Oakland Athletics: Mid-Season Report Card
Team: Oakland Athletics
Record: 56-39 (1st Place)
Biggest Surprise of First Half:
With a team of mis-fits that are destroying the MLB, this is really hard to pinpoint. I would have to go with the dark horse Nate Freiman who splits bats with Brandon Moss at first base this year. Nate was picked up as a rule 5 player at the very start of the year and had absolutely no major league experience. Freiman stands at an imposing six foot eight, 250 pounds of all strength yet come across as very meek and quite. Nate receives the bulk of bats against left handed batters and is batting a scorching .311/.357/.377 line. Nate fits in perfectly with the laid back Oakland club and has already contributed a walk off RBI, which are all the fad with the Athletics (lead the majors with six after yesterday`s walk-off)
Biggest Disappointment of First Half:
Compared to last year’s story book season, the biggest disappointment is pretty evenly distributed amongst the outfielders and pitchers. The one player that was brought in on Billy Beane`s dime and has not come remotely close to fulfilling his role is the former All-star Chris Young. His batting line speaks for itself as Chris is batting a measly .190/.276/.366 which resembles little of the .231/.311/.667 he batted for Arizona last year. Due to the Athletics rotating their outfield and DH spots, Chris doesn`t get every day starts. However, unless Chris has a breakout second-half, and especially with the emergences of better AB`s from Reddick and Cespedes, Young could be seeing fewer AB`S and possibly could be trade bait.
Josh Donaldson. The only other player who could possibly hold a match to the third baseman is Bartolo Colon, but even the ugly Nacho Libre lookalike can`t boast the contribution Josh has given to his team. For a former catcher converted third baseman who was sent down to the minors last year, Josh has done more than prove himself. With a batting line of .310/.379/.522, Josh is on my list of biggest All-Star snubs and has gone a long way into proving himself as a shutdown baseman in the hot corner.
Prospect Ready to Make an Impact:
Two of Oakland`s biggest prospects that are ready to contribute have just been called up. Sonny Gray and Grant Green were both called up last week and each had a very different debut. Sonny pitched two innings against Pittsburg on the tenth and it was a display. Out of the seven batters Sonny faced, he struck out three and allowed one hit against a very good Pirates team. Whether his role is in the pen or in the rotation has yet to be seen, but Gray`s stuff looks deadly and borderline unhittable, even at the major league level. Grant had a much worse debut then his former Sacramento teammate. Green was called up to replace Rosales as the second baseman who would face left handed pitchers. He has started three games, recorded five strikeouts, and not a single hit. On the defensive end of things, Grand has committed three errors and ruined a few more double plays. For a kid who has been brought up slowly and has seen a ton of time and money invested into him by the Oakland Athletics, the clock is ticking and unless Grant has some better AB`s and shows improvement at second base he could be on his way back down.
Contender or Pretender:
Contender. Many doubted this team when the season started. Despite the extraordinary season last year, all of the core players coming back and with some improvements, and the young pitching staff getting some much needed rest, many didn`t think the A`s would be back on top. Well, they were proven wrong… again. The A`s have continued their hot streak this year and are leading the AL West by two games while even threatening the Red Sox for the top spot in the AL. The second half schedule is littered with games against the Astros, Angels, Mariners, Twins and other non-contenders. I see the Athletics making it to October, but struggling against power teams like Detroit.
Overall Team Analysis:
The Athletics play with a ton of emotion. Streaks and slumps run rapid in this club and it is not abnormal to see the A`s struggle against good and bad pitching depending on the day. Even the young pitching staff is seeing the ups and downs of a long season and one has to wonder if they will click it into the higher gear, as they have before. This team is by far the funnest to watch in baseball. They are a group of high character and even funnier personalities. I think that Oakland needs to add either a second baseman or even a starting pitcher, depending on if Bartolo is suspended or Brett Anderson comes back from injury. If all plays out well, Oakland will take the division and the number one seed going into the playoffs.