that every day. It hasn't gone unnoticed.

“Marcus, I think has set the tone and built the culture here,” A’s starter Chris Bassitt told reporters during his postgame availability. “Obviously I think [Matt] Chapman and [Matt] Olson and those guys have caught on to just the work ethic that Semien brings every single day.”

[RELATED: A's fan creates GoFundMe to troll Astros with 'Asterisks' aerial banner]

Bassitt himself had a good outing, allowing just three hits and one earned run in seven innings. That brings his total to just two earned runs allowed in 16 2/3 innings this season. But this wasn’t about him at the moment despite his solid outing in the 13-inning game. He wanted to give Semien his moment.

“It’s not a matter of when [Semien] walks up to the plate, but whenever he does, you know you are getting the best effort from him every single night,” Bassitt said. “Doesn’t matter what at-bat, what inning. Anytime he walks up with the game on the line, I’m extremely confident in him.”