Athletics

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.

Sean Manaea considering wearing mask in starts during 2020 MLB season

Sean Manaea considering wearing mask in starts during 2020 MLB season

With baseball activities picking back up over the weekend, we've seen most players wearing a mask during drills at ballparks around the country.

A's starter Sean Manaea is considering taking the precautionary measure a step further.

While speaking with media in Oakland on Sunday, the left-handed pitcher admitted he's considering wearing a mask during his starts this season.

While MLB isn't forcing players to wear a mask while playing, Manaea's action would go a long way to protecting himself and his A's teammates.

Masks have become a hot-button subject around the country, but baseball players know that they are walking a fine line between playing the 2020 MLB season and having it canceled because too many players contracted the coronavirus.

Even with the season cut down from 162 to 60 games, the A's have high expectations this year, and Manaea's presence on the field will go a long way to determining if they can achieve their goal of winning the World Series or if they will fall short again.

[RELATED: Diekmans appreciate Melvin's message to A's]

Manaea, 28, is expected to be one of the leaders of the A's rotation, along with veteran Mike Fiers. Last season, Manaea pitched in only five games after recovering from left shoulder surgery. But in those five starts, he was dominant, to the tune of a 1.21 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings.

The A's need that version of Manaea this season, and if it means wearing a mask during his start, it's a move he's willing to consider.

Jake Diekman's wife appreciates Bob Melvin's message to A's players

Jake Diekman's wife appreciates Bob Melvin's message to A's players

A's reliever Jake Diekman is considered a high-risk player for the 2020 MLB season, but as of now, he has no plans to opt out.

So that means his teammates need to be extra cautious regarding the coronavirus. If one of them contracts the virus, they could pass it to Diekman. That outcome could end up being very bad.

Since the age of 11, Diekman has had ulcerative colitis, a disease that affects the colon. In 2016, Diekman underwent surgery to remove his colon. A year later, he had a second procedure where doctors used his small intestines to create a "J-Pouch," a replacement colon.

No one understands the risk to Diekman more than A's manager Bob Melvin.

During a Zoom conference call with A's reporters Saturday, Melvin mentioned that he plans to address his team Sunday about taking the coronavirus precautions as seriously as possible.

“How important it is to try to stay in as much of a bubble as we possibly can,” Melvin said, according to The San Francisco Chronicle's Matt Kawahara. “It is literally like it is in real life, understanding that you’re doing this for the person next to you, too.

"You’re staying healthy for not only yourself and your family but your teammates and their families.”

Melvin will be sure to mention Diekman.

“His name will come up as well, that it’s very important to take this seriously,” Melvin said, according to Kawahara.

Melvin's comments made their way to Amanda Diekman, Jake's wife.

[RELATED: Diekman dominated TikTok during stoppage]

Melvin is widely loved by his players, and this is another example of why. He cares about all the guys.

The A's acquired Diekman last July from the Kansas City Royals, and re-signed him to a two-year contract this offseason. The 34-year-old is expected to be a key piece of Melvin's bullpen this season.