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Oakland Athletics 2022: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Sean Murphy, Oakland A's

Catcher Sean Murphy is one of the few faces left from last year's roster as the A's have embarked on another teardown

The one good thing that can be said of the A's as they go into yet another rebuild is that top baseball men Billy Beane and David Forst have walked this path before. They know the pitfalls, and they know that teams don't take a straight line back to the top. Rather, they get better or worse by fits and starts.

The A's enter 2022 without popular and player-centric manager Bob Melvin (now with the Padres) and many of the players who drove the semi-success of 2021's 86-win season. All-Stars Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Chris Bassitt were shipped out of town with Sean Manaea getting traded less than a week before Opening Day. Much of the bullpen has departed. The outfield has taken a serious hit with the exits of Mark Canha and Starling Marte. Gone, too, are second baseman/DH Jed Lowrie, DH Mitch Moreland and utilityman Josh Harrison. And there could be more moves to come.

Roster depth, which sustained Oakland for the first half of 2021 — the A's had the AL's best record as deep into the season as June 20 — is non-existent.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Athletics

Oakland A's logo

"It sure seems like it's step-back time again for this team, and it's going to be a disaster for attendance, which is never great as it is. On paper, they have some starters who could keep them fairly competitive. But in their situation, it makes much more sense to trade those guys — Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea are in their 30s already, and their window of team control is dwindling. They've got some good offensive pieces like Tony Kemp, who's a terrific utility guy, always hustling, always getting on base, with sneaky pop. Guys can pitch to Seth Brown, but he'll hammer their mistakes. They never like to do the full teardown in Oakland, but you get the feeling that they've already taken a step out the door to Vegas."

Editor's note: Scouting report was submitted before Sean Manaea was traded to the San Diego Padres on April 3.

Beyond the Box Score

Hall class The A's have added longtime broadcaster Ray Fosse to the list of those being inducted into the Oakland Hall of Fame. Fosse missed most of the second half of the 2021 season at the end of what was a 16-year battle with cancer, then passed away on Oct. 13, just after the team he'd been a part of as a broadcaster since 1986 had been eliminated. He won two World Series rings with the A's as a catcher. He joins 3B Sal Bando, 3B Eric Chávez, OF Joe Rudi, director of player development Keith Lieppman and retiring A's clubhouse manager Steve Vucinich in the class of 2022.

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Ballpark blues During their 2021 playoff run, much of what was being analyzed regarding the A's was their future home. Even as they closed in on a possible home near Oakland's Jack London Square on the waterfront, the club reached out to Las Vegas, with club president Dave Kaval making a number of trips to Vegas and having his people scout out possible sites for a new stadium, going so far as to purchase some land. Any hopes for a stadium being ready for 2024 are off the table.

Losing the locals The A's fan base is being whittled down, even with the club being in contention each of the last four seasons. The overtures to Las Vegas annoyed the fan base. More than that, the post-2020 free agency departures of fan favorites Marcus Semien and Liam Hendricks continued a long trend of local heroes being unable to get competitive contract offers from A's management. Oakland has not finished better than 23rd in attendance since 2005 and was 29th in 2021.

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Penny pinchers Oakland's payroll has the virtue of consistency. For all of the winning they've done in the last 11 years, the A's payroll has ranked between 24th and 30th each season dating back to 2012. The last time the always-tight-fisted club owned by John Fisher ranked higher to start the season was the No. 20 ranking of 2011.

Overachievers The A's have a streak of four consecutive winning seasons coming into 2022. That's the most for the Oakland franchise since the team did it eight consecutive seasons from 1998-2006. For all of that winning, the A's 86–76 record in 2021 was the first time Oakland finished with a winning record but did not make the playoffs since 2005's 88–74.

Looking east Oakland reached across the Pacific Ocean to augment its pitching depth, signing amateur free agent righthander Chen Zhong-Ao from Taiwan. Chen, 22, pitched in college — the National Taiwan Sports University — and for his national team in the WBSC Under-23 tournament in Oberon, Mexico, in 2021. Chen spent his own money to fly to the Bay Area and threw in front of MLB teams last July. Chen, who has been on the A's radar since he was in high school, has a 95 mph fastball and also throws a big curve and a splitter that serves as a changeup. He also has a slider that needs some work before it becomes a weapon.

Projected Lineup

LINEUP

CF    Ramón Laureano (R)
SS    Elvis Andrus (R)
LF    Seth Brown (L)
C     Sean Murphy (R)
1B    Eric Thames (L)
DH   Chad Pinder (R)
RF    Stephen Piscotty (R)
3B    Kevin Smith (R)
2B    Tony Kemp (L)

BENCH

C      Austin Allen (L)
IF     Vimael Machín (L)
OF   Luis Barrera (L)
OF   Cristian Pache (R)

ROTATION

RHP    Frankie Montas
LHP    Cole Irvin
RHP    James Kaprielian
RHP    Daulton Jefferies

BULLPEN

RHP    Lou Trivino (C)
RHP    Deolis Guerra
RHP    Paul Blackburn
RHP    Jordan Weems
LHP    A.J. Puk
RHP    Domingo Acevedo
LHP    Sam Moll
RHP    Dany Jiménez

2022 Prediction: 5th in AL West