Here are a few ideas expressed by Oakland Athletics general manager David Forst over the last few months (paraphrasing):
- Chris Coghlan will be in the lineup most days, and he's capable of playing all the outfield positions, second base, and third base. He's a Tony Phillips-type (Forst said "Zobrist-type").
- Marcus Semien is the everyday shortstop, and Jed Lowrie and Danny Valencia will be the main players at second and third base "to some extent."
- Mark Canha will find his way to the plate appearances he deserves.
- Khris Davis is the everyday left fielder.
- Coco Crisp can be a backup center fielder, when healthy, and he'll also play some DH, when healthy, and he'll also pinch hit, when healthy.
- Billy Butler has been working diligently in his offseason conditioning and is expected to contribute.
If everyone stays healthy, there's a way for Bob Melvin to accomplish these goals if Eric Sogard is optioned to Triple-A and Sam Fuld is released at the end of spring training with 45 days pay, assuming each position gets 500 plate appearances against right-handers and 200 plate appearances against left-handers:
|Plate appearances estimate w/Chris Coghlan|
1B vs. LHP,
Coghlan's role is to be the occasional second baseman and backup second, third, right, and center.
Without Eric Sogard, Marcus Semien will need a backup for the occasions he needs a day off. Jed Lowrie is the only player capable of doing so on this roster. One hundred plate appearances at shortstop might be too many for Lowrie, as Semien was last year's ironman with 147 starts at the position.
Without Eric Sogard, Danny Valencia will need a backup at third base. While Jed Lowrie also plays third, it sounds like that's going to be Chris Coghlan's job as utility player. More third base chances for Coghlan also gives the A's another option if it turns out Danny Valencia's resurgence against right-handed pitching was a one-year fluke; Coghlan could move into a more traditional platoon with Valencia, instead.
If the A's are going to give Canha playing time in left field and as the platoon first baseman, the Chris Coghlan acquisition effectively limits Coco Crisp to designated hitter, very occasional time in center field, and pinch hitting opportunities. Bob Melvin loves using Crisp as a pinch hitter: Last year Crisp was 6-for-15 with a double and two walks in the pinch. For his career, Crisp is 13-for-40 with two doubles and 10 walks (.325/.460/.375).
Chris Coghlan could play left field, but Mark Canha does too. Bob Melvin should use any off days Khris Davis needs to play Canha in left field, given Coghlan's other opportunities. Mark Canha only gets 400 plate appearances, but that's more of a "We have too many good players" problem rather than a roster construction problem.
Billy Butler will be given a chance to perform as the designated hitter, though I have him splitting time with Coco Crisp and right-handers. If Butler does not do well against right-handers, Mark Canha has the most to gain. Right now, I've projected him to have a lot of open days against right-handed pitchers. One assumption I'm making is that Canha is a good hitter no matter the pitcher's handedness, and I don't trust the severe reverse split he had last year. That's not something he struggled with in the minor leagues.
If the table boggles your mind, just think of it in terms of a seven-game week where the A's face two left-handed pitchers and five right-handed pitchers, I've highlighted when Coghlan might play:
|vs. RHP||vs. LHP||vs. RHP||vs. RHP||vs. RHP||vs. LHP||vs. RHP|
That Crisp/Coghlan "Monday" in center field means each plays center field in place of Billy Burns once every 14 games, so that Burns has one day off for every seven games.
It works! This is fine! This is just an example week, but the A's have Bob Melvin to figure out the platoons from week to week, so it's no problem. Injuries and performance will blow this plan up over time, but it's a starting point.
Do the A's take a hit on defense by not having Sogard (or Fuld) available? I suppose, but Sogard's offense has been such a drag that it overwhelms whatever defensive gains he offers. I'll explore that in more detail in another analysis.