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5 A's

Author:

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP OAKLAND

If the A's are .500, that's a great year because it means they're seeing progress.... The expectation level was pretty high coming into spring due to the early success of Matt Olson and Matt Chapman last year. They were talking about putting the c on Chapman's chest; he's everything they want as a representative of the organization. He still has work to do with the bat, but he's in that group of elite defensive third basemen.... Olson's swing is unorthodox, but he can flick the bat quickly through the zone and could emerge as a big bopper to complement Khris Davis.... One of the big questions is who is going to play centerfield, Jorge Mateo or Dustin Fowler. Fowler injured his knee last year, but it doesn't look as if he has a limp. If he's their everyday guy in center, they have to be excited about the offense.... Starting pitching is the big concern. They have a lot of kids trying to prove themselves in the bigs. It'll be hard for Kendall Graveman to lose the No. 1 job. Sean Manaea is a strong lefty, but he's inconsistent. If it were me, I'd start [6'7", 22-year-old lefty] A.J. Puk on Opening Night [the A's sent Puk, their No. 1 prospect, to minor league camp on March 18].... Jed Lowrie had a great year and can contribute to a winning team, but if they struggle, they should play Franklin Barreto at short. He can really rake.

THE PAYOFF PITCH

When the A's landed Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty in December for two minor leaguers, the hook was that he would be coming home to the Bay Area, where his mother is fighting ALS. But the trade wasn't just for the benefit of Piscotty's family. In taking advantage of the outfield logjam in St. Louis, Oakland added a hitter who has shown power (22 homers in 2016), plate discipline (13% walk rate in '17) and the ability to hit for average (.305 in '15) ... just never in the same season. In addition to being far from home after his mother received her diagnosis last May, Piscotty was mishandled by manager Mike Matheny and should have gotten more at bats. Now closer to his mom and assured of playing every day, the 27-year-old Piscotty will emerge as a star.

OVER / UNDER

75

The A's have something good going with their young corner infielders, but they are still another wave of prospects away from a real run at respectability.

THE LINEUP

1. SHORTSTOP

Marcus Semien

.252 BA/21 HR/11 SB

2. LEFTFIELD

Matt Joyce

.236 BA/.428 SLG/18 HR

3. SECOND BASE

Jed Lowrie

.261 BA/.402 SLG/11 HR

4. DH

Khris Davis

.249 BA/.505 SLG/36 HR

FANTASY BREAKOUT

5. FIRST BASE

Matt Olson

.236 BA/.478 SLG/32 HR

The 23-year-old mashed 24 homers in 59 games last year as a rookie. His power is real.

6. RIGHTFIELD

Stephen Piscotty

.254 BA/17 HR/6 SB

7. THIRD BASE

Matt Chapman

.226 BA/.448 SLG/27 HR

8. CATCHER

Jonathan Lucroy

.273 BA/11 HR/2 SB

9. CENTERFIELD

Dustin Fowler

.256 BA/11 HR/14 SB

THE STAFF

1. RH STARTER

Kendall Graveman

9 W/4.77 ERA/1.44 WHP

2. LH STARTER

Sean Manaea

9 W/4.43 ERA/1.36 WHP

3. RH STARTER

Paul Blackburn

4 W/4.95 ERA/1.49 WHP

4. RH STARTER

Daniel Mengden

7 W/4.83 ERA/1.43 WHP

CLOSER

Blake Treinen

22 SV/3.74 ERA/8.7 K9

THE SKIPPER

Bob Melvin