I'm usually not one for predictions. Usually, my "feel good" predictions never come true and my "doomsday is upon us" ones actually do...
With that being said, I'm fairly confident in saying that I believe the future of the Athletics franchise will be a lot brighter on January 1st, 2013 than it will be in a matter of hours on January 1st, 2012. I base this big prediction on a number of small predictions that I see unfolding in the following manner over the next year:
Prediction 1 - February 2012: The A's will get clarity about their stadium situation - in the form of a "yes" vote to San Jose. The recent rebuild and public overtures of a decision already being made, coupled with the death of RDA's in California, makes this seem like the only logical result of this situation. I think that there is enough evidence to suggest that without San Jose, the A's will be a dead franchise, so that only a cash payment to the Giants needs to be worked out in the coming weeks.
Prediction 2 - Late March 2012: The A's will break camp with the following lineup and rotation and it will be better than people think!
2B - Weeks
1B - Barton
3B - Sizemore
DH - Carter
LF - Allen
CF - Cowgill
RF - Reddick
C - Suzuki
This lineup will be anything but a juggernaut and will likely be painful to watch on a frequent occasion...however, there is some upside in there and some power waiting to be unleashed. By and large, that's a decent defensive team as well. All in all, it's a team that is, I'll admit, relatively boring on paper, but a team that could hit for a bit of average, a bit of power, steal a bit of bases, get on base at a fair clip and defend relatively well. It's also a group that I fully predict will get better over time.
SP - Braden
SP - McCarthy
SP - Outman
SP - Moscoso
SP - Milone
This is a strike-throwing bunch that will either work quickly, take advantage of decent defense and the Oakland Coliseum for half their starts...or get hit around early and often. Either way, at least the outcome of the game won't hang in the balance very long with these guys taking up all the starts.
Prediction 3 - June 2012: The A's draft Kenny Dierkroeger 11th overall in the MLB draft.
This is a very tenuous prediction, but I'd love for this happen and for it to make sense for the A's...Diekroeger - a shortstop at Stanford - is a local product from Woodside, CA and a great athletic talent. He had a sensational freshman year in 2010, but a down year last year. He seems to have the talent to stay on the left-side of the infield long-term and could be kind of a Tolowitzki-lite if he reaches his full potential. Would love for him to have a bounceback year, solidify his defense, get drafted by the A's and develop in 2012, 2013 and 2014 into the A's shortstop of San Jose and beyond!
Prediction 4 - July 2012: Brett Anderson returns from Tommy John surgery successfully and spearheads a mini-overhaul of the A's starting rotation into the following form:
SP - Jarrod Parker
SP - Brett Anderson
SP - Sonny Gray
SP - Dallas Braden
SP - Brandon McCarthy
Prediction 6 - September 2012: A's finish third in the AL West, get another top-15 draft pick, but show gradual improvement over the course of the season to become a fashionable "up and comer" on the MLB Network during casual playoffs conversation.
Prediction 7 - November 2012: Dallas Braden and Brandon McCarthy are each extended for two years, with an option for a 3rd year in 2015.
Even with a bumper crop of young pitching prospects, the A's are going to need some stability in their rotation while the young guys go through some growing pains. Braden, while under team control through 2013, is the heart and soul of the franchise at this point, and if he gets through 2012 without major injury, should be rewarded and made the face of the rotation...he's worth more to the A's than anyone else and due to his contact-oriented approach and loyalty to the 209, would likely be well-suited to committ to Oakland for a few years. He also shouldn't brake the bank...ditto McCarthy.
Prediction 8 - December 2012: A's sign OF Nick Swisher to a 4-year free agent contract.
A little bit of my fandom died when Swish was traded so many years ago...there's no doubt the A's have gotten great value out of that trade, but something about the franchise has not been the same since that time. Swish is now a World Champion and still a great guy. He would be the ideal guy for the A's to bring in to help lead the position-player contingent of the rebuilding process mature and congeal in preparation of San Jose, while still retaining an Oakland-attitude and bent. He's an upbeat, blue-collar guy who has never said anything bad about Oakland...seems to have a good relationship with Beane and would likely get along swimmingly with Melvin. On the field, he would offer versatility at 4 positions - corner outfield, 1B and DH - with a solid glove, solid-average power and OBP with a proven track record of being able to hit in the Coliseum.
All in all, I am predicting good things for the A's in 2012. The win-loss record will be ugly, but we're used to that. I predict progressively more positive things to occur for the team as 2012 progresses, with the final result being the revealing of a core of solid, compelling veterans (Swish, Braden) leading a talented bumper crop of prospects into a 2013 full of promise and eventually a new stadium in San Jose...
(Don't tear down these dreams too quickly, guys...I've got one wish to make tomorrow on New Year's eve, so at least one of these 8 predictions will come true!)
Happy New Year's everyone!