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How Far Can the Athletics Go Next Season?

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How Far Can the Athletics Go Next Season?
Manager Bob Melvin #6 of the Oakland Athletics takes the ball from pitcher Jesus Luzardo #44. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images/AFP

The Athletics are known for their money ball antics. Those antics include spending a low amount of money on players who fit the team and system and have potential to over-perform. Oakland finished the regular season with a 36-24 record in 2020, winning the AL West by seven games. It wasn’t even close. Although, the Astros came in second in the division and eventually made the postseason and then some. General Manager Billy Beane and top executives in Oakland will stay going into the next season.

The team’s young core includes outfielder Ramon Laureano, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Sean Murphy, at catcher. Chapman was out for most of the second half last year but should be ready to go for 2021. He is a strikeout machine, as if Olson, but they’ve also got pop. If these guys can limit strikeouts, the A’s will be in solid shape when it comes to their lineup and worthy of our MLB picks.

The A’s also added Tommy La Stella from the Los Angeles Angels during the trade deadline last season. La Stella provided them a much needed left-handed bat at the top of the order and really produced. He hit nearly .300 with seven extra base hits in 111 plate appearances. La Stella made big hit after big hit and also walked 12 times while striking out just five times.

The A’s are currently in talks to keep La Stella in Oakland. They’re making an effort but the offer might not surpass other teams. We’ll keep an eye out for a La Stella deal. Nonetheless, they’ll need to sign a left-handed bat because they’re mostly right-handed in that lineup.

Oakland Athletics
Ramon Laureano #22 of the Oakland Athletics. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP

But knowing the Athletics, they’d rather play Chad Pinder and Tony Kemp over signing a new player if they can’t get La Stella. This is why it’s hard for the A’s to finish the job in the postseason. They’ll have enough to get into the playoffs but never have enough to actually win the playoffs with the lineup and thinking, which is clearly reflected on the MLB odds to win it all.

The starting rotation has plenty of potential. We saw a glimpse of if last year with Chris Basssitt having a career year and an incredible finish to his season. On top of that, a fresh new start and season for Frankie Montas, Sean Manaea and Jesus Luzardo should be crucial. The talent is there. Now it’s time to perform.

On the outside looking in is A.J. Puk, a big time pitching prospect, where if he could stay healthy, the A’s will likely use him as their fifth starter. That’s a quality starting five for a rotation and a cheap one to say the least. The Athletics always execute their plan from an executive standpoint.

One area that the Athletics love to work is in the international prospect world. They’ve tried to sign some big names in the Japan and Korean markets before but have become unsuccessful. The NPB has a couple players that will be posted and potential Major League Baseball players.

Jesus Luzardo #44 of the Oakland Athletics
Jesus Luzardo #44 of the Oakland Athletics. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images/AFP

Haruki Nishikawa is one name that continues to pop up as he has a lifetime batting average of .286 with 51 home runs. Not only can he hit, but he’s also a premier fielder and can play any of the outfield positions along with batting lead off for the team, who clearly don’t have a lead-off hitter right now.

Furthermore, the Athletics will feature a bullpen without Liam Hendricks, who was their reliable closer and finisher. He was the best arm in that bullpen. He’s joining other top closers in free agency and other teams in the MLB are willing to pay him more than the Athletics. What’s new? Sure, the Athletics have a solid rotation and usually are able to develop talent or sign someone cheap that can replace Hendricks. But that’s the unknown.

Every year, we go into the season and are unsure about the Athletics. And then every year, the Athletics find their way into the playoffs (and then lose). Oakland will make the playoffs. Anything beyond the first round would be impressive. But if you want to take the risk, Heritage Sports has them at +1700 to win it all next season.