Chad Pinder

What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

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AP/USATSI

What Matt Olson injury means for A's offense, defense at first base

The A's fears became a reality Friday when Gold Glove first baseman Matt Olson had to undergo surgery on his right hand.

No timetable has been provided for Olson's return, but a 2018 article in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine which studied similar procedures suggests he will likely miss three to seven weeks.

This is obviously a huge loss for Oakland. Beyond Olson's terrific defense, the 24-year-old provided tremendous power in the middle of the lineup.

Last season, Olson slashed .247/.335/.453 with 29 home runs and 84 RBI. That production won't be easy to replace, but the A's do have some reasonable options.

Platoon players Mark Canha and Chad Pinder can both play first base, and carry plenty of power in their bats. Canha clubbed 17 home runs and 22 doubles last year in just 365 at-bats. Pinder, meanwhile, hit 28 homers in 580 at-bats over the last two seasons.

Another option for the A's is to move Jurickson Profar to first base -- where he played 24 games last year -- and start Franklin Barreto at second. Barreto is coming off a terrific spring, hitting .375 (12-for-32) with a home run, four doubles, three RBI, five walks, and eight runs scored.

Barreto now has a great chance to make the 25-man roster in Olson's place. The 23-year-old has long been considered one of the A's top prospects, but has never had a chance to get consistent playing time in the big leagues. Oakland moved him from second base to the outfield this spring, but now a return to second makes sense.

[RELATED: Can A's regroup after rough beginning to season?]

The A's are fortunate to have enough offensive depth to survive the loss of Olson, but the biggest impact will likely show up on defense. Olson's height and scooping ability at first base will be incredibly hard to replace.

Nonetheless, Oakland showed the ability to overcome injury adversity last season. The A's just have to do it again this year.

A's Chad Pinder is poised for breakout season following stellar spring

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USATSI

A's Chad Pinder is poised for breakout season following stellar spring

Remember that old cartoon where Bugs Bunny played every position on a baseball field? That's basically Chad Pinder.

Last season, the A's utility man spent time in left field, center field, right field, third base, shortstop, second base, and first base. Don't be surprised to see him complete the full defensive chart this year.

"My whole life, I've just considered myself a baseball player," Pinder said. "I don't really put a sticker on what position I play. Even in college, I was playing third and then jumped over to shortstop. My freshman year I spent some time in the outfield, and I grew up playing catcher. ... Whenever I get an opportunity to be out there, I try to make the most of it."

Pinder certainly made the most of his opportunity this spring. The 26-year-old hit .355 (11-for-31) with two home runs, seven doubles, and 11 RBI. Last season he slashed .258/.332/.436 with 13 homers and 27 RBI in 298 at-bats.

"He's an offensive force," A's manager Bob Melvin told reporters. "Each and every year, he's able to acclimate to what is the toughest role for position players and he handles it beautifully, especially for a younger guy who's used to playing every day in the minor leagues. To be able to do this is pretty phenomenal."

Pinder will once again play a utility role for the A's, filling in on the infield and the outfield whenever someone gets hurt or needs a day off. Now entering his third full major league season, he has become much more comfortable in that role and appears poised for the best year of his career.

"We have a very strong lineup, which is why sometimes I feel like it's a little hard for me to break in every once in a while," Pinder laughed. "But that's a good problem to have. And when you win 97 games, all you want is a part of that. You just want to be a small part of it."

Pinder has been more than a small part of the A's success and that figures to continue this year. Not only does he provide depth at every position, but his bat is a major weapon off the bench in late-game situations.

[RELATED: Why Jesús Luzardo joining A's rotation increases]

While Pinder will move around from position to position, he should earn more playing time this season, especially if he keeps swinging the bat the way he did this spring.

Melvin probably put it best: "We continue to move him around, he continues to be productive."

A's 2019 projections: Can versatile Chad Pinder improve on solid 2018?

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AP

A's 2019 projections: Can versatile Chad Pinder improve on solid 2018?

Editor's note: Over the next few weeks, NBC Sports California will be analyzing a different A's player each day to project their numbers for next season.

Chad Pinder played just about everywhere for the A's last season. The 26-year-old spent time at every position except pitcher and catcher.

Pinder's versatility allowed him to play in 110 games, including 77 starts. He slashed .258/.332/.436 with 13 home runs, 12 doubles, and 27 RBI.

The right-hander figures to once again serve as a utility man for the A's in 2019. He will likely spend most of his time in the outfield, but could also fill in on the infield whenever someone needs a day off.

Pinder will probably get the majority of his starts against left-handed pitchers. Last season against southpaws, he slashed .289/.368/.467 along with six home runs and six doubles in 135 at-bats.

He also fared much better as a starter than substitute last year. In his 77 starts, Pinder slashed .281/.355/.473, compared to just .105/.171/.184 as a replacement.

[RELATED: Kyler Murray, A's to reportedly meet ahead of NFL draft deadline]

Baseball Reference projects Pinder to hit .249/.316/.429 next season with 15 home runs, 17 doubles, and 42 RBI. That seems pretty reasonable, given his limited starts.

We have already seen the raw power Pinder possesses. He crushed a 460-foot bomb at the Coliseum in 2017, and clubbed a pair of 448-foot blasts later that year. His main challenge will be finding consistency despite inconsistent playing time.

Projection: .261/.332/.439, 16 HR, 18 doubles, 46 RBI