The story of the 2018 Oakland A’s comes in the form of a tornado that touched down during the second half of the season. Although the A’s were good in the first half of the season, they were flat-out dangerous in the second, finishing with a record of 42 wins and just 23 losses. This resurgent second half landed the A’s with 97 wins for the season, which gave them a spot in the postseason. They were then faced with the daunting task of going into the Bronx in October, and saw their season fall on deaf ears during the A.L. Wild Card Game. Although this was somewhat of a disappointing end to the hottest team in baseball, the A’s enter 2019 with much to look forward to. They have a third basemen who is fresh off a Gold Glove award, a manager who is the reigning AL Manager of the Year, and a first basemen that can hit a ball farther than the human eye can see.
When a team experiences success such as the A’s did a season ago, they are expected to repeat that success the following year. This is easier said then done however, as winning 95+ games in back to back season can be very strenuous. One player who can help the A’s repeat the level of success they had in 2018 is Matt Chapman. Chapman, a 25-year-old from California, is quickly establishing himself as a rising star in this league. When Chapman entered the majors in 2017, the scouting reports stated that he was a young prospect, with a cannon for an arm that would blow you away. The one doubt that experts had however, was that Chapman struggled to handle a bat, and thought he would be nothing more than a sub .250 hitter. The early scouting reports were spot on. In 2017, Chapman hit for a .234 BA in 326 plate appearances. He wowed the Oakland faithful with his glove, but showed inconsistencies with his bat, and left A’s fans to worry if he was the real deal. The one bright side of Chapman’s rookie season however, was that he stroked 14 homers on the year and had more pop than anyone expected. Fast forward to 2018, and Chapman broke onto the national scene as an elite third basemen. It was as if every night, he had made the SC top 10. The dude could shine like a diamond with his glove, but also absolutely abuse a ball with his lumber. Come season’s end, Chapman found himself with a .278 BA, a .356 OBP as well as scoring 100 runs and clocking 24 home runs. He also won his first gold glove. Unfortunately for the A’s, Chapman underwent a minor surgery on his thumb which has left his opening day status up in the air. With this minor setback aside, I expect Chapman to be a huge contributor for this A’s club in 2019 and feel that he will start to become one of the more skillful players in all of Major League Baseball.
Complimenting Chapman in the lineup this year will be power hitting first basemen, Matt Olson. Olson, a 24-year-old from Atlanta, has the ability to hit a ball to the freaking moon. Thus far, in his short 2 year major league career, Olson has been absolutely sensational, hitting for a combined .831 OPS, hitting a total of 53 homers and driving in a total of 129 runs. Olson can also flash the leather like it’s nobody business and took home his first career gold glove in 2018. The thing that attracts me most to this young lefty is that he always takes the ball where it is pitched and is one of the best opposite field hitters in baseball. The fact that Olson is so young, makes things extremely exciting as his potential is through the roof. With Chapman and Olson now becoming the new bash brothers in Oakland, you can expect lots of bombs, lots of great plays and lots of awards for years to come.
As we make our way to this A’s pitching staff I feel that it is worth noting that this may be their kryptonite. They are without their ace Sean Manaea for the entire season as he is recovering from shoulder surgery and frankly, this staff is lacking depth. Their opening day starter is more than likely going to be Mike Fiers who is 33, and is coming off of a lackluster season which featured a 3.56 ERA. They did manage to acquire long time Blue Jay Marco Estrada in the offseason, but he is a guy who is coming off the worst season of his career in which he had a 7-14 record to go along with a 5.64 ERA. According to Rotochamp.com, who puts out predictions for every team in Major League Baseball prior to the season’s opening, the A’s starting staff will not have a starter finish with an ERA lower than 4.00 in 2019 and not ONE starter is projected to finish the year with an above .500 record. Now, I know these are just projections, but these guys know what they are doing so this is very worrisome if you are an A’s fan. We all know the A’s have pop, but will their arms be too much a weak link to carry around all season? Only time will tell.
Will the A’s win 97 games this season? No. Their pitching staff is much too weak and will cost them a good chunk of games, that would other wise be winnable with a formidable staff. With that being said, due to the fact that the A’s have such an explosive offense, I do see them winning anywhere from 85-87 games this season. I do have them missing the postseason however as I feel that they play in a much tougher division than a team like the Twins do, and are going to be forced to face tougher competition on a nightly basis. The A’s are a young team with a bright future and a hell of a coach. You can expect them to stick around for the next few years and if they can get an arm or two, well then we are talking about a whole different team, a team that could do some serious damage.