The A's expect to do great things this season. The experts agree. The East Bay club has an awesome collection of individual talent working in the field, the batter’s box and on the mound.
There’s little one could forecast about that A’s in 2020 that would seem unrealistic, from individual honors to championships. That’s why the NBC Sports Bay Area A’s coverage team went big with their bold predictions for the 2020 season. No accolade is unreachable for this group, with long ago earmarked 2020 as a time to shoot for the stars.
Let’s get to it. Jessica Kleinschmidt and Scott Bair – and yeah, I just referred to myself in the third person – set a high bar for what the A’s could accomplish, with former A’s pitcher and current color commentator Dallas Braden acting as judge and jury deciding whether their prediction is realistic.
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Let’s find out what’s possible in this 60-game MLB season, now with an expanded playoff field. Here we go.
Prediction No. 1: Matt Olson will hit 25-30 home runs in 60 games
Rationale: Look, saying Matt Olson will hit 25 ... maybe 30 bombs may mean I'm a little crazy, but it wasn't called predictions, these were bold predictions, and he can do it.
Olson proved before that he has plenty of power in a short amount of games and did so coming off of a hamate bone injury -- so yes, perhaps I'm a little excited, but if anyone is capable of such production, it's him. -- JK
Judge Braden: “If there’s anybody on that team who can get hot and carry them with power, Matt Olson is a great place to start. I just don’t know if, time permitting, if guys are going to get that hot for that length of time because that would be the entire season as we know it. Is Matt Olson a candidate to lead the league in homers? I absolutely believe so. But 30 or so might be slightly aggressive.”
Prediction No. 2: Jesus Luzardo will win AL ROY despite coronavirus setback
Rationale: The 22-year-old phenom won’t even start in the rotation this season after spending two weeks in quarantine following a positive coronavirus test, but I still see a great season ahead. He was excellent out of the bullpen last year after a September call-up, and he’ll be a fireman until he’s stretched out enough to join the rotation. Then he’ll be able to control games from the outset and notch important wins that carry significant weight in a shortened season. He has truly dynamic stuff and will make the greatest impact of any rookie in the American League. Yeah. He’s that good. -- SB
Judge Braden: “I think that’s a great selection because of the role shifting that you talked about. Typically, Rookie of the Year is reserved for guys producing offensively at a high rate. There’s an opportunity for Luzardo to make an instant impact out of the bullpen and then eventually take over a rotation spot. When you assess his performance as a whole at the end of the year and you realize the impact he has in the bullpen and then a starting role every five days, that’s a big impact in a small amount of time. That could shine through should Luzardo be able to produce.”
Prediction No. 3: Frankie Montas will win the AL Cy Young Award
Rationale: Frankie Montas proved that, despite his 80-game PED suspension, he was able to come back in that Sept.-2019 Angels game and shove. He had a sub-three ERA in 2019 and was strong during the first spring training outing but didn’t stop there. He worked ridiculously hard during the shutdown -- he hit triple digits during the hiatus -- and knows this is his chance to shine. He’ll star with great stuff and an excellent defense behind him. – JK
Judge Braden: “Frankie Montas is a man on a mission. Whether it was by is own undoing or not, Frankie is motivated by the suspension. We saw that at the last part of last year. Now this year, all that is in the past and he’s ready to tackle Opening Day and every start after that. This man is motivated right. When you think about the development of the split-finger fastball and his ability to dial it up to 100-plus – his first pitch of camp was 98! – what’s not to like about this guy? His ability to get deeper into ballgames will be key. If he can pitch well through seven, eight or nine innings, I like his chances.”
Prediction No. 4: Khris Davis hits .247 and gets back to mashing after down year
Rationale: Claiming Davis will hit .247 for the fifth time in six seasons isn’t that bold. Though he did snap a five-year run by hitting .220 in a down year relative to his own bar. Davis hit .220 and had just 23 home runs while dealing with a hip injury that was worse than he let on during the year. He’s back healthy again and ready to get cranking again over 60 games. He hit 26 home runs over that span late in 2018, so he can do some real damage in a compacted run. -- SB
Judge Braden: “I want Khris Davis to be mentally in tune. That’s where I think he is right now. He has put the injury behind him. When a guy of his caliber gets hurt, you really don’t know how injured he is and how much he’s battled through it. He played through it because he knows how much he means to the lineup. With a fresh start, Khris Davis is poised for a great start and is in great position, with some emerging stars in the lineup, to have some of the pressure taken off of him. When you’re not focusing on K.D. that dude is an absolute killer.”
[RELATED: Five questions that will define A's 2020 World Series chances]
Prediction No. 5: The A’s will win the World Series
Rationale: The A’s had some setbacks in training camp with and A.J. Puk, but what about this? The team’s strong pitching will be key, even with Luzardo starting the season off coming out of the bullpen in a role he proved he was great at last season. Sean Manaea and Montas will give the A’s a full season, and Chris Bassitt has proved dominant no matter where you put him.
No ball will get through the infield with Matt Chapman and Olson at the corners and Marcus Semien is coming off of a season where he was voted third in AL MVP voting. Chad Pinder looks to get the start at second base after hitting well during camp and we have yet to see Ramon Laureano or Mark Canha at their peak.
The bats looked amazing and productive in camp, and even if Davis has a not-so-hot season at the plate, he said he knows his lack of productivity will not mean the team will be out of the race.
Forget the historically slow start past Oakland has had in the past. It's a different season, a unique season and the team will embrace it beautifully. -- JK
Judge Braden: "Why can they not? You tell me why they can’t? What was in their way with the Houston Astros and the peripheral noise surrounding them, the A’s are tired of it. I was having conversations with guys around the cage two years ago who were saying ‘Why not us?’ …The key in this abbreviated season is the mindset. They have bought into what the end game is as a collective unit. Everyone who could contribute to this season, as a collective unit, feels like they can be the last group standing when it’s all said and done.”