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For better or for worse: Which Oakland A's hitters can hope to improve?

These two can be better than league-average.
These two can be better than league-average.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

As if Mondays weren't already the worst, Tim Eckert-Fong started the morning by reminding us that the Oakland A's have the worst defense in the entire sport. Dang. On the bright side, having some all-bat no-glove players means the A's have a good offense, right?

12th out of 15 AL team in runs and wRC+

Okay, let's not look at team-wide stats. Let's just run through each of the hitters and see which ones can be reasonably expected to get better or worse from here. They are arranged from best to worst on the scale of wRC+, with 100 being average and the higher the better.

Danny Valencia, 3B | 165 wRC+

We're at the point where it's becoming safe to accept that Valencia is for real, in the sense that he has made some adjustments to his game and seized his current opportunity. For the time being, we can trust that he'll continue being a good hitter. This good, though? He doesn't seem likely to hit .343 all year, so his overall numbers will surely come down a bit. He may well continue to be the best hitter on the team, but he will probably be a bit worse from here on out, and it's possible for both things to be true. Likely to be: Worse

Josh Reddick, RF | 134

He hurt himself on May 19, so let's hope to see him back sometime in July.

Marcus Semien, SS | 107

Nine of Semien's 11 homers have come with the bases empty, so he's better with lower pressure, right? But his OPS is 150 points higher with men on base and he's hit a healthy .280 with runners in scoring position, so it's not like he shuts down when the situation gets larger. Either way, he's still leading the team in walks and showing a lot of power, and his batting average (.235) will continue to rise as his BABIP (.260) moves closer to his career norm. A 120 wRC+ could be attainable here. Likely to be: Better

Jed Lowrie, 2B | 104

Jed finally homered! It went exactly one row past the right-field wall in Houston. He's getting by as a high-average slap hitter now, and it's working to the tune of a .308 clip so far. If he can keep that up, he will continue to be worth having in the starting lineup, and he could even become a desirable target at the trade deadline. Likely to be: About the same

Stephen Vogt, C | 102

After a slow start, Vogt is finally heating up. He's currently on an 11-game hitting streak, in which he's got a .973 OPS. But what he's still missing are the walks and the homers -- he doesn't hit for a high enough average for it to carry his OBP on its own, and without the 18 dingers from yesteryear he's not really a middle-of-the-order bat. The most likely scenario is that 2015 will prove to be his career-best season, but we've seen him get really hot for a couple months at a time and I still envision him getting his wRC+ into the 110 range when all is said and done. Likely to be: Slightly better

Khris Davis, LF | 100

All of those homers and Davis still rates as just league-average. That's because he has the eighth-worst OBP (.265) out of 175 qualified MLB hitters, which itself is partly a product of having the fifth-worst walk rate (2.8%) and the 15th-highest strikeout rate (27.0%). In raw terms that's 6 walks to 58 strikeouts, and that ratio simply must improve. This really is who Davis is -- swinging so hard his helmet falls off, and sometimes connecting for a dinger -- but it's still an extreme outcome. Smart money is that he'll draw a few extra walks as time goes on and get that wRC+ a few points clear of average. Likely to be: Slightly better

Josh Phegley, C | 87

He simply hasn't played much. He was already getting sporadic time before missing a couple weeks on the DL, and he's only played three games since returning May 28. He showed a quality bat last year and I expect we'll see that shine through again once he's back in his rhythm and getting regular at-bats. Likely to be: Better

Coco Crisp, OF | 82

If you'd shown me Coco's current numbers at the beginning of the season, I would have taken them in a heartbeat. He's still able to bang out some hits, the home run pop remains, and he can swipe a bag now and then. But this is probably as good as it gets from here on out, not to mention the healthiest. Likely to be: About the same, while healthy

Jake Smolinski, OF | 72

He's got a few more weeks until Reddick comes back. Can he earn himself a longer look? We've seen him get hot before, but so far this year he just hasn't done much in the majors or minors. Don't hold your breath waiting for him. Likely to be: Not playing much

Billy Butler, 1B | 70

I mean, he can't get worse, right? Right? Likely to be: Slightly better

Yonder Alonso, 1B | 69

He's down in Sogard/Fuld territory in terms of wRC+, making him a defensive specialist more or less by definition. He's got a .746 OPS on the road, and a .416 mark at home. That probably doesn't mean anything, but do with it what you will. He was mired in a 5-for-36 slump ever since returning from his hot East Coast road trip in early May, but he went 6-for-12 in the series at Houston over the weekend. He's probably not allergic to the Coliseum, and he's definitely a better hitter than this. Likely to be: Better

Billy Burns, CF | 64

He's hitting the ball about the same as he did last year. He's even striking out less. But he's not ending up with as many hits, and that could be because teams are learning how to adjust to his style. He's hitting .284 when teams don't shift against him, but when they employ a "Non-traditional shift" (presumably, one that is tailored toward his slappy ways) that figure drops to .246. Can he adjust back and figure out a way around the defense? We'll see. At the very least he'll probably get a few more lucky hops than he has to this point. Likely to be: Slightly better

Chris Coghlan, Util | 35

Coghlan used to hit for a high average for the Marlins. Then he went back to the drawing board and reinvented his entire game to be become a more patient hitter with power. And it worked, for two years! The point is that this is a guy who knows hitting and is willing and able to make serious adjustments. He'll figure something out, even if it's too late to make any real difference for the A's. Likely to be: Better

Tyler Ladendorf, Util | -66

He's 1-for-20 (with a walk!) in his limited at-bats. He has a 0.00 ERA, though! Likely to be: Not playing much


Adding it up, out of 11 total hitters rated: 4 hitters should be better, 4 more should be slightly better, 2 should be about the same, and 1 should be worse. Or nothing has to follow any logic and they can all continue to be disappointing, just like last year's bullpen. Sports are the best!


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