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Oakland A’s set 2019 Opening Day roster

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Who will suit up against the Angels on Thursday?

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason is past, spring training is done, and the full regular season begins tomorrow, but Wednesday brought the one thing that really makes it all feel real: The Oakland A’s have announced their 2019 Opening Day roster!

A couple corresponding moves were required to pare down to the final 25 players who will suit up on Thursday against the Angels. Most importantly, the team announced that starter Chris Bassitt and first baseman Matt Olson will be placed on the 10-day injured list. Olson is out with a broken hamate, while Bassitt took a line drive off the shin in one of the Japan exhibition games and is still recovering, reports Julian McWilliams of The Athletic. In addition to those moves, reliever Ryan Dull was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

UPDATE: Several hours after this was published, the A’s traded for DH/1B Kendrys Morales from the Blue Jays. So, as you read this, ignore the parts about Jurickson Profar moving to 1B, and assume that Franklin Barreto will probably go down to Triple-A. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Jharel Cotton was transferred to the 60-day IL.

Here’s the full rundown, or scroll down to see just the roster.

Starting rotation

  1. Mike Fiers (R)
  2. Marco Estrada (R)
  3. Brett Anderson (L)
  4. Frankie Montas (R)
  5. Aaron Brooks (R)

The final spot went to Brooks, which is not what anyone would have guessed at the beginning of the spring. He was an afterthought on Athletics Nation all winter after being quietly acquired last September, but he pitched well in the spring and he’s out of minor league options so the A’s are giving him a chance. For whatever Cactus League stats are worth, after a disastrous first outing Brooks recovered to allow just one run in his final 12⅓ innings, with 12 strikeouts along the way.

The A’s rotation is geared more toward quantity than top-end quality, with plenty of depth to help avoid running out of healthy starters like happened last year. There isn’t really an ace on this staff, but there are a lot of arms who can provide MLB-caliber innings, plus a few viable backups waiting in Triple-A and several more returning from injury throughout the summer. They won’t dominate on their own, but hopefully they can keep the team in games, give the powerful lineup time to do some damage, and get the ball to the excellent bullpen.

Fiers and Estrada are established veterans, who struggled in the hitter-friendly Tokyo Dome last week but should find better luck with their flyballs in the spacious Coliseum. Anderson is another veteran who relies more on ground balls, but is also a perpetual injury risk and barely threw 100 innings last year (including his time in the minors). Montas is a former Top 100 prospect who showed promise as a starter last season, and now has everyone excited with a new splitter that he’s added to his arsenal. Brooks and his strong changeup round things out from there, but see the bottom of this post for more on the reinforcements behind those five starters.

Bullpen

  • Blake Treinen (R) (CL)
  • Lou Trivino (R)
  • Joakim Soria (R)
  • Fernando Rodney (R)
  • Ryan Buchter (L)
  • Yusmeiro Petit (R)
  • Liam Hendriks (R)
  • J.B. Wendelken (R)

This is more or less the awesome group from 2018, but with two changes. One is that Jeurys Familia departed as a free agent and was replaced by Soria. Like Familia, Soria is a former All-Star closer who now lines up in a setup role, and frankly there’s an argument to be made that Soria is the superior reliever. Meanwhile, the eighth spot in the pen goes to Wendelken, a breakout candidate who returned last summer from long-term injury. Wendelken threw two perfect frames last week in the first Japan game.

Treinen lines up as the closer again, after his historically elite season in ‘18. Trivino was already great last year and has now added a changeup that looks filthy. Rodney just turned 42 and now holds the record as the oldest player ever to make an A’s Opening Day roster. Buchter and Petit both had a terrible spring, but that doesn’t matter anymore and the slate is now wiped clean for the reliable veterans. Hendriks is expected to spend some time as the opener again, on days when the A’s choose to use that strategy.

Catchers

  • Nick Hundley (R)
  • Josh Phegley (R)

The plan had been for Chris Herrmann to be the primary catcher, but he had knee surgery during the spring and landed on the 60-day IL. In his place, the two veteran stopgaps hold down the position until reinforcements arrive — whether that’s the return of Herrmann, or the arrival of top prospect Sean Murphy. This is the weakest position in the lineup for now, but at least Hundley and Phegley should provide some power at the plate in the meantime.

Infielders

  • Matt Chapman (R) | 3B
  • Marcus Semien (R) | SS
  • Jurickson Profar (S) | 2B/1B
  • Mark Canha (R) | 1B/OF
  • Franklin Barreto (R) | 2B

A spring injury also affects this area of the roster, as first baseman Matt Olson is on the IL with a broken hamate in his wrist. He’s expected to miss several weeks (up to two months), and in the meantime Profar and Canha will team up to cover his position. The loss of Olson hurts on both sides of the ball — he’s one of the lineup’s only lefty hitters, and his Gold Glove defense elevates all the other infielders around him.

Even still, the A’s have an excellent crew around the horn. Chapman finished seventh for league MVP last season, Semien is solid on both sides of the ball, and Profar is a breakout candidate who was once the #1 prospect in all of baseball and is just now entering his prime. The big loss from last year is Jed Lowrie, but Profar is a perfect replacement who brings a similar skill set while being nearly a decade younger. The wild card here is the 23-year-old Barreto, himself a recent Top 100 prospect who is looking for his first real chance in the majors and suddenly finds his primary position half-vacant while Profar covers for Olson.

