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Oakland A’s set 2018 Opening Day roster

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Who will suit up against the Angels on Thursday?

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The offseason is past, spring training is done, and the regular season is only 24 hours away, but Wednesday brought the one thing that really makes it all feel official: the Oakland A’s announced their 2018 Opening Day roster!

After months of debating and speculating, we finally know which 25 players will suit up on Thursday against the Angels. First, a few precursor moves to set the scene:

  • Late addition Trevor Cahill will open in Triple-A while he finishes getting ready for a starter’s workload.
  • Outfield prospect Dustin Fowler will open in Triple-A while he finishes tuning up after a long injury recovery.
  • Out-of-options pitcher Raul Alcantara didn’t make the cut, but he cleared waivers and was outrighted back to Triple-A. He remains in the organization but is off the 40-man roster.
  • The other notable cut was outfielder Mark Canha, who was optioned to Triple-A. This is only his second option year, so he’ll have one more remaining in 2019.
  • There is now one spot open on the 40-man roster.

Here’s the full rundown.

Starting rotation

  1. Kendall Graveman (R)
  2. Sean Manaea (L)
  3. Daniel Gossett (R)
  4. Daniel Mengden (R)
  5. Andrew Triggs (R)

That’s the starting five for now, in that order. However, there are two more key names in the picture: Paul Blackburn opens on the 10-day DL due to a forearm strain, and Trevor Cahill opens in Triple-A. There’s still a tiny margin of depth left in this group, before getting to non-roster longshots like Brett Anderson, Frankie Montas, and Chris Bassitt. The farm was expected to help too, but A.J. Puk is lost for the year and Grant Holmes is out of action for now as well.

Graveman gets the nod on Opening Day, for the second straight year. He and Manaea have the most experience in this group, but both are still searching for consistency in both performance and health. Gossett and Mengden have taken their lumps in their initial MLB trials, and are looking to take steps forward in their first full season — as will Blackburn, when he returns to the picture. Triggs is a converted reliever who looks good when healthy, but how many starts can he handle before breaking down? Cahill is in a similar boat, re-establishing himself as a starter after moving to the bullpen for a couple years.

Bullpen

  • Blake Treinen (R) (CL)
  • Yusmeiro Petit (R)
  • Emilio Pagan (R)
  • Liam Hendriks (R)
  • Chris Hatcher (R)
  • Santiago Casilla (R)
  • Ryan Buchter (L)
  • Danny Coulombe (L)

The eight-man bullpen is back, for better or worse. Beyond this group, righty Ryan Dull opens on the DL with a shoulder problem. The only other pure reliever on the 40-man roster is flamethrowing righty prospect Lou Trivino. After them, the non-roster depth includes names like Raul Alcantara, Simon Castro, Jake Sanchez, Bobby Wahl, and J.B. Wendelken. Some of the 40-man starting depth could also theoretically see time in relief (Bassitt, Montas, etc.).

Treinen lines up as the closer for now, but he still has to prove he can handle that role full-time. Beyond that, we’ll have to wait to see how the setup crew shakes out — who will settle in as the go-to guy(s) for the 7th and 8th innings? The offseason addition of Buchter at least gives the pen a second lefty.

Catchers

  • Jonathan Lucroy (R)
  • Bruce Maxwell (L)

This is pretty straightforward. Josh Phegley opens on the DL, and Dustin Garneau serves as backup on the 40-man. Lefty hitter Beau Taylor is the next depth in line after them.

Infielders

  • Matt Olson (L) | 1B
  • Jed Lowrie (S) | 2B
  • Marcus Semien (R) | SS
  • Matt Chapman (R) | 3B
  • Chad Pinder (R) | UT

This is probably the strongest area of the team. Lowrie was statistically the A’s best player last season, and Semien is a perpetual breakout candidate. Olson and Chapman burst onto the scene last summer and could be fighting for Team MVP by year’s end. Pinder is an excellent super-sub on the bench, with versatility in the field and power at the plate. The offense is good-to-excellent all around the horn, and the defense is elite on the corners and acceptable up the middle.

Some of the next wave of young talent is already on the 40-man, too. No-defense slugger Renato Nunez opens on the DL with a pulled hammy, but he’s out of minor league options and the A’s will need to make a decision on him when he returns to health. Middle infield dynamos Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo will continue to develop in the minors, with Barreto particularly close to making the jump to MLB. The non-roster depth includes veteran journeyman utilityman Steve Lombardozzi, plus another big upcoming prospect in Sheldon Neuse (currently a 3B, but could move).

Outfielders

  • Khris Davis (R) | DH
  • Matt Joyce (L) | LF
  • Boog Powell (L) | CF
  • Stephen Piscotty (R) | RF
  • Jake Smolinski (R) | 4th/platoon

This group has come a long way considering how thin Oakland’s outfield was the last couple years. Piscotty and Joyce should be strong bats on the corners, and Powell gets first crack in center after a promising audition last summer. Smolinski is the backup, able to mash lefty pitching while platooning with Joyce in LF and/or Powell in CF. Khrush is expected to DH most of the time, but he can also back up Joyce in LF when needed.

