The offseason wasn't kind to the A's. They lost multiple key players from their AL West-winning team, including shortstop Marcus Semien, closer Liam Hendriks, infielder Tommy La Stella and outfielder Robbie Grossman.
PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus' player projection system, clearly believes those losses will hurt the A's this season. They're projected to go just 80-82, good for third place in the AL West. That would be their lowest win total in a full season since 2017.
The Houston Astros are projected to win the division with 93 wins, and the Los Angeles Angels are behind them with 87 projected wins.
After looking at PECOTA's A's projections for the 2021 season, here are three things that stood out.
Who's the A's MVP?
Matt Chapman and Matt Olson grab all the headlines when it comes to the A's offense, and understandably so. They're both big-time power hitters who also are stars defensively. But then there's Ramon Laureano.
The 26-year-old center fielder has exceeded expectations since making his MLB debut in 2018, especially with his breakout 2019 season when he hit .288 with 24 home runs and an .860 OPS. But he hit just .213 last season with six homers and a .704 OPS in 54 games. PECOTA expects him to bounce back this season.
Here's how PECOTA projects the three to play in 2021.
Chapman: .227 BA, .778 OPS, 32 HR
Olson: .235 BA, .837 OPS, 37 HR
Laureano: .245 BA, .768 OPS, 22 HR
Laureano projects to lead the A's in WARP -- Baseball Prospectus' version of wins above replacement -- with 3.8. Olson comes in second at 3.4, and Chapman fourth at 2.4. Olson leads the projections in VORP (30.3), with Laureano second (27.9) and Chapman fourth (20.3). Olson also leads in DRC+ (128), and Laureano and Chapman both are tied for third with 112.
For context, VORP stands for value over replacement player, and DRC+ means deserved runs created plus, which measures all of a player's contributions at the plate.
All three of these players will have key roles in getting the A's back to the playoffs. It will be fun to watch who steps up the most.
More love for Mark Canha
Year after year, Canha, a Bay Area native, goes under the radar. But with Khris Davis and Grossman both gone, more playing time should open up for Canha. PECOTA believes that's a good thing.
Canha is projected to hit .237 with 23 homers and a .777 OPS. That would be his second-most long balls in a season but is lower than his .785 career OPS. PECOTA also has Canha being worth the third-most WARP (2.7) on the A's, as well as the third-most VORP (24.1) and second in DRC+ (117).
Remember, these projections usually under a cautious umbrella. Canha crushed lefties last season (.333 BA, .982 OPS) but all five of his homers came against right-handers and he has reverse splits for his career. He can play all three outfield positions, first base and serve as Oakland's DH.
It's clear Canha deserves our attention.
Bounce-back Sean Manaea season
The A's need better from Manaea this season. There's no hiding from that fact.
Manaea went 4-3 with a career-high 4.50 ERA in 11 starts last season. He also only struck out 45 batters in 54 innings. That's 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings, which actually is slightly better than his career average of 7.3. But he was at 9.1 over five starts in 2019.
Luckily for the A's, PECOTA projects Manaea to be a pretty solid starter in 2021. They have him finishing with a 3.71 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 137 innings pitched. That would be 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings, which is far closer to the pitcher he was in 2019. PECOTA also has Manaea leading all A's pitchers with 2.0 WARP.
If the A's want to compete in the AL West after an unkind offseason, Manaea will have to step his game up like he's projected to do.