The Future Ahead: Oakland Athletics

The Oakland A’s have always worked with low payrolls and constant changes in their roster over the years, and while it has worked to keep the team competitive at times, it has also resulted in three consecutive last place finishes in the division prior to 2018. While fans over recent seasons haven’t been too happy about the constant roster overhauls each year, there is a clear light at the end of the tunnel, and 2018 showed just how good this team is, and will be, in the future seasons ahead.

There is work to be done this offseason in patching up the rotation, but all indications are that Oakland will indeed be back in the hunt for a playoff spot in the upcoming season. That, along with Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane saying the team will see an increase in the teams’ payroll over the coming seasons along with some top prospects who will complement an already solid roster, the future of the A’s is nothing short of bright.

When taking a look at the major league roster, there is a lot to like, starting with the bullpen. The Athletics have a strong bullpen featuring one of the top closers in the league in 2018 in Blake Treinen plus a host of other arms in Lou Trivino, Fernando Rodney, Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Buchter, and new signee Joakim Soria. If this group can replicate their 2018 success, it will be crucial to getting Oakland back to the postseason once again.

With that being said, it’s time to mention the rotation. Despite the fact that the A’s made the postseason in 2018, their rotation was ravaged by injuries, leaving the team relying on names such as Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, and Mike Fiers to help get the team to the playoffs. With top starter Sean Manaea potentially sidelined for the entire 2019 season, that leaves a huge hole in a rotation full of questions already. Mike Fiers was re-signed to a two-year deal after he posted solid numbers down the stretch for Oakland last year following their trade from the Tigers. Expect the A’s to continue to look for more options before the offseason ends.

On the position player side, no one had a better year on the team than breakout star third baseman Matt Chapman. His all-world defense which won him a gold glove award and .278/.356/.508 stat line lead Chapman to post an 8.2 WAR season, making him one of the top performers in all of baseball. The A’s have yet to lock up Chapman to a long-term extension but the team will surely try to sign their franchise cornerstone for the long-term, but with several years of team control ahead, Oakland can take some time before they try to get him locked up to a new contract.

One player who isn’t under long-term control is designated hitter Khris Davis. Davis is only signed through the 2019 season, and with his massive power, in which he hit a career high 48 homers in 2018, he will net a pretty good contract which could be too rich for the Oakland organization to keep.

Young star 1st baseman Matt Olson, Stephen Piscotty, newly acquired Jurickson Profar, and Ramon Laureano are also going to be big parts of the 2019 Oakland roster, which will give this team a strong lineup for manager Bob Melvin to work with. And that’s without mentioning that these players are all controlled for several more years ahead.

We now finish up in the farm system. Despite scattered MLB time, Franklin Barretto has yet to establish himself at the major league level, but he’s just 22 years old and was considered one of the leagues top prospects in recent seasons. With Jurickson Profar now expected to man 2nd base in 2019, Barretto once again has no real spot on the roster for consistent playing time.

One prospect who could make a real big impact on the A’s as soon as this year is starter Jesus Luzardo. Widely tabbed as one of the top 10 or 15 best prospects in baseball, Luzardo shot up the rankings with a big showing through the minor leagues last season and he could catapult his way to the majors in 2019. He may need a little bit of time in Triple-A to start the year but if he’s anything near his 2018 self, expect the A’s to get a huge boost from the young left-hander.

Which brings us to another top left-handed pitching prospect in AJ Puk. Puk may not be ready to make an impact, especially on the big league roster, as Puk will have to make his way back from 2018 Tommy John surgery and will most likely spend any 2019 time in the minor leagues. Once Puk is eventually ready to make it to the big leagues, expect him to be another strong top of the rotation piece,

joining Jesus Luzardo, in the years ahead for Oakland.

Top catching prospect Sean Murphy is another player for Oakland fans to keep an eye on, as he is the catcher of the future, and a really good one at that, who will most likely get to the majors in 2019. He only further adds to the top talent that the A’s currently have on their already contending roster. His 2018 numbers(.285/.361/.489 slash line) across three levels clearly shows he’s very close to making the bigs, but he will most likely start in the Triple-A level in 2019, as he briefly made it there at the end of last season.

The situation with Kyler Murray is another thing for Oakland fans to keep an eye on, as the two-sport star is still reportedly considering going to the NFL instead of embarking on an MLB career. He’s currently ranked as the A’s third best prospect per MLB.com, and it would be a notable hit to the team if he is to jump to football instead of baseball.

Other prospects in the Oakland Athletics farm system to keep an eye on in 2019 are outfielders Austin Beck and Lazaro Armenteros, shortstop Jorge Mateo, and right-hander James Kaprielian, among others.

To sum it up, 2019 is a year in which the Oakland A’s will try to make it to the postseason once again, but it’s not the only year to focus on, as the A’s have a number of young stars either making an impact or are set to make an impact for years ahead.

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