Jorge Mateo

Bob Melvin confident in A's young depth heading into Winter Meetings

Bob Melvin confident in A's young depth heading into Winter Meetings

The A's are at the MLB Winter Meetings with eyes on providing manager Bob Melvin with even more options to fill out his lineup, but it's not as if he doesn't have plenty to choose from already.

Whether it's the starting rotation, the infield or the outfield, Oakland possesses great depth at many positions, and a lot of that depth is young.

Both Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk made their long-awaited debuts for the A's last season, and Melvin told NBC Sports California that both are expected to be in the starting rotation when the season commences. Just how many players are a member of that rotation remains to be seen, however.

"I think anything is possible for us," Melvin said of the rotation. "We like to get a little bit creative. I think ideally guys like to be in a five-man rotation, it allows them to prepare. But whether it's the piggybacking-type thing, whether it's a six-man rotation for a period of time ... anything creative I think we would potentially look at, but I think as we go into the season right now, we'd probably look at a five-man rotation to start."

One would imagine that both Sean Manaea and Mike Fiers have been earmarked for two more spots in the starting rotation, as might Frankie Montas. Melvin also mentioned players like Chris Bassitt, Daulton Jeffries and James Kaprielian as additional pitching options.

That depth extends to the infield, as well. The A's were so confident in their second-base options that they felt comfortable trading the versatile Jurickson Profar to the Padres. Between Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo, Sheldon Neuse and even Chad Pinder, Oakland has several bodies to consider pairing with shortstop Marcus Semien in the middle of the infield. The trouble is, each of them bats right-handed, as does the vast majority of the A's current lineup. That doesn't seem to concern Melvin too much, though.

"I think we're always looking potentially for another left-handed bat in a little bit of a right-handed dominant lineup," Melvin explained, "but we're comfortable with the guys we have right now and we feel like we have multiple options."

The A's manager went on to admit that, in a perfect world, Oakland would be able to add a few left-handers, particularly considering the abundance of dominant right-handed starters in the AL West. The Angels reportedly are pursuing Gerrit Cole, and he could be the best of the bunch. The A's are aware of what their competitors are doing at the Winter Meetings, but they have reason to be confident.

[RELATED: Why Yankees offering Cole $245M is good for Giants, A's]

"We keep an eye on the teams in our division," Melvin said. "We keep our eyes on every team in the league, but at the end of the day, it's about what we can do to enhance our club and make our club better. You're talking about a club that's won 97 games two years in a row, so we feel pretty good about where we're at."

The A's already possess a deep roster, but perhaps with an addition or two, a deep playoff run could be in store.

Why A's prospect Jorge Mateo could be valuable MLB offseason trade chip

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USATSI

Why A's prospect Jorge Mateo could be valuable MLB offseason trade chip

Marcus Semien was a revelation for the A’s in 2019. The San Francisco native finished third in AL MVP voting and was a Gold Glove finalist at shortstop.

However, after back-to-back seasons ending in an AL Wild Card Game loss, Oakland knows it needs more to reach the next level.

Jorge Mateo, the A’s No. 4 prospect, is a promising shortstop with an 80-speed grade and a strong arm. However, the 24-year-old is out of minor league options and isn’t anywhere close to cracking the A’s starting lineup with Semien looking like a potential cornerstone if Oakland chooses to re-sign him.

That and Mateo’s legs make him an intriguing trade chip, according to MLB.com, as a team needing some top-of-the-line speed and fielding on the bench might be captivated enough to make a move for him. Oakland did that in 2017, when it acquired Mateo from the Yankees in 2017 as part of the Sonny Gray trade.

The A’s have a strong lineup coming back, but they will need to shore up their pitching staff, especially the bullpen, after a season in which they blew 31 saves, tied for the most in MLB.

[RELATED: Report: Yankees are one interested team in A's Treinen]

Mateo had 62 extra-base hits and stole 24 bases a season ago, and he could be part of a package for a significant upgrade to the major league roster.

A's top prospect ranking: Why Jorge Mateo comes in at No. 5 overall

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AP

A's top prospect ranking: Why Jorge Mateo comes in at No. 5 overall

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine the top 10 prospects in the A's organization. For each player, we will provide a scouting report and a realistic timetable for reaching the major leagues, as well as what he needs to do to stay there.

No. 5 - Jorge Mateo, SS/2B

Mateo had a breakout season at Triple-A Las Vegas, slashing .289/.330/.504 with 19 home runs, 29 doubles, and 78 RBI in 119 games. The 24-year-old also showcased his elite speed with 14 triples and 24 stolen bases.

Mateo originally signed with the Yankees in 2012 as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic. He came to the A's in 2017, along with Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian, in exchange for Sonny Gray.

Now back to that elite speed -- MLB Pipeline gives Mateo a perfect 80 grade for his running ability. Mateo also boasts a plus arm and fielding ability at shortstop, though he has experience playing second base and even center field as well. That could allow him to become a valuable utility player if a starting middle infield job doesn't work out.

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With the A's uncertain situation at second base, Mateo should have an opportunity to compete for the starting job in 2020. This year's starter Jurickson Profar struggled for most of the season and is a realistic non-tender option.

That would leave Mateo, Franklin Barreto, and Sheldon Neuse battling for playing time next season. Of course, the shortstop position could also open up in the future if the A's don't sign Marcus Semien to an extension -- the 29-year-old is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season.

[RELATED: A's No. 6 prospect -- Robert Puason]

Mateo must continue to improve his approach at the plate, ideally becoming a more patient hitter. He struck out 145 times this season, compared to just 29 walks. Those numbers won't allow him to fully utilize his blinding speed, which along with his defense should be his ticket to the big leagues.

At the very least, Mateo's running ability and defensive versatility will allow him to contribute to the A's in some role next year. Whether he can earn consistent playing time remains to be seen.