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Updating the Oakland A’s lineup with Trevor Plouffe

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Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s are suddenly making moves at a rapid pace. After adding just one MLB player in the first two months of the offseason (Matt Joyce), they have now added three more in the last two weeks: OF Rajai Davis, 3B Trevor Plouffe, and RHP Santiago Casilla. We already talked about Rajai taking the leadoff spot, but let’s see how Plouffe fits into the lineup.

That tells us a lot about the defensive positioning, which is half the story. What about the batting order?

Here’s what we know about Plouffe as a hitter:

  • He hits for a low average (.247 career, .260 high)
  • He doesn’t get on base (.308 career OBP, .328 high)
  • He has power, but supplementary rather than team leading (averaged 17 HR last five years; high of 24 ... career .173 isolated slugging, .220 high)
  • He doesn’t add value on the bases (rates poorly on all of FanGraphs’ various speed and baserunning metrics)

Sounds like a No. 6-8 hitter to me, depending on the strength of the lineup. The following nine players seem to me like locks for the roster as things currently stand:

C Stephen Vogt
1B Ryon Healy
1B Yonder Alonso
2B Jed Lowrie
SS Marcus Semien
3B Trevor Plouffe
LF Khris Davis
CF Rajai Davis
RF Matt Joyce

That leaves room for four more. Let’s go with:

C Josh Phegley
C Bruce Maxwell
2B Joey Wendle
OF Jake Smolinski

There are other considerations. Will Phegley be healthy for the start of the season? Will Alonso stay now that Plouffe is here? Does it make sense to carry a third catcher (Maxwell) now that there’s an extra corner infielder on the roster? If we assume one rookie middle infielder makes the team, will it be Wendle or Chad Pinder? Does Smolinski get the 4th OF job, or is it Brett Eibner or someone else? Heck, are the A’s done adding players yet, or are there more trades and free agents to come?

For now, we’re working with those 13 players listed above. Wendle gets the nod for his superior defense, Smolinski is a reliable lefty masher (who also serves as the emergency backup CF in this setup), Phegley is the established guy until I hear specifically that he isn’t, and Maxwell can get some starts against RHP at the expense of Vogt, Alonso, or even Plouffe (by shifting Healy back into the field). The numbers listed are their career OPS marks against righties or lefties.

vs. RHP vs. LHP
CF Rajai (.660)
RF Joyce (.803)
DH Healy (.853)
LF Khrush (.814)
C Vogt (.759)
3B Plouffe (.697)
1B Alonso (.741)
SS Semien (.673)
2B Wendle (rookie)
CF Rajai (.780)
RF Smolinski (.866)
1B Healy (.886)
LF Khrush (.824)
3B Plouffe (.809)
SS Semien (.820)
C Phegley (.750)
DH Lowrie (.775)
2B Wendle (rookie)

Should be a fun year against lefties! Too bad they only make up about a quarter to a third of all the starters the A’s will see. Meanwhile, righties might pose more of a challenge, even if Joyce plays up to his strength and Healy repeats his breakout performance. If one or both falters, then things could get ugly.

You can flip-flop Plouffe and Semien in either lineup as you see fit; I gave Plouffe the edge due to veteran-ness and OBP. With Maxwell on board (i.e., second lefty catcher), it’s tough to fill the DH spot against southpaws. Carrying Pinder instead of Maxwell (or instead of Alonso) would mean still having a spare infielder if Lowrie DHs.

As you can see, there are lots of variables remaining and questions to be answered, not to mention a grip of prospects knocking on the door. But what do you think of that work-in-progress lineup? What would you change given the current cast, and who would you still add through trade or free agency to improve it?