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Spring Pruning of the Oakland Roster
2007-02-20 02:03
by Ryan Armbrust

The A's are entering what looks to be a very interesting Spring Training. By my estimation, there will be between thirteen and seventeen players with legitimate shots at only seven roster spots. Battles in the outfield, starting staff, relief corps and backup infield will be fierce. For many, if they fail to secure a spot, it means the end of their time in the Oakland organization.

So who will be participating in this high-stakes game of musical chairs? To discover that, let's work backwards. Who's a lock to make the 25-man roster? I'll assume that the A's decide to carry 12 pitchers out of Spring Training, for the sake of argument.

- - -

Pitching Locks (9 out of 12):

Rich Harden
Dan Haren
Joe Blanton
Esteban Loaiza
Joe Kennedy
Huston Street
Justin Duchscherer
Kiko Calero
Alan Embree

Fielding Locks (9 out of 13):

Jason Kendall
Mike Piazza
Eric Chavez
Bobby Crosby
Mark Ellis
Nick Swisher
Milton Bradley
Mark Kotsay
Shannon Stewart

- - -

That leaves us with three pitching slots, and four openings in the field. Let's look at the competition for the last three pitchers.

In approximate order of the chance to make the team, the top candidates:

Chad Gaudin
Brad Halsey
Lenny DiNardo
Ron Flores
Jay Marshall
Jay Witasick

- Gaudin and Halsey seem to have the inside track, since they're healthy and have plenty of MLB experience. They can also fill-in as emergency starters and compete with Joe Kennedy.

- Witasick is going to have to really impress to earn his spot back. He's earning a lot of money, and is out of options. I don't see him in green and gold in 2007.

- Flores, as a lefty, is behind Embree and Halsey. He'll be in Sacramento, waiting for the A's to trade him before it's too late.

- DiNardo has good stuff, but he's facing stiff competition and can be optioned to Sacramento. At this rate, Sacramento is going to have a better pitching staff than the Kansas City Royals. I'm not even sure that's an exagerration, either.

- Jay Marshall has filthy stuff and he's a Rule V pick so he either makes the team or the A's lose him, but he's only pitched at the high A level. I'd guess that the A's will give him the last bullpen spot, and see if he can hold his own at the MLB level. If not, they'll have to let him go.

My picks to make the team: Gaudin, Halsey, Marshall

These players are on the 40-man roster, but have minor league options left and/or aren't quite MLB ready:

Jason Windsor
Shane Komine
Marcus McBeth
David Shafer
Scott Dunn
Santiago Casilla
Dan Meyer

I wonder if Dan Meyer will ever pitch again in the majors? His health is a mystery wrapped in a .. well, you know the cliché.

- - -

Now that the pitchers seem to have sifted themselves out, let's look at the fielders. This is not going to be nearly as simple as the pitching staff was.

With four spots open, here are the contenders:

Dan Johnson
Marco Scutaro
Bobby Kielty
Adam Melhuse
Antonio Perez
Ryan Goleski
Erubiel Durazo

- If Dan Johnson's double-vision is gone, and he rakes, he can make the team. He's essentially in a competition with Durazo. Both of them cannot make the team. Johnson is out of options, and it's unlikely Durazo would clear waivers and/or accept an assignment to AAA. The A's need a first-baseman, and since Durazo can't field well, Johnson has a built in edge. With Piazza holding down full-time DH duties, ol' Alligator Arms will have to thoroughly convince Billy Beane that he's back to 2004 form.

- With the precarious health of Ellis, Crosby and Chavez, the A's need middle infield depth. Marco Scutaro is a very capable middle infielder, and he can hit well enough that it won't create problems. However, Scutaro isn't a great option if Eric Chavez goes down or needs a rest. Antonio Perez can play third, and can't perform any worse offensively than he did last year. If he did, I'm confident that Earth would begin to revolve the opposite way, and very bad things would happen to the time-space continuum. Adam Melhuse can also play third in a pinch, although his job security isn't the best since Mike Piazza can handle the 2-3 times a month Melhuse would likely catch. Perez is a better option as a pinch runner, though, and is a better fielder.

- As is stands, the four outfielders (Bradley, Kotsay, Swisher, Stewart) can handle one more in the rotation, but six might not be feasible. So who does that spot go to? It'll come down to Bobby Kielty and Ryan Goleski. Goleski is another Rule V pick, but he has the strange advantage of being hurt. How is that helpful? He can begin the season on the DL, and Oakland won't have to return him to the Indians. Kielty will be used almost exclusively against lefties, which will inflate his numbers, which should lead to him being traded. The best option for the A's may be to trade a .320 hitting Kielty in May, and activate a now-healthy Goleski. If Stewart, Bradley or Kotsay go down with an injury, things become much easier for Beane and Geren, obviously.

