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Oakland A’s announce 2020 Opening Day roster

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These 30 players will suit up on Friday against the Angels

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
Four key members right here
Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s announced their 2020 Opening Day roster on Thursday. There are 30 players for now, due to changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, but that number will shrink to 28 after two weeks and then 26 after another two weeks.

The squad shapes up like this:

Oakland A's 30-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Frankie Montas (R)
Sean Manaea (L)
Mike Fiers (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)

Relievers

Liam Hendriks (R)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Joakim Soria (R)
Jake Diekman (L)
Jesus Luzardo (L)
T.J. McFarland (L)
Burch Smith (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Jordan Weems (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)

10-day IL

A.J. Puk (L)
Catchers

Sean Murphy (R)
Austin Allen (L)

Infielders

Matt Olson (L)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Tony Kemp (L)
Chad Pinder (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
Vimael Machin (L)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Robbie Grossman (S)
Seth Brown (L)

Here’s a quick look through each position group.

Starting pitchers

  1. Frankie Montas (R)
  2. Sean Manaea (L)
  3. Mike Fiers (R)
  4. Chris Bassitt (R)
  5. Daniel Mengden (R)

Even after taking a couple early hits, this is still a promising group. Montas pitched like an All-Star last year, Manaea and Fiers have each thrown no-hitters recently, Bassitt was quietly excellent last summer, and Mengden is a solid emergency fifth starter.

The top three were supposed to be joined by two rookie lefties, and they still might be eventually. Jesus Luzardo missed most of training camp due to a positive virus test, so he’s back but still getting warmed up; he’ll open the year in the bullpen but eventually rejoin the rotation. Meanwhile, A.J. Puk got hurt over the weekend and went on the injured list with shoulder trouble; he’ll miss at least a few weeks, but for now a return at some point has not been ruled out.

But the current unit is still strong, and the A’s starters should be able to give their team a chance to win just about every day.

Note: Mengen was activated from the 60-day injured list on Thursday, and fellow pitcher Daniel Gossett was DFA’d to make room on the 40-man roster.

Relief pitchers

  • Liam Hendriks (R) (closer)
  • Yusmeiro Petit (R) (setup)
  • Joakim Soria (R) (setup)
  • Jake Diekman (L)
  • Jesus Luzardo (L)
  • T.J. McFarland (L)
  • Burch Smith (R)
  • Lou Trivino (R)
  • Jordan Weems (R)
  • J.B. Wendelken (R)

There’s a lot to like here. Hendriks was arguably the best reliever in baseball last year, somehow filling the shoes of Blake Treinen and nearly matching his predecessor’s historic 2018 season. Petit was also top-notch, and while Soria was shaky at times his overall numbers were still fine.

There are three lefties for now, though again, Luzardo will eventually move to the rotation. Diekman was re-signed over the winter, and McFarland was a waiver claim who specializes in generating ground balls.

The other four righties should be quality depth. Trivino was an ace setup man as recently as 2018 and could yet regain that form, and Wendelken has been a breakout candidate the last couple years and looks filthy at his best (including this week in the exhibition game against the Giants). Smith and Weems are newcomers who likely benefited from the bonus roster space — Smith is capable of bringing high velocity for multiple innings, and Weems is a converted catcher who threw 96 mph in a nice first impression on Monday against the Giants.

Bullpens are the most random parts of MLB rosters. A great-looking one can implode, and a crew of randos can get hot and dominate for a season. It’s pointless to predict, especially when you see Hendriks go from DFA and unclaimed on waivers to All-Star closer in roughly one calendar year. All we can say for now is the A’s have some good arms here and they’re set up better than average — after all, this week FanGraphs ranked the pen sixth-best in MLB.

Catchers

  • Sean Murphy (R)
  • Austin Allen (L)

A new era is dawning for Oakland catchers, with national Top 50 prospect Murphy officially taking over the job. If all goes well, he could be a star at the position for years to come. He’s joined by Allen, a bat-first backstop with impressive power.

Behind them is switch-hitting prospect Jonah Heim, who didn’t make the team yet but is expected to be on the three-man taxi squad that travels on road trips — it has to include a catcher anyway, so that’s a logical place for him at the moment.

Catcher has been a relatively weak area for the A’s the last couple years, but it might be ready to morph into a strength this summer.

Infielders

  • 1B: Matt Olson (L)
  • 2B: Tony Kemp (L)
  • 2B: Franklin Barreto (R)
  • SS: Marcus Semien (R)
  • 3B: Matt Chapman (R)
  • UT: Chad Pinder (R)
  • UT: Vimael Machin (L)

Hands down the biggest strength on the team. Chapman is their best player, Semien was their best performer last year and finished third for AL MVP, and Olson is a cornerstone as well. They’re each star hitters and excellent defenders, with the Matts both winning multiple Gold Gloves already.

