A'S ROSTER BREAKDOWN
ROTATION: RHP Jarrod Parker, RHP A.J. Griffin, LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Dan Straily, LHP Tommy Milone, RHP Sonny Gray, LHP Drew Pomeranz. For the ninth consecutive seaso, the A's will have a different opening day starting pitcher, which underscores the fact that the club doesn't have a true ace at the top of its rotation. Even so, the starters are good top to bottom, with manager Bob Melvin saying "we go out every day knowing our starters will give us a chance to win, and that's a great feeling to have." Coming into the spring, Kazmir and Parker are locks for the rotation while Griffin, Straily and Gray have major legs up on the competition for the other three jobs. But Milone has 25 wins the last two years and Pomeranz got great reviews from those who saw him throw this off-season, so the competition should be something to watch.
BULLPEN: RHP Jim Johnson, RHP Ryan Cook, LHP Sean Doolittle, RHP Luke Gregerson, LHP Eric O'Flaherty, RHP Dan Otero, RHP Jesse Chavez, LHP Fernando Abad, RHP Fernando Rodriguez, RHP Evan Scribner. The A's are loaded after the additions of Johnson, Gregerson and O'Flaherty. Johnson has had back-to-back 50-save seasons, Gregerson has a 2.88 career ERA, and O'Flaherty has a 1.68 ERA in his last four years, although he won't be ready until midseason as he comes back from Tommy John surgery. Cook and Doolittle are good enough that they were candidates to close if Johnson hadn't come along. Otero, a former minor league closer, turned out to be one of the club's best pickups last year, moving from middle work to quality setup relief.
CATCHER: Chris Gimenez, John Jaso, Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt. The A's still see Norris as the everyday catcher down the road. But for the short term, they like the platoon they had in place last year with Jaso, and then Vogt, hitting from the left side and Norris from the right. With Jaso fully recovered from his concussion problems, they could be one of the few big league teams with three catchers, using Jaso and his high on-base percentage as a designated hitter.
INFIELD: 1B Brandon Moss, 2B Eric Sogard, SS Jed Lowrie, 3B Josh Donaldson, SS/2B Nick Punto, 3B/2B Alberto Callaspo, 1B Daric Barton, 1B Nate Freiman. Much of the A's offense last year came from Moss, Lowrie and Donaldson, but the infield still is in a state of flux. There's a chance Barton will be the first baseman and Moss will be asked to be the designated hitter. Sogard wasn't on the A's radar to start last season, but had a breakout year. Even so, he has to impress again this spring with Callaspo a threat to move in at second.
OUTFIELD: LF Yoenis Cespedes, CF Coco Crisp, RF Josh Reddick, Craig Gentry, Michael Taylor. More than anything, Oakland needs to keep its regular outfield of Cespedes, Crisp and Reddick on the field at the same time. Doing so last year was a problem as none of the three played in more than 135 games. Crisp can't be counted on for 22 homers again this year, so it's incumbent on Reddick and Cespedes, both of whom have more natural power, to hit more homers than they did a year ago. Gentry is a jack-of-all-trades, able to provide above average defense at all three positions. He also has exceptional speed on the bases.
DESIGNATED HITTER: The A's history under manager Bob Melvin has been to use the DH job as a way to give regulars half a day off rather than ceding the spot to one person. That is subject to change, as Jaso or Moss could wind up getting 100-plus starts there, depending on how things go this spring.