Sunday, December 3, 2023

Uncustomed Heroes of 2023: Athletics


We knew it was going to be bad. By definition, a completely gutted A's team, without even the people like Frankie Montas, Sean Murphy or even Cole Irvin, would be a disappointment, and while nothing in-game hurt as much as the confirmation that the A's would be headed to Vegas in a year or so, it still wasn't great. The A's lost 112 games this year, a feat that hasn't been accomplished since an 117-loss season in 1916. Connie Mack was still managing the team then. IN PHILADELPHIA. That's two locations ago for the A's, going on three.

The closest thing this A's team has to a trusted veteran is Tony Kemp, who had one excellent season for the A's in 2021, the year they came just short of the postseason, and had his worst season to date this year. Kemp hit .209, with 75 hits in 124 games, and if you can believe it he was worse defensively. The A's have kept him around because of what he does in the clubhouse, but as the team begins to develop more and more great young players, it's clear how little use he has left there.
2024 Prediction: A minor league deal somewhere. Not sure if he'll be starting at all though.

With Kemp gone, the longest-contracted player on the A's might be Aledmys Diaz. And for your biggest contract to go to a middle infielder owed 14 million over the next season or so, that's not terrible. The Yankees have hundreds of millions pinned down. 14.5 million for Aledmys Diaz is manageable. And it's a contract the A's may not even see to the end, considering that Diaz has been mediocre since leaving Houston. This season, the first of the new contract, Diaz hit .229 with 72 hits in 109 games, and was phased into a utility role as the season went on.
2024 Prediction: Zach Gelof is gonna ensure he never starts consistently in Oakland again. So he might be a backup elsewhere next fall. Houston reunion?

Jordan Diaz hit .444 against the New York Yankees, with 4 hits, 4 RBIs and 3 home runs. Forget for a moment that he hit .221 against the whole league; Jordan Diaz, of all people, has become one of the 'pissants' for the Yankees, like Ellis Burks and Carlos Pena before him. Not really one I would have called. Diaz is a decent depth piece, and did hit 10 homers this year, but he hasn't shown consistent staying power yet, even with 3rd base relatively open.
2024 Prediction: I'd say he breaks out and takes third, but I'm not sure how confident the A's will be that he'll keep the position.

The most unsung of this bunch of A's unsung heroes is Austin Pruitt, who was a former Rays farmhand who bopped around for a while, found Oakland last year and played a relief role, and was a multi-faceted guy for this A's team this year. He started 6 games, mostly as an opener for a few innings, and closed out 8, mostly mopping up a loss. In 38 games he ran a 2.98 ERA and was one of the most reliable A's pitchers prior to going down with an injury late in the year. He was one of the many players needlessly non-tendered this year to create cap space for an A's move that probably won't happen.
2024 Prediction: Somebody picks him up, but I'm not sure if he'll deliver anything as good as this year.

As it should be, the takeaway heading into 2024 should be the number of strong rookies the A's are working with. If it weren't for injuries, there'd be a ton more eyes on Mason Miller this year, as he was excellent when healthy. The West Virginian posted a 3.78 ERA this year, striking out 38 in 10 games. Even with the number of suitable starting options higher in the depth chart, Miller is a rare homegrown weapon that could be a big piece going forward.
2024 Prediction: Along with one other person on this post, Miller will have a breakout year next year [Logan Gilbert style], and rise above the mediocre A's play.

Tyler Soderstrom was the bigger name of the two called-up A's prospects midyear, but Zach Gelof had the better season. Soderstrom was no slouch, but he was way more one-dimensional this year, hitting .160 with 7 RBIs and 3 home runs in 45 games.
2024 Prediction: If there is room for him, he'll come into his own. If not, expect decent bench numbers.

The eyebrow-raiser for me going forward is Joe Boyle, a pitching prospect I saw good things from in the minors who took to the majors easily. In 3 starts he went 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA and 15 Ks, very impressive numbers. This may only be the beginning of his career, but Boyle could lead to a lot of growth for this A's team.
2024 Prediction: Will be the last WAR leader the A's will have in Oakland. I am seeing big things next year from Joe Boyle.

Coming Tomorrow- Once again the first round was their enemy, but they had plenty to celebrate this year.

1 comment:

  1. Only recognize a few of these names... but honestly didn't follow my favorite team that closely this past season (outside of checking box scores from time to time). I'll have to keep an eye out for Boyle... but if the truly does end up being their WAR leader eventually... they'll trade him to a contender.