Capsules of American League West teams, listed in order of finish last year:
2013: 96-66, 1st place, lost in division series.
Manager: Bob Melvin (fourth season).
He’s Here: LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Jim Johnson, RHP Luke Gregerson, LHP Eric O’Flaherty, INF Nick Punto, OF Craig Gentry, LHP Drew Pomeranz, OF Sam Fuld.
He’s Outta Here: RHP Bartolo Colon, RHP Grant Balfour, LHP Brett Anderson, LHP Jerry Blevins, OF Chris Young, OF Seth Smith, C Kurt Suzuki, RHP Pat Neshek, OF Michael Choice.
Projected Lineup: CF Coco Crisp (.261, 22, 66, 21 SBs), 3B Josh Donaldson (.301, 24, 93, 37 2Bs), SS Jed Lowrie (.290, 15, 75, 45 2Bs), LF Yoenis Cespedes (.240, 26, 80), 1B or DH Brandon Moss (.256, 30, 87), RF Josh Reddick (.226, 12, 56), DH or C John Jaso (.271, 3, 21), C Derek Norris (.246, 9, 30) or 1B Alberto Callaspo (.258, 10, 58 with Oakland and Los Angeles Angels) or 1B Daric Barton (.269, 3, 16), 2B Eric Sogard (.266, 2, 35) or 2B Nick Punto (.255, 2, 21 with Los Angeles Dodgers).
Rotation: RH Sonny Gray (5-3, 2.67), LH Scott Kazmir (10-9, 4.04), RH Jesse Chavez (2-4, 3.92), RH Dan Straily (10-8. 3.96), LH Tommy Milone (12-9, 4.14) or RH A.J. Griffin (14-10, 3.83 ERA, MLB-worst 36 HRs allowed).
Key Relievers: RH Jim Johnson (3-8, 2.94, 50/59 saves), RH Luke Gregerson (6-8, 2.71, 4 saves), LH Sean Doolittle (5-5, 3.13, 2 saves, .188 BA vs LH), RH Ryan Cook (6-4, 2.54, 2 saves), RH Dan Otero (2-0, 1.38).
Hot Spots: Starting rotation. What looked to be a strength heading into spring training was dealt serious blows in Arizona. Projected opening day starter Jarrod Parker was lost to a season-ending elbow injury and Griffin will also miss the start of the season with a strained right arm. Kazmir has also dealt with a sore left arm, leaving the rotation with many question marks heading into the season. Milone, who looked to be the odd man out at the start of spring, will be back in the rotation and Chavez should come out of the bullpen to fill Griffin’s spot for the first month or so. The A’s will count on Gray to deliver more performances like his dazzling nine-strikeout, no-run performance in Game 2 of the ALDS to make up for the absences.
Outlook: The low-budget A’s can no longer be considered a surprise after beating out their big-spending AL West rivals for the division title the past two seasons. Oakland came into spring training looking like the favorite again in the division but the injuries to the rotation cast a cloud over that. Luckily for the A’s, GM Billy Beane has acquired plenty of depth, especially in the bullpen led by new closer Johnson and setup man Gregerson. While Oakland lacks a big-name star in the lineup, the A’s still finished fourth in the majors in runs in part because of Melvin’s expert use of the platoon to gain an edge. Donaldson and Moss thrived last season and the A’s are hoping to get more a consistent performance from Cespedes and a bounce-back year from Reddick after a wrist injury slowed him for much of 2013.
2013: 91-72, second place.