Rosterbation - What Can Brown Do For You?

With a little over a month to go until the A's have their first spring training game, and less than a month after that have their first game vs the RedSox in Japan, and having received a couple of requests to "do your f*cking lineup thing", I decide the time was ripe to take another look at our will look at come April. The big question however, the one that is on everone's mind? Will Zonis be able to finish this Rosterbation before either his bag of Sunflower Seeds or the Double Gulp he's chugging down comes up empty? Time will tell.

The A's final roster appears to be as of yet unknown. There are lots of battles for lots of positions. But despite appearances, with all the rebuild talk around us, the A's probably have a pretty good idea what the roster will look like come April 15th. I say April 15th, because I am going to go with the assumption that the A's will not bring Justin Duchscherer and Chad Gaudin's ailing hips with them to Japan, preferring them to rest in Oakland for the time being. The A's will probably go with another couple of players for their first two games, leaving Duchscherer and Gaudin on the DL till game 3 of the year, and perhaps till game 5 when they will finally be called upon to pitch.

I will also be laboring under the hefty assumptions that the A's will not lose their entire roster in spring training, that Rich Harden will somehow last more than 2 weeks in the A's rotation, that Eric Chavez's back was put back into his body after his surgeries and that Bobby Crosby is infact alive somewhere. I will also assume that there will be no major trades, a risky thing to do, and which I will likely be proven wrong tomorrow morning.

In our Roster Construction, we will need to widdle down our roster to its primary functions, to see what we need on the roster. I will lay out another set of assumptions about the roster.

-We will need 5 Starters.
-We will carry 7 Relief Pitchers, two of which are capable of going long, and two of which are capable of closing games.
-Five players capable of at least pretending to be outfielders on a regular basis, including at least two capable of playing Center Field.
-Two Middle Infielders
-At Two Corner Infielders
-Two Utility Infielders capable of, combined, playing all four infield positions.
-Two Catchers

To put that in a visual form, we would need a roster that looked like this;

C1 Catcher
1B First Base
2B Second Base
3B Third Base
SS Short Stop
LF Left Field
CF Center Field
RF Right Field

C2 Backup Catcher
IF Backup Infielder
IF Backup Infielder
CF Backup Centerfielder
OF Backup Outfielder

SP First Starter
SP Second Starter
SP Third Starter
SP Fourth Starter
SP Fifth Starter

CL Closer
SU Setup Man
SU Setup Man
MR Middle Relief
MR Middle Relief
LR Long Man
LR Long Man

As our team is in the American League, we will have to deal with the Designated Hitter as well. Our Designated Hitter can be used, potentially, in a utility role later in the game (giving up the DH) or in another game if we need to rotate someone out.

Now, lets take that roster, and fill in the "Locks", the players we know will be with the team come April 15th.

C1 Kurt Suzuki
1B Daric Barton
2B Mark Ellis
3B Eric Chavez
SS Bobby Crosby
LF Left Field
CF Chris Denorfia
RF Travis Buck

C2 Rob Bowen
IF Donnie Murphy
IF Jack Hanahan
OF Emil Brown
OF Jack Cust

SP Joe Blanton
SP Rich Harden
SP Chad Gaudin
SP Justin Duchscherer
SP Fifth Starter

CL Huston Street
SU Alan Embree
SU Andrew Brown
MR Kiko Calero
MR Santiago Casilla
LR Dan Meyer
LR Lenny DiNardo

All those players are either under major league contract or out of options (or both). But that leaves only one roster spot open, possibly two. One for a Pitcher, and one for an Outfielder. But wait, there is one person to whom we have forgot to include in this discussion. The one who is to blame for Fremont.

Dan Johnson.

Dan Johnson is an enigma. He puts up better than Quad A Stats in Triple A, has bizzare health ailments even for A's standards, tears up the league the first two weeks he is in the Majors, and then tanks afterwords. From a fan scouting perspective, we've all come to the obvious conclusion about DJ. He is a great player in AAA, but he tends to pull everything to the right side, on the ground, where he is thrown out easily. Because he does this so often, though it works in AAA, MLB teams shift on him and it makes it impossible for him to get a hit with out hitting it over the wall. Can Dan Johnson become a good Major League Hitter? Its possible, but DJ is out of options, and if the A's carried him, would be forced to stick him at Designated Hitter, playing Jack Cust in the outfield and using Emil Brown as the sole Outfielder on the bench capable of playing Centerfield to back up Denorfia.

And Johnson has two players to compete for a roster spot with; Carlos Gonzalez, acquired in the Dan Haren trade, and Ryan Sweeney, acquired in the Nick Swisher trade. Both are able to play a passable Centerfield. But both also have their drawbacks.

