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Series #8: Athletics vs Blue Jays - Top Talent Still South for the Winter

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MLB: Spring Training-Milwaukee Brewers at Toronto Blue Jays Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Vladimir Guerrero Jr has a chance to be one of the most exciting new ballplayers this season, possessing a baseball skill set that mirrors his father’s. He has amazing contact and power capabilities at the plate, he holds a high baseball IQ, and he has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. Fortunately, for the A’s, despite Guerrero OPSing 1.324 in AAA to start the minor league season, for the time being, AAA is where Guerrero will stay, with rumors about his call up beginning to swirl. Holding a player down in the minors for an extra year of service time is a familiar practice for the A’s, and those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but it still does feel a bit unsavory to place economics and control over talent and passion.

Without Vladdy Jr, the Blue Jays have been having a bit of an up-and-down season to this point. More recently, the Jays have been up, as they enter Oakland having won three of four games on the road prior to this series. Thus far this season, this year’s Blue Jays team has played different than in years past, as the team’s offense has been middling and the pitching staff, particularly the starting pitching staff, has been rock solid.

The Blue Jays have the good fortune of having their top of the rotation toe up against a homer-happy A’s offense. Marcus Stroman has been the face of the franchise for several years now, and he is finally starting to match the hype and pedigree he was called up with, pitching to a 1.99 ERA in twenty three innings pitched across four starts. As evidence that pitcher wins are a statistic that has no bearing on quality of performance, Stroman is actually winless on the year with an 0-3 record, due to a mix of poor Jays defense and poor run support. Behind Stroman are Matt Shoemaker and Aaron Sanchez, both of whom have been striking opponents out at a high rate and have been expertly keeping runners off the basepaths, although Sanchez has had a bit of a walk problem this year.

The Jays bullpen has been less intimidating but it’s been serviceable. Ken Giles has been a strikeout force in the closer role and has mostly succeeded in shutting the door when called in. Joe Biagini has been strong in front of Giles with a WHIP below 1.00. Beyond the two of them, things slightly less impressive, but Toronto fans don’t have to hold onto their butts every time a starter is pulled from a game.

The offense has a clear leader, but it isn’t the person whom you’d expect. Freddy Galvis is off to a blistering start at the plate this year, leading the team in home runs and hits, and is second on the team in runs batted in and runs scored, as he is always in the middle of the action on offense. The shortstop still has some problems with striking out too much and walking too little, but as of right now, not much of his approach needs tweaking. Justin Smoak has more walks than strikeouts in almost twenty games played, and he has an OBP of .420. But although there are some strong performers at the top of the lineup, there is a pretty dramatic drop-off in performance. Brandon Drury has the third most at bats on the team but has an OPS of .394, with just three extra base hits in seventeen games played. Exciting rookie Lourdes Gurriel Jr has recently been sent down to AAA due to his struggles with the bat this year, and has been replaced on the roster by none other than Eric Sogard, the face of the MLB.

The A’s didn’t lose a single game against the Blue Jays last year, and with the Jays rebuilding and the A’s fighting for the division, they shouldn’t lose any games against Toronto this year, either. However, the A’s have already dropped a game against the Orioles, a team they didn’t lose to last year, and the A’s also failed to sweep the Astros at home despite facing the back half of Houston’s rotation and in desperate need of a statement series after getting swept in Houston the week prior. Sweeping, as it turns out, is hard to do, whether at home or on the road.

So with the A’s facing three starting pitchers who have been incredibly hot to start the season, the A’s will have their work cut out for them this series. Hopefully, by the end of it, the A’s will be a little more clear of the .500 mark and need not to flirt with it again this year.

Potential Lineup

1. 2B Eric Sogard

2. SS Freddy Galvis

3. CF Randal Grichuk

4. 1B Justin Smoak

5. LF Teoscar Hernandez

6. DH Rowdy Tellez

7. 3B Brandon Drury

8. RF Billy McKinney

9. C Danny Jansen

Pitching Matchups

Aaron Brooks vs Marcus Stroman

Mike Fiers vs Matt Shoemaker

Brett Anderson vs Aaron Sanchez

Game Information

Game #22: Friday, April 19th at 7:07

Game #23: Saturday, April 20th at 1:07

Game #24: Sunday, April 21st at 1:07

Each game will be broadcast on NBCSCA.