We're just a few days away from the much-anticipated moment when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training! The A's haven't yet lost a game all season, and maybe more importantly, they haven't even suffered an injury! I'm going to Spring Training in three weeks, and I'm curious what I should look for this year. Last year, the 25-man roster was in chaos until Jack Cust surprisingly started the season in Triple-A (does that feel like 10 years ago?), but this year looks to be much more stable.
However, the fifth spot in the starting rotation is still very much up for grabs, Ryan "Emptiest .300 Hitter of All Time" Sweeney is fighting for the fourth outfield position, Chris "Going To Be A Superstar" Carter probably won't even make the club, and there are far too many bullpen arms than there are open roster spots.
What will the pitching rotation and lineup look like on April 1?
-- Jason M., San Jose, Calif.
In a perfect world, the rotation will be filled out by Cahill -- his 2010 campaign presumably equals Opening Day starter status -- along with Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Braden and either Harden or Josh Outman as the fifth starter. The lineup could be written several ways, but I think this is a definite possibility: Coco Crisp (CF), Daric Barton (1B), DeJesus (RF), Josh Willingham (LF), Hideki Matsui (DH), Kurt Suzuki (C), Kouzmanoff (3B), Mark Ellis (2B), Cliff Pennington (SS). Granted, that's assuming all of the above are healthy come April.
Well, if that's set in stone, Spring Training is going to be boring. But...is it?
First of all, I still think the fifth starter job will be between Rich Harden and Brandon McCarthy. I don't think one Spring is enough for Josh Outman--who was a rookie pitcher at the time of his injury--to prove that he can be Major League effective; he hasn't been in a MLB game in almost two years. I think Cahill, Gonzalez, Braden and Anderson are obvious shoe-ins, and just to be different, I'll pick Braden to get the Opening Day nod.
I love that Ryan Sweeney isn't starting, and will actually be wildly curious to see if the demotion changes anything in his game. Granted, just because Sweeney looks like he could have some pop in his bat doesn't mean that it will ever be in his repertoire, but wouldn't it be great if something could bring that out? David DeJesus is one of my favorite players (from years of his stellar play on Team Oaktown in Fantasy Baseball), and I'm excited about seeing Willingham and Matsui in green and gold.
I'm also curious how our bullpen will look on April 1st, and I still wonder if Bailey will start the season. If he doesn't, who would you use to close?
So what am I looking for this season in Spring Training? Who is going to surprise me? Any non-roster invitees that I should pay attention to? Now that we're in February and Spring Training is literally right around the corner, what is the one player that you look most forward to seeing this March? And if you could foretell one surprise out of this Spring--make a prediction--what would it be?