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A’s About To Be Faced With A Nice “Problem”

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MLB: Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics
Have a debut, kid.
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Nice problems to have can still be problems, and while crowded rosters tend to sort themselves out through injury and performance that does not always happen in the very short term.

Meet your right-handed hitting outfielders, a group that is fast becoming more and more the envy of teams outside of Oakland. Chad Pinder comes off the 10-day DL on Tuesday to join Mark Canha, Stephen Piscotty, and Ramon Laureano as strong options for the A’s roster.

Perhaps initially, Laureano was brought up to provide a lift for 5 days while Pinder was still out and Oakland was about to face 4 LH starting pitchers in 5 games. However, at the moment it’s a bit difficult to envision the A’s sending Laureano back to AAA after an awfully impressive debut week.

The Eyeball Scout is in love with several aspects of Laureano’s game so far, and they’re not just the ones likely to appeal to the ladies in the crowd. After joining his mates flailing at a few changeups from Blaine Hardy, Laureano got down to business and here’s what the Eyeball Scout saw that has him crying tears of joy and hope:

- With his walk-off hit Friday night, Laureano showed impressive power to the off field with the ball jumping off his bat despite a controlled swing. Power tool: check.

- Even with his routine ground out to SS earlier, Laureano flashed his plus speed, which showed up again in the outfield and on the bases. In his stolen base, perhaps if the ball is caught he is actually out but his speed was still on display there as he added a stolen base to 4 hits, 2 outfield assists, and a game-winning RBI. Speed tool: check.

- With his two base hits to RF and right-center today, Laureano showed the swing Franklin Barreto (who will likely be odd man out on Tuesday) needs, staying back on pitches, letting them get in deep, and not trying to pull them. Hit tool: check.

- With his Ichiro-like throw to gun down Jose Iglasias at 3B, Laureano showed his plus arm, possibly the best throwing arm we’ve seen in Oakland since Yoenis Cespedes left town. Any time you think back all the way to Tony Armas, you know you’re talking about something special. Throwing tool: check.

- The way Laureano ran a step past a fly ball into right-center field, angling his body to face 3B as he set up to catch it, and froze the runner at 2B, he showed important fundamentals and instincts in CF. That was as impressive to me as any catch he made in the series. Fielding tool: check.

That’s a 5-tool player with all 5 tools prominently on display in one series! And it’s not just the “5 tools” that impress...

In laying off a “chase slider” right before his walk-off hit, and in laying off some tough sliders from All-Star Joe Jimenez today, Laureano showed that he is able to make adjustments and that his initial lack of discipline was more a function of a big league debut than it was necessarily an ongoing issue. In a game defined by the ability to adjust, this is huge.

So color me excited about what Laureano might be bringing to an already strong A’s team, as Oakland continues to get more athletic and deeper. But even though sometimes the shift makes it look like there are 4 outfielders, in reality only 3 can play at one time.

Even moving forward the A’s might have a dilemma, as all 4 RH OFers are under contract control long term. One can envision a long term roster in which Dustin Fowler and Pinder share time in the OF, Laureano and Piscotty anchor the OF full time, and perhaps Nick Martini has a role getting some time against RHPs, which would leave Canha in the cold. Or maybe this sorts itself out over the course of the coming months.

But what about now? To my eyes, Laureano looks like the A’s best CF option against both LHPs and RHPs, especially since Fowler is at AAA for the foreseeable future and Canha is also a RH batting option.

Tuesday and Wednesday, the A’s face LHPs in Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw. Presumably, Khris Davis will DH and Jed Lowrie will play 2B (though any day off for Lowrie clears the log jam for a day with Pinder inserted at 2B). Who gets the nod from amongst Pinder, Canha, Laureano, Piscotty, in the Dodgers series? And more to the point, moving forward with series against the Angels, Mariners, and Astros, what will the norm be? I know I can’t wait to find out!

Poll

What should be the A’s normal outfield alignment in the coming days/weeks?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Martini/Pinder in LF, Laureano in CF, Piscotty in RF
    (449 votes)
  • 6%
    Martini/Pinder in LF, Canha in CF, Piscotty in RF
    (113 votes)
  • 52%
    Martini/Canha in LF, Laureano in CF, Piscotty in RF
    (935 votes)
  • 7%
    Pinder in LF, Martini/Laureano in CF, Piscotty in RF
    (141 votes)
  • 3%
    Pinder in LF, Martini/Canha in CF, Piscotty in RF
    (65 votes)
  • 5%
    Martini/Canha in LF, Laureano in CF, Pinder in RF
    (94 votes)
1797 votes total Vote Now