2011 Oakland Athletics preview: Bullpen focus
Let’s first recap part I and part II:
I: Projected Starting Lineup
· RF – David DeJesus
· CF – Coco Crisp
· C – Kurt Suzuki
· DH – Hideki Matsui
· LF – Josh Willingham
· 1B – Daric Barton
· 3B – Kevin Kouzmanoff
· 2B – Mark Ellis
· SS – Cliff Pennington
II: Projected Starting Rotation
· SP – Trevor Cahill
· SP – Brett Anderson
· SP – Dallas Braden
· SP – Gio Gonzalez
· SP – Josh Outman
Part III: Projected Bench and Bullpen
· C – Landon Powell
· IF – Adam Rosales/Eric Sogard
· OF – Conor Jackson
· OF – Ryan Sweeney
· Closer – Andrew Bailey
· RP – Brian Fuentes
· RP – Grant Balfour
· RP – Craig Breslow
· RP – Rich Harden
· RP – Brad Ziegler
· RP – Michael Wuertz
– Harden is already injured and will not throw for at least the next two weeks. That leaves McCarthy and Outman as candidates for the fifth starting pitcher spot. Outman seems to be throwing well and is getting rave reviews from Suzuki. He looks to have the inside track at this moment.
– Powell, Sweeney and Jackson will no doubt be on the Opening Day roster and will be solid backups in their respective positions. Sweeney and Jackson were starters last year. If they are injured, C Josh Donaldson and 1B/LF Chris Carter will be the first ones called up as replacements.
– Sogard will start the season on Opening Day, but his spot will be taken if and when Adam Rosales comes back healthy from his surgery. Rosales can play all the positions besides C and he provides value to the A’s with his hustle. He is expected to be back in May.
– Bailey has been outstanding as A’s closer. He has converted 51 of 58 save opportunities in his career. Health is a concern for Bailey. He missed parts of last season and underwent elbow surgery in the offseason. If he stays healthy, he is one of the top closers in the AL. I expect him to get between 40-44 saves.
– If Bailey cannot stay healthy, I expect the A’s to go with closer-by-committee
– The pitcher with the most experience closing games is Brian Fuentes. He had 23 saves with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before getting traded to the Minnesota Twins. Fuentes finished with a 2.81 ERA and has 187 career saves to his credit. Left-handed batters bat .128 and right-handed batters bat .202 against him. If the A’s doesn’t go with a closer-by-committee, I expect Fuentes to get the nod.
– The other closer candidate will be Balfour, who had an excellent 2010 season with the Tampa Bay Rays. He pitched over 55 innings and had a 2.28 ERA. Right-handed batters bat .174 and left-handed batters bat .267 against him. But Balfour has never been a closer in his career. Will he get a chance if Bailey is injured?
– I expect Harden and Outman will be in the bullpen if they don’t get the nod as the fifth starter.
– The bullpen has the potential to be the best in baseball. They might have two or three left-handed relievers depending on who the fifth starter is. Manager Bob Geren can go to one of his lefties without worrying about what inning it is. That is a big advantage for the A’s.
– I expect the A’s to trade their relievers whether they stay in contention or not. They have an abundance of relievers and I have not mentioned Brad Ziegler, Brandon McCarthy, Joey Devine and Jerry Blevins. They could easily be in the bullpen instead of who I mentioned above. That’s how deep the A’s bullpen is.
Part IV: Projections and Predictions