Welcome to rah-rah Saturday, where the worst run franchise in the worst run sport still gives fans reasons to care, hope, and root because baseball is a magical sport and the A’s are a magical team to call your own.
No high priced free agents and no mid-range free agents, not even a Bartolo Colon or Scott Kazmir, will be pursued. Your 2024 A’s are going to be young and oft overmatched, with a group of younger up-and-comers trying to help offset the failures of the rebuild so far.
And yet baseball, being that most unpredictable of games, gives you story lines and surprises galore and even these A’s, in this era of franchise abuse, are no exception. Here is your Xmas list of reasons it will be interesting to follow the green and gold in the coming year...
- It didn’t help to lose Ken Waldichuk to injury and Mason Miller to the bullpen, but there is still starting pitching the A’s can hope to build around.
I will watch Joe Boyle’s starts with fascination to see if this rookie who walked 2 batters every 3 innings in the minors can continue to pitch, in the big leagues, like a legitimate front-of-the-rotation SP.
And even if I am not confident he will thrive, Luis Medina has the stuff to excel and his emergence would go a long way to solidifying the rotation for a competitive team. Perhaps Waldichuk will be back sooner rather than later aiming to give the A’s a “big 3” of sorts as some other intriguing arms move up the ladder.
- Those young arms include 21 year old Luis Morales, who has shot up to as high as #4 on some A’s prospect lists, Sean Murphy trade returns Royber Salinas and Freddy Tarnok, another former Braves prospect in Ryan Cusick, and 18 year old Steven Echavarria, who has drawn raves from scouts in the fall league.
Let’s face it: when your team is rebuilding and coming off 100+ loss seasons, you have to watch the minors more in order to keep hope alive. The A’s system, sadly, isn’t “stacked” following several big trades, but there are still arms rising that if successful could anchor a solid rotation in the coming years.
- On the position player front, much of the interest lies in seeing who can take the step forward from “promising” to “actually good”. Esteury Ruiz is already fun and exciting, and in 2024 we will see if he can add “effective” to his batting and fielding profile.
Tyler Soderstrom and Lawrence Butler had disappointing cups of coffee but will almost certainly be back for much of 2024 and both have legitimate talent.
Shea Langeliers showed flashes of brilliance, mostly his arm and raw power, and now needs to hit .250 while receiving pitches better behind the dish. Ryan Noda was a 2 WAR rookie aiming to cut Ks just enough, and be consistent enough on defense, to become a 3 WAR mainstay.
If any of these guys can break through it will be worth watching, and if all can break through the A’s will be better, sooner, than anyone imagined. Add Darell Hernaiz to the group despite not yet having made his debut, as his debut is coming soon and he is coming off of 2 sterling seasons in AA-AAA.
- Some position players in the minors are getting close to the big leagues, and none has more upside than Denzel Clarke. Had Clarke’s season not been ended early by injury he might have put himself more squarely in the conversation for 2024.
As it stands, Clarke finished the season at AA Midland as a 23 year old with relatively little baseball experience (he “didn’t pick up a baseball until age 10”), impressive pedigree (his mom is an Olympic heptathlete, his cousins are the Naylors), and 5-tool athleticism.
Clarke is still working on cutting down his K-rate, but his .261/.381/.496 in 64 games, with 12 HR and 11 SB (in 12 attempts), make him a “must follow” who might find his way to Oakland by year’s end if all goes well.
Basically, if you like “hope of contention, even if I have to squint to see it,” these A’s are not for you. But if you like young talent, seeing a Zack Gelof emerge and watching to see who might be the next 2-3 Gelofs the team can build around, the 2024 season, and into 2025, might be downright entertaining, even increasing exciting and competitive.
These A’s are not currently poised to be apt comparisons, but it’s still worth remembering that in 2023 the NL’s World Series team, your Arizona Diamondbacks, lost 110 games just 2 years ago, and the AL’s winningest team, your Baltimore Orioles, also lost 110 games 2 years prior. Oakland is just 2 games off that pace!!!
Which is really just to note that things change fast and baseball is unpredictable, not that you should pre-purchasing your 2025 post-season tickets before they sell out. (Wherever the home games are, because who knows?)
in 2024 there will be losses, lots and lots of them, and no one ever rushed to buy a ticket to watch Abraham Toro or Trevor Gott. Nonetheless, I am here today to remind you that there will be some wins, some emergence of true talent, some pleasant surprises, and some hope for better days ahead. And that reminder, my friends, is my gift to you this holiday season.