Two noteworthy names just missed the cut. Dustin Fowler is hopefully the CF of the future, but he missed most of last year to a serious injury and the A’s will let him find his groove in Triple-A to start the year. Mark Canha is the alternative to Smolinski, but the latter makes more sense for this particular role since he’s better at both hitting lefties and playing CF. The other outfielder on the 40-man roster is prospect Ramon Laureano, who will miss the beginning of the season with a broken finger. Non-roster depth includes Slade Heathcott, Nick Martini, Anthony Garcia, B.J. Boyd, and Tyler Ramirez.

Here’s the full Opening Day 25-man roster:

Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Kendall Graveman (R)
Sean Manaea (L)
Daniel Gossett (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Andrew Triggs (R)

Relievers

Blake Treinen (R)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Emilio Pagan (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
Chris Hatcher (R)
Santiago Casilla (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)
Daniel Coulombe (L)
Catchers

Jonathan Lucroy (R)
Bruce Maxwell (L)

Infielders

Matt Olson (L)
Jed Lowrie (S)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Chad Pinder (R)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Matt Joyce (L)
Boog Powell (L)
Jake Smolinski (R)

Quick notes on the missing names.

Disabled list

10-day DL

Does not count toward 25-man limit

  • Paul Blackburn (R) | SP
  • Ryan Dull (R) | RP
  • Josh Phegley (R) | C
  • Renato Nunez (R) | DH

60-day DL

Does not count toward 25-man limit nor 40-man roster

  • Jharel Cotton (R) | SP

The worst of these is Cotton, who is out for the year with Tommy John surgery. Next up is Phegley, whose broken fingers will require weeks if not months.

On the lighter side, Blackburn is out with a forearm strain that isn’t yet considered serious, and he could theoretically be back in April. There’s no timetable for Dull, but he was at least pitching again by the end of spring. Nunez is the least serious, but once he returns the A’s will need to decide once and for all whether to make space for him in MLB or subject him to waivers and potentially lose him.

Some key minor leaguers who will miss significant time but are not listed on the MLB DL include pitchers Puk and Holmes, and outfielder Laureano.

Minor league depth

Oakland has 39 players on its 40-man roster, with one spot open. That number includes the 25-man MLB squad, plus the four guys on the 10-day DL. Here are the other 10:

  • Trevor Cahill (R) | SP
  • Chris Bassitt (R) | SP/RP
  • Frankie Montas (R) | SP/RP
  • Lou Trivino (R) | RP
  • Dustin Garneau (R) | C
  • Franklin Barreto (R) | IF
  • Jorge Mateo (R) | SS
  • Mark Canha (R) | OF
  • Dustin Fowler (L) | OF
  • Ramon Laureano (R) | OF

Cahill is just tuning up in Triple-A and could be in Oakland by mid-April, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. Canha and Garneau are backups waiting for a need to arise on the big club. Fowler, Barreto, and Trivino are top prospects trying to force their way up. Montas and Bassitt are trying to reestablish themselves after lengthy injury histories, leaving them as swingmen for now while they search for their place. Mateo and Laureano are prospects who are on this list prematurely for procedural reasons, but both still need more development time in the minors.

Key quote from Slusser (linked above):

Manager Bob Melvin mentioned several times toward the end of spring training that it [is] preferable to have Fowler start the season in the minors and be promoted when ready rather than to open the season in the big leagues and have to be demoted if struggling.

Finally, there is still a spot left on the 40-man, so here’s some non-roster depth to consider:

  • Brett Anderson (L) | SP
  • Raul Alcantara (R) | RP
  • Simon Castro (R) | RP
  • Jake Sanchez (R) | RP
  • Bobby Wahl (R) | RP
  • J.B. Wendelken (R) | RP
  • Eric Jokisch (L) | RP
  • Beau Taylor (L) | C
  • Sheldon Neuse (R) | 3B
  • Steve Lombardozzi (S) | UT
  • Slade Heathcott (L) | OF
  • Nick Martini (L) | OF
  • Anthony Garcia (R) | OF
  • B.J. Boyd (L) | OF
  • Tyler Ramirez (L) | OF

That’s a spare starter, some emergency relief help, an extra lefty catcher, a couple good prospects (hitters Neuse, Boyd, Ramirez, and reliever Sanchez), and a handful of depth hitters. Among the relievers, a few (Alcantara, Wahl, Wendelken) are recent former prospects who still have shreds of upside remaining.

The 2018 season begins tomorrow! First pitch is Thursday, March 29, at 1:05 p.m., against the Angels.