UPDATE: Add new acquisition Kendrys Morales to this list, as a switch-hitting 1B replacement for Olson. Forget the stuff about Profar moving to 1B, and assume Barreto is probably going down to Triple-A.

Outfielders

  • Khris Davis (R) | DH
  • Stephen Piscotty (R) | RF
  • Ramon Laureano (R) | CF
  • Robbie Grossman (S) | LF
  • Chad Pinder (R) | LF/UT

It wasn’t long ago that the outfield was Oakland’s weakness, but that’s no longer the case. Piscotty hit like Nelson Cruz for most of 2018, and Laureano burst onto the scene as a rookie sensation who could hit well, fly on the bases, and play elite defense in center — he authored the single best defensive play in the majors last year, according to MLB Network, and he showed up a second time in their Top 100 plays. At the DH spot, Khrush blasted 48 homers (his third straight season over 40) and won the Edgar Martinez Award as the league’s best designated hitter.

As for left field, there’s an impressive platoon there as well. On the right side is Pinder, who’s tabbed as a national breakout candidate. On the left side is switch-hitter Grossman, who brings elite plate discipline and the high OBP that the top of the lineup desperately needs in front of all its fearsome sluggers. When Pinder isn’t in LF, though, look for the super-sub to pop up all over the field, especially at 2B while Profar is otherwise occupied.

Oakland A's 25-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters (5)

Mike Fiers (R)
Marco Estrada (R)
Brett Anderson (L)
Frankie Montas (R)
Aaron Brooks (R)


Relievers (8)

Blake Treinen (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Joakim Soria (R)
Fernando Rodney (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Catchers (2)

Nick Hundley (R)
Josh Phegley (R)

Infielders (5)

Matt Chapman (R)
Marcus Semien (R)
Jurickson Profar (S)
Mark Canha (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)

Outfielders (5)

Khris Davis (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Robbie Grossman (S)
Chad Pinder (R)

Quick notes on the missing names.

Injured list

10-day IL

Does not count toward 25-man limit

  • Chris Bassitt (R) | SP (leg)
  • Jharel Cotton (R) | RP (TJS)
  • Matt Olson (L) | 1B (hamate)
  • Nick Martini (L) | LF (knee)

60-day IL

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

  • Sean Manaea (L) | SP (shoulder)
  • Daniel Gossett (R) | SP (TJS)
  • Chris Herrmann (L) | C (knee)

Most of this list is made up of starting pitchers, as a reminder of the rotation’s injury hellscape last summer. Cotton and Gossett are still both recovering from Tommy John surgery, with Cotton aiming for a June/July return but Gossett quite further behind that timeline. Manaea had shoulder surgery at the end of last season and isn’t guaranteed to pitch this year, but the prognosis is as optimistic as possible. Bassitt is presumably just a short-term absence, unless we hear otherwise.

The tough thing about the hitters on this list is that they are all lefties, which the A’s were already short on. There are now just two lefties on the active roster (switch-hitters Profar and Grossman), meaning an extremely righty-heavy lineup every day. Martini probably wasn’t going to make the Opening Day squad even if healthy, after the addition of the similar Grossman, but when he gets back on the field he’ll be excellent depth for the outfield.

There are a couple more key injuries in the minors, too. Top pitching prospect Jesus Luzardo will miss at least a month with a strained shoulder, while fellow top lefty A.J. Puk is still finishing his recovery from Tommy John surgery a year ago.

Minor league depth

There are another 15 players on the 40-man roster, though four of them are the ones on the 10-day IL. Here are the other 11, split into two separate lists:

  • SP Tanner Anderson (R)
  • SP Paul Blackburn (R)
  • SP Daniel Mengden (R)
  • RP Ryan Dull (R)
  • RP Andrew Triggs (R)
  • OF Dustin Fowler (L)

These players represent realistic 2019 depth. They’ve all been in the majors before, and have either had past success and/or stand as future breakout candidates. In particular, Mengden and Blackburn represent two of the next names in line for the rotation, with Anderson as a dark-horse lotto ticket behind them as he converts to starting. Triggs is moving back to the pen after starting the last couple years (and missing most of that time to injury), and he and Dull offer some relief depth. Fowler would have made our Top 10 prospect list if he hadn’t just barely graduated to rookie status last summer.

The rest of the 40-man is made up of prospects who aren’t quite ready for the bigs, but needed to be added prematurely for protection from the Rule 5 draft:

  • RHP Grant Holmes
  • RHP James Kaprielian
  • SS Jorge Mateo (R)
  • OF Luis Barrera (L)
  • OF Skye Bolt (S)

For more on these prospects, check out our Community Prospect List.

Finally, there is some non-roster veteran depth available in Triple-A as well, though they would need to be added to the 40-man in order to come up to the bigs. The highlights include lefty reliever Jerry Blevins, infielder Cliff Pennington, and a host of other minor league free agent signings — click here to read about all of them.

And with that, we’re all ready for the season to begin. Of course, the campaign has literally already started and the A’s are 0-2 in the standings after their disappointing trip to Japan, but that’s like a distant dream now. Thursday is really what will feel like Opening Day, with the A’s playing at their home stadium at an hour when their fans are awake to watch them. Let’s Go Oakland!

The 2019 season resumes tomorrow! First pitch is Thursday, March 28, at 1:07 p.m., against the Angels. Pitching matchup is Mike Fiers vs. Trevor Cahill. Unless it rains, which is currently a possibility.