In all of Billy Beane's wheelings and dealings this offseason, one area of the Oakland A's was left largely untouched: The outfield. Other than letting Jonny Gomes walk (an obvious decision), the A's made no moves with the outfield since re-acquiring Sam Fuld and jettisoning Yoenis Cespedes last year.
With Coco Crisp's spate of injuries taking up his entire spring and possibly 6 more weeks, it's looking more and more likely that the A's cannot depend on him to be a consistent contributor. Whether he is ready for Opening Day is questionable at best.
The A's other mainstay, right fielder Josh Reddick, will be out for at least the first week or two of the season as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him the entire spring.
The most likely scenario is that the A's will start Billy Burns, Sam Fuld, and Craig Gentry on Opening Day, or, start Sogard at second base and Zobrist in the outfield. Since I consider Sogard about as good of a hitter as Fuld or Burns, to me it's a net wash.
The rotation looks very strong, the infield is definitely much improved over the 2nd half 2014 debacle, the catcher defense seems to be better without sacrificing the offense, the bullpen is Gregerson and Johnson-free...but the outfield has me anxious.
It's not quite this:
But it seems pretty dang close. Too close for my comfort.
Ryan Sweeney, 2011: 93 wRC+
Gentry, Fuld, and Burns (AAA), 2014, combined: 75 wRC+
Oh crap. It's actually way worse. Not to mention the similar home run numbers. Which I won't mention. Because it's sad.
Sure, if we pencil in Crisp and Reddick for 500 PAs each at their normal above-average clips, the outfield looks like it will be around an average-hitting group. But we're talking about an average outfield in the rosiest scenario.
I can live with average if the infield is as advertised, if the DH actually benefits the team rather than representing the worst-hitting regular on any MLB team, and the pitching staff is nails. But without Crisp and Reddick, the A's are essentially inserting 3 fast, good fielding Eric Sogards into the lineup. A lineup can handle one Sogard. Perhaps even two. But three, especially in positions that tend to be occupied by run producers, gives me cause for concern. The defense will definitely help, but the outfield will need to be historically great at saving runs to make up for the dearth of offense.
As of now, it seems that the plan is 1) Hope Billy Burns has got the hang of that switch-hitting thing, which he didn't really do in AA and AAA last season, 2) Hope Craig Gentry bounces back to his solid 2013 numbers and avoids the injuries that limited him to just 93 games last season, 3) Hope Sam Fuld's decent 2014 hitting was not a mirage, and above all 4) Hope that Crisp and Reddick stay relatively healthy after their initial injuries.
Let's see...that's hope, hope, hope, and more hope.
I'll add a fifth hope, which Nico mentioned a few days ago: Hope that the A's add another outfielder.