We have reached the final off day of Spring Training for the Oakland Athletics, and with Opening Day just a little over a week away, it is a good time to take a closer look at what the roster might look like when they break camp. There are still some decisions to be made, particularly in the outfield and the rotation. Injuries have already played a part in shaping the prospective Opening Day roster, but hopefully there won’t be any more unpleasant surprises as camp winds down in its final days.
Catcher: (2) Shea Langeliers, Yohel Pozo
Others: Kyle McCann
Manny Pina is dealing with lingering issues with his surgically repaired wrist and will begin the season on the Injured List. Shea Langeliers is the only other catcher currently on the 40-man roster. Yohel Pozo was optioned to Triple-A earlier, but looks like the best bet to rejoin the active roster for Opening Day. A waiver wire pick up between now and Opening Day can’t be ruled out, either.
Top prospect Tyler Soderstrom was reassigned to minor league camp Sunday, but made a good impression and will likely make his major league debut at some point in 2023.
Infielders: (6) Jesus Aguilar, Ryan Noda, Tony Kemp, Jace Peterson, Nick Allen, Aledmys Diaz
Others: Kevin Smith
Now we are getting to the interesting part and I don’t really have a good answer. The outfield, which we will get to in a minute, could have an effect on how many infielders the team opts to keep on the Opening Day roster. I have Jesus Aguilar and Ryan Noda penciled in at first while also seeing ample time at DH. Noda is a Rule 5 pick and must stick on the 26-man roster or be offered back to the Dodgers.
Tony Kemp and Nick Allen fit up the middle while Jace Peterson and Aledmys Diaz provide enough flexibility to make it work. This scenario would leave Kevin Smith starting the season at Triple-A.
Outfielders: (5) Seth Brown, Cristian Pache, Ramon Laureano, Brent Rooker, Esteury Ruiz
Others: Conner Capel
The Athletics have plenty of outfield options and it is going to be interesting to see where they land for Opening Day. Seth Brown and Ramon Laureano appear ticketed to start in the corners. Brown has seen a good bit of time at DH of late due to some shoulder soreness, but should be ready to return to the outfield soon.
Cristian Pache îs out of options and entered camp on the bubble, but has put together a solid spring and is still the best defensive outfield option the team has. Pache would best be utilized in center, but has seen time at all three spots during the spring. Esteury Ruiz and Pache are both right-handed; the best case scenario long-term is probably to have Ruiz start the season in Triple-A, but given that he was the principal return in the Sean Murphy trade and that he hasn’t had a disastrous spring, I have him penciled into the Opening Day roster. That shouldn’t matter and maybe it won’t.
Brent Rooker has seen a lot of playing time of late and could potentially serve as a platoon candidate in left field with Brown. Conner Capel was impressive in a small sample at the end of the 2022 season and hasn’t done anything to hurt his case this spring. Going with him would add another left-handed bat to the mix, but there simply aren’t enough spots to take everyone. If the A’s opt to carry another infielder, then it would likely come at the expense of Rooker, Capel or Ruiz.
It is also worth remembering that Oakland already optioned JJ Bleday to the minors and he could figure into this picture as well at some point this season.
Starting Rotation (5): Shintaro Fujinami, Drew Rucinski, James Kaprielian, Kyle Muller, Adam Oller
Others: Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, Adrian Martinez
Shintaro Fujinami, Drew Rucinski were offseason additions and appear to be locks. James Kaprielian was slowed due to offseason shoulder surgery, but is ramping up and is expected to be ready to begin the season in the rotation.
Paul Blackburn’s injury made what was a competition for one spot, into a competition for two. That is probably good news for Kyle Muller, who has had an up and down spring, but doesn’t have much left to prove at Triple-A.
That leaves a group including Adam Oller, Ken Waldichuk and JP Sears competing for the final spot. Oller has probably had the best spring of the three, so I have him penciled in for now, but the reality is, this picture could change between now and the start of the regular season.
The Athletics optioned Adrian Martinez earlier in the spring, as he left to pitch for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. He probably isn’t an option for the Opening Day roster at this point, but could enter the mix early in the season if needed. Freddy Tarnok would have also been part of this discussion, but he has been shut down from throwing after experiencing some arm discomfort. There has been no further update on his status.
Bullpen (8): Trevor May, Domingo Acevedo, Dany Jimenez, Zach Jackson, Sam Moll, Chad Smith, Drew Steckenrider, JP Sears
Others: Kirby Snead (injured), Austin Pruitt
Oakland’s bullpen also appears to be largely set with one or two final spots still up for grabs. JP Sears is listed here and is also in the competition for one of the final rotation spots. If he doesn’t make the rotation, he could still make the Opening Day roster as a multi-inning relief option, which could be important if Kaprielian isn’t fully stretched out. I had Rico Garcia pencilled in for a spot until he was reassigned Sunday night. That spot goes to Drew Steckenrider by default at this point. The A’s could opt to bring back Martinez or someone else and have them work out of the bullpen to start the season.