Athletics

Presented By A'sPlayoffs2019
Athletics

OAKLAND -- Wait till next year.

Those four words have unfortunately become the A's mantra over the last 30 years. But this time, it feels different.

With the talent the A's have in place for the next handful of seasons, this is truly the best chance they've had to win a World Series since their last title in 1989.

Let's begin with the starting rotation, a group once considered the weakness of the team. Now, all of a sudden, it's shaping up to be one of the best in baseball.

Think about this -- Sean Manaea and Mike Fiers -- the A's No. 1 and 2 starters to end this season -- could very easily be their fourth and fifth starters next year. That's because Oakland's first-half ace Frankie Montas will be back from his PED suspension, while top prospects Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk are poised to be "stars," as manager Bob Melvin put it.

"We really feel good about the group here," Melvin said. "I believe everybody in that room thinks we will be better next year."

Added general manager David Forst: "You look around that room and see the possibilities going beyond. We're definitely in a different place than we were a year ago after this game, where we were creating a rotation from scratch, almost. Now we have depth on both sides -- position players and pitching -- so it does help you look forward to 2020."

 

Luzardo, in particular, is endlessly exciting. The hard-throwing left-hander just turned 22 this week, and already, he looks like an ace. Luzardo dominated hitters with his high-90s fastball and a soul-stealing slider, allowing just two runs on six hits in 15 innings, with 20 strikeouts.

Montas, 26, has also shown the ability to dominate opposing lineups. In 16 starts this season, the right-hander went 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Most importantly, Montas looked just as sharp following the PED suspension, limiting the Angels to one run on four hits in six innings, with six strikeouts, as his fastball touched 98 mph.

At 6-foot-7, Puk has already earned comparisons to Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. The 24-year-old southpaw pitched 11 1/3 innings for the A's with a 3.18 ERA and 13 strikeouts after missing the previous year due to Tommy John surgery.

Luzardo, Puk and Montas are all under team control for at least the next four years, while Manaea has three more years of arbitration control. In other words, good luck scoring against Oakland before 2023.

That brings us to the lineup. The A's ranked fifth in MLB with 257 home runs this season, a franchise record, and eighth with 845 runs scored. The scary part is that both of those numbers will likely go up next year.

Oakland returns its top seven hitters and has the option to retain its entire starting lineup. In fact, sluggers Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Ramón Laureano are all under team control through at least 2023, with each still approaching his prime.

Then there's the even younger crop of talent -- prospects like Sean Murphy, Sheldon Neuse and Jorge Mateo. All three enjoyed tremendous seasons in Triple-A, with Murphy and Neuse finding late-season success in the majors.

Oakland's lineup will continue to strike fear into opposing pitchers for years to come, while simultaneously racking up Gold Gloves on defense.

[RELATED: A's plan to focus on situational hitting in spring training]

The A's also have excellent leadership, both on and off the field. Oakland's clubhouse is one of the most cohesive units in the league, thanks in large part to Melvin, but also because of the players. Chapman, in particular, has already developed into a team leader, even at the young age of 26.

"From the minute he got here, he showed leadership qualities," Melvin praised. "I remember when he first got here, during his first half-season here when we were struggling, he told me, 'This is the first losing team I've ever played on and it's going to be the last losing team I ever play on, too.' To this point, he's right. But that's the type of guy he is. His expectation, first and foremost, is to win and to get the most out of himself and his teammates, and that's what leaders do."

 

So while the sting of Wednesday's AL Wild Card Game defeat will linger in the days and weeks to come, there are brighter days ahead. Mark it down, A's fans -- the Green and Gold will be parading a World Series trophy through the streets of Oakland by 2022.