Carlos Gonzalez is expected to start the year in Triple A Sacramento. Many believe he is not ready for the Majors yet, but will be ready in mid year. This is half the reasoning behind the A's signing of Emil Brown, to fill in the gap until Gonzalez makes it to the Majors while giving the A's a replacement for Bobby Kielty, a right handed bat off the bench.

Ryan Sweeney is a 22 Year Old Right Fielder who is capable, just as Gonzalez is, of playing a passable Centerfield for the next two or three years. Sweeney has stalled offensively in the minors, mainly with his power, but hits Right Handed Pitching well enough to form a Platoon with Emil Brown. He is also a good defensive Right Fielder, like Gonzalez. But wasting service time with Ryan Sweeney won't do much for the A's future, and Sweeney will likely be the A's 4th or 5th outfielder for years to come anyways. The only question is if the A's should keep him in Triple A another year to fix his swing and get him to hit for more power, or to take what they got now and hope he develops in the Majors.

Both Gonzalez and Sweeney have a big advantage of Dan Johnson in that they can both play above average defense in the outfield, while also serving as a backup for Chris Denorfia. Gonzalez can start in an outfield slot, which might be beneficial, but it might be equally beneficial to go with a Platoon of the Right Handed Emil Brown, if not only to keep Brown happy and to keep the Fragile A's rested, along with the Left Handed Dan Johnson or Ryan Sweeney.

The A's might, if things turn out well, have a replacement Center Fielder ready by mid 2008 or beginning of 2009 in Aaron Cunningham, so that is another thing to keep in mind.

Ryan Sweeney has one option remaining, if I count correctly. Carlos Gonzalez has Two or Three, but Johnson has none. If Sweeney is picked, Johnson has to go. I see the A's sending Dan Johnson packing, either during Spring Training or right after the season starts and they are forced to reactivate Duchscherer and Gaudin. It does more to improve the teams chances to win, and improve the stats of A's pitchers for trade purposes, to have a solid defensive outfield (IE: Cust at DH) than to have Johnson remain on the team. It also makes more sense for the A's to keep Carlos Gonzalez in the minors till mid season to keep another year of service time and to make sure he is ready, and to use the expendable Ryan Sweeney and go with a Platoon.

There is one other roster battle that will likely go on in Spring Training, that with the final remaining pitching slot.

That Pitching slot can take the form of the Fifth Starter or Back End Relief slot depending on the outcome of the battle.

The Fifth Starter battle will likely have a laundry list of candidates, but it also has its effect on the Bullpen. A few of those potential Fifth Starters are currently slotted to be in the Bullpen, and if they are chosen, it frees up a slot for a non-starter, such as Jerry Blevins or our Rule 5 Draft Pick Fernando Hernandez (A's sure like those WhiteSox prospects, eh?).

The 5th Starter battle will likely end up between LHP Dan Meyer, LHP Dana Eveland (Haren trade), LHP Lenny DiNardo, LHP Greg Smith and LHP Dallas Braden. If Meyer or DiNardo win the slot, Eveland will likely have his last option used and sent to spend the year in Triple A, with Dallas Braden, Fernando Hernandez and Jerry Blevins competing for the final roster spot.

Ultimately, I think the A's decision will come down to which a few points. First will be if there is a clear winner for the 5th Starter competition, with one pitcher blowing someone else away. The second, and most probable situation, will be the A's having to decide which player they like better, Dana Eveland, whom they acquired in the Haren trade, presumably to fill out the rotation, and Fernando Hernandez, whom they took in the Rule 5 Draft and would have to give up if they do not keep him on the 25 man roster. This can go either way, but unless Dan Meyer or Lenny DiNardo win the 5th Starer slot outright, Duchscherer or Gaudin remain injured, or Harden pulls his annual random injury, it seems likely to me that the A's will not keep Hernandez and go with Dana Eveland in the 5th Starter slot.

My Projected Roster:

L 1B Daric Barton
R 2B Mark Ellis
L RF Travis Buck
L DH Jack Cust
R CF Chris Denorfia
L 3B Eric Chavez
L LF Ryan Sweeney
R C1 Kurt Suzuki
R SS Bobby Crosby

S C2 Rob Bowen
R SS Donnie Murphy
L 3B Jack Hanahan
R OF Emil Brown

R SP Joe Blanton
R SP Rich Harden
R SP Chad Gaudin
R SP Justin Duchscherer
L SP Dana Eveland

R CL Huston Street
L SU Alan Embree
R SU Andrew Brown
R MR Santiago Casilla
R MR Kiko Calero
L LR Dan Meyer
L LR Lenny DiNardo

Thats my Rosterbation and I'm sticking to it. Looks like the Double Gulp ran out first, so this post was with the sacrifice of my kidneys.

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