At second base, Kemp is the expected starter on the heavy side of the platoon. Maybe Barreto will pair with him, but maybe not, as Pinder is expected to start Opening Day (against Angels lefty Andrew Heaney) and that will presumably happen at the keystone. Of course really Pinder is a super-sub utilityman who isn’t solely constrained to any one positional category, and has actually spent most of his MLB career in the outfield, but it’s crowded out there so for now it seems he’ll get more time on the infield dirt instead.

That leaves Machin, the Rule 5 draft pick, who is looking forward to his MLB debut the next time he takes the field. His plate discipline and defensive versatility around the horn, and especially his left-handed bat in a right-heavy lineup, should help him find bits of playing time here and there.

Outfielders

  • DH: Khris Davis (R)
  • LF: Robbie Grossman (S)
  • CF: Ramon Laureano (R)
  • RF: Stephen Piscotty (R)
  • OF: Mark Canha (R)
  • OF: Seth Brown (L)

Arrange them however you wish, but this is one likely version. There are more good players than available spots, so someone quality will be on the bench every day. Canha can play all three positions and has shown the ability to move around wherever needed on a moment’s notice, so even though I haven’t put him in one dedicated starting spot, it would be surprising not to see him in the lineup most days — especially after his career year in 2019.

Laureano is the dynamite athlete making acrobatic catches and superhuman throws, in addition to his strong bat. Piscotty was hurt last year but nearly hit 30 homers in 2018 while playing solid defense. Grossman is a lefty bat to offset the righties, and an on-base threat in a lineup full of sluggers, plus his defense rated well on the metrics last year. Brown had an impressive MLB debut last summer, though as the last man in line he could be a logical candidate to go down when rosters shrink (unless space opens up before then).

That leaves Davis, perhaps the most consistent player in MLB history ... until last year, when his bat disappeared. Whether he bounces back into an elite homer threat, or struggles again at the plate, is one of the bigger questions facing the A’s in 2020.

Taxi squad

In addition to their 30-man roster, teams are allowed to bring a “taxi squad” of three more players on their road trips, so that they have emergency replacements available if needed. They can be anyone from the 60-man player pool and don’t need to be on the 40-man roster, though in order to be called up to the majors they would need to be added to the 40-man.

The A’s announced that their initial taxi squad, reports insider Martin Gallegos and the other writers:

  • LHP Lucas Luetge (L)
  • C Jonah Heim (S)
  • IF Nate Orf (R)

This group isn’t necessarily set in stone, as the taxi squad can be adjusted from trip to trip and there are no transactions involved in adding or removing players from it. The first road trip begins July 31, for four games in Seattle, and then the A’s come back home for a week before traveling again to Anaheim, San Francisco, and Arizona beginning Aug. 10.

60-man pool

Here’s the A’s updated 60-man player pool, which now stands at 59 after the DFA of Daniel Gossett. Players with asterisks** are on the Opening Day 30-man roster. Players in —italics are not on the 40-man roster.

Oakland A's 60-man pool
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Frankie Montas (R)**
Sean Manaea (L)**
Mike Fiers (R)**
Chris Bassitt (R)**
Daniel Mengden (R)**
Jesus Luzardo (L)**
A.J. Puk (L) (IL)
Paul Blackburn (R)
Grant Holmes (R)
Daulton Jefferies (R)
James Kaprielian (R)
—Tyler Baum (R)
—Parker Dunshee (R)
—Brian Howard (R)


Relievers

Liam Hendriks (R)**
Yusmeiro Petit (R)**
Joakim Soria (R)**
Jake Diekman (L)**
T.J. McFarland (L)**
Lou Trivino (R)**
Jordan Weems (R)**
J.B. Wendelken (R)**
Burch Smith (R)
—Lucas Luetge (L)
—Jaime Schultz (R)
—Wandisson Charles (R)
—Miguel Romero (R)
Catchers

Sean Murphy (R)**
Austin Allen (L)**
Jonah Heim (S)
—Carlos Perez (R)
—Kyle McCann (L)
—Tyler Soderstrom (L)


Infielders

Matt Olson (L)**
Marcus Semien (R)**
Matt Chapman (R)**
Tony Kemp (L)**
Chad Pinder (R)**
Franklin Barreto (R)**
Vimael Machin (L)**
Sheldon Neuse (R)
—Eric Campbell (R)
—Nate Orf (R)
—Nick Allen (R)
—Logan Davidson (S)
—Robert Puason (S)


Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)**
Mark Canha (R)**
Ramon Laureano (R)**
Stephen Piscotty (R)**
Robbie Grossman (S)**
Seth Brown (L)**
Skye Bolt (S)
Luis Barrera (L)
Dustin Fowler (L)
—Brayan Buelvas (R)
—Greg Deichmann (L)
—Mark Payton (L)
—Buddy Reed (S)