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Oakland Athletics 2020 Season Preview

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

The A’s will set their sights on winning the American League West for the first time since 2013

At long last, baseball is here.

It’s an unprecedented time for not only Major League Baseball, but the world itself. For over four months, the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the United States of America, forcing Major League sports to go on an extended hiatus.

That hiatus ends for the Oakland Athletics on Thursday night.

The 2020 Major League Baseball season will begin on Wednesday night when the New York Yankees face the Washington Nationals in the first baseball game since Game 7 of the 2019 World Series.

Oakland will play its first game on Thursday against Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels at The Coliseum.

Last season, the A’s racked up 97 wins for the second consecutive season–the most wins since the 2002 when the team went 103-59. Playing in the American League Wild Card Game for the second year in a row, Oakland fell victim to a dominant Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff, losing 5-1 back in October.

This season, Oakland will put forward a familiar roster that is more than capable of taking the American League West Division crown from the rival Houston Astros.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MLB implemented a shortened 60-game season–over 100 games shorter than a normal regular season.

While the shortened season can enhance a team’s chances of success, it also makes the room for error very, very slim. A three-game losing streak during a 162-game season might not hold much weight, but during a 60-game season it could prove to be a derailing sequence of events.

That being said, it’s a level playing field for all 30 teams–anything can happen for any franchise.

Let’s take a look at the roster Oakland will be rolling out for the 2020 season.

Roster Breakdown

The A’s will return eight of their starting nine position players in 2020, the one replacement being second-baseman Tony Kemp, whom the A’s acquired from the Chicago Cubs during the offseason.

Last year’s second-baseman Jurickson Profar was traded to the San Diego Padres in December after hitting 20 home runs for the A’s in 2019.

Based on the lineups that manager Bob Melvin rolled out in Oakland’s Summer Camp exhibitions, you can expect the following on Opening Day on Thursday:

  • SS – Marcus Semien
  • 3B – Matt Chapman
  • 1B – Matt Olson
  • DH – Khris Davis
  • CF – Ramon Laureano
  • LF – Robbie Grossman
  • RF – Stephen Piscotty
  • 2B – Tony Kemp
  • C – Sean Murphy

Utility-man Mark Canha will be worked into the lineup in most games, as was the case last season when he hit 26 home runs over 126 games. Chad Pinder will likely split time with Kemp at second base to go along with his work in the outfield.

Marcus Semien finished third in MVP voting in 2019 after a monster season (33 HR, 90 RBI, 10 SB, .285 AVG). The 29 year-old will be a free-agent at the end of the season.

Oakland’s ‘Golden Corners’ (Matt Chapman and Matt Olson) put on a show from both sides of the field last season.

Chapman secured his second Gold Glove Award and second Platinum Glove Award while hitting 36 home runs and driving in 91 runs. Olson claimed his second Gold Glove and hit 36 home runs in only 127 games.

Expect any one of Semien, Chapman or Olson to end the season in the thick of the MVP race.

Rookie catcher Sean Murphy has been looked at as one of the leading candidates for this year’s Rookie of the Year Award after hitting .293 in AAA last season. The 24 year-old hit four home runs over 20 appearances for the A’s last season.

The Rotation

  • Sean Manaea (LHP)
  • Frankie Montas (RHP)
  • Mike Fiers (RHP)
  • Chris Bassitt (RHP)
  • Daniel Mengden (RHP)
  • Jesus Luzardo (LHP)

Bob Melvin has tapped right-hander Frankie Montas for Opening Day against the Angels.

Montas went 9-2 last season with a 2.63 ERA in 2019, a season that saw the 27 year-old suspended for 80-games due to testing positive for a banned substance.

All eyes will be on A’s flamethrowing rookie Jesus Luzardo in 2020. The 21 year-old recently recovered from COVID-19 and will be brought along slowly, according to Melvin.

Sean Manaea will begin the season healthy after fully recovering from a shoulder injury. In 2018, the 28 year-old tossed a no-hitter in the midst of a season that saw him go 12-9 with a 3.59 ERA and 108 strikeouts.

In 2019, Manaea would return to appear in five games, sporting a 4-0 record with a 1.21 ERA over 29.2 innings.

Bullpen

Last season, Oakland found its closer in right hander Liam Hendriks.

The 2019 All-Star finished the season with a 1.80 ERA and 25 saves while striking out a whopping 13.1 batters per nine innings pitched.

Rejoining Hendriks in the bullpen this year will be the familiar faces of Yusmeiro Petit, Lou Trivino, Joakim Soria and Jake Diekman. Last season, the A’s bullpen finished seventh in the league in ERA (3.89), 13th in SO/9 (9.4) and ninth in saves (45).

Hard-throwing left-hander A.J. Puk will begin this season on the I.L due to an injury to his pitching shoulder.

The Schedule

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel will be limited over the span of the 60-game season.

This year, Oakland’s opponents will only be teams located on the West coast. American League West opponents will remain the same, with the A’s facing Houston, Seattle, Los Angeles and Texas for a majority of their schedule.

Along with their own division, Oakland will face the teams located in the National League West Division: the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres.

The possibilities for the Oakland Athletics are endless. With the Houston Astros wearing black eye for all of baseball and playing this season without the services of superstar Gerrit Cole, the A’s have a chance to dethrone Houston as the AL West Champions.

It all begins on Thursday night when Montas takes the bump against Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels.

Play ball.