My picks to make the team: Johnson, Scutaro, Perez, Kielty

Longshots to make the team, but they have options left:

Javier Herrera
Jeremy Brown
Donnie Murphy

- - -

My 25-man roster:

Rich Harden
Dan Haren
Joe Blanton
Esteban Loaiza
Joe Kennedy
Huston Street
Justin Duchscherer
Kiko Calero
Alan Embree
Jason Kendall
Mike Piazza
Eric Chavez
Bobby Crosby
Mark Ellis
Nick Swisher
Milton Bradley
Mark Kotsay
Shannon Stewart
Dan Johnson
Marco Scutaro
Antonio Perez
Bobby Kielty
Chad Gaudin
Brad Halsey
Jay Marshall

Guesses as to who will be gone between April 1 and May 31: Witasick, Durazo-or-Johnson, Goleski-or-Kielty, Melhuse, Flores, Marshall

That's my best estimate. What's yours?

2007-02-20 09:38:09
1.   Ken Arneson
I'll throw in some comments:

Durazo signed a minor-league contract, so I don't think he has to clear waivers to be sent to Sacramento. I think he'll start out in Sacramento, unless Johnson still has eye troubles, and the A's can use that as an excuse to DL him.

I think Kielty is a bigger lock than Stewart. Kielty has the bigger contract.

I also think the A's feel that Piazza's defense is so bad, they'll never let him play in the field. Melhuse makes the team, somehow.

That means that the A's either go with 11 pitchers, or just one backup middle infielder. I would consider Scutaro a lock, putting Perez on the bubble, unless a pitcher has options I don't know about. Halsey, maybe? Can he be sent down without going through waivers? Otherwise, I don't think Marshall makes it without an impressive spring and an injury to someone else.

I think you're right about Witasick that the A's would like to get rid of him. But he also has a decent chunk of change owed to him. I think he'll end up being traded if he pitches decently in Arizona. Someone with a bad bullpen will take him--Giants, Indians, Rays...If not, he'll make the team only if someone gets hurt.

The end result is that my 25-man guess looks like yours, but with Melhuse swapped for Marshall.

2007-02-20 12:09:05
2.   Ryan Armbrust
I forgot Durazo's minor league deal. I originally thought that Durazo just had an invite to spring training, but he indeed has a minor league deal.

I don't believe Halsey has options left. He's been on a 25-man roster for more than three years now, so I'm not certain, but I think he's out of options.

I'm not so sure about Kielty over Stewart, though. The contract issue is a lesser factor than Kielty's extreme platoon splits, I think. If anything, Kielty's contract will make the A's more likely to trade him.

Just my $.02... Games need to begin so we can move past this wild conjecture.

2007-02-20 14:03:57
3.   MrIncognito
Just from reading some of the initial reports from Phoenix, it sounds like Meyer is throwing much better. Yay.

I would really like to see what Perez does with 250 ABs next year. He hit everywhere he stopped until he was Ginter-ised last season.

2007-02-20 14:29:40
4.   Ken Arneson
3 Well the thing about's not how many years you've been up, it's how many years you've been sent down after you were first put on a 40-man roster.

Halsey was first called up in 2004. If he was called up without being sent down again, that doesn't count as an option.

It appears he wasn't sent down at all in 2005 with Arizona. So no option used there.

He did spend some time in Sacramento last year. So that's one, for sure.

Seems to me that Halsey probably has at least one option remaining, and he might even have two.

2007-02-20 14:31:59
5.   Ken Arneson
4 Gah! I always do the wrong numbers on those things. Obviously in {4] I was responding to 2, not 3.

As for 3, if Meyer can indeed return to his top-prospect form, that would be a huge boost to the depth of the rotation.

2007-02-20 14:42:34
6.   Ken Arneson
5 Looking at the game logs, looks like Halsey was called up in June 2004 by the Yankees, but sent down again in July. So they used up an option there.

So it looks to me like Halsey has one option left.

2007-02-20 14:55:07
7.   Ken Arneson
...unless the Yankees put Halsey on the 40-man roster in 2003. Too lazy to Google to find out exactly when that happened.

Also, I thought Chad Gaudin might have an option left, but looking at his record, it looks like the A's used up his last option last year.

2007-02-24 21:28:58
8.   Nathan Perry
I am almost 100% certain that Melhuse will be an Athletic for the beginning (if not the entirety) of the 2007 season. Piazza's inability to throw out a baserunner who doesn't require a cane isn't even the primary reason. Resting the regular catcher is only one of the duties of the backup catcher, the other is of course to catch if for whatever reason the regular catcher can't catch. Piazza is going to start almost every game as the DH. If an injury (or John Lackey) were to force Kendall to leave the game, moving the DH into the field would turn us into a National League team, requiring the pitcher to hit. Maybe Beane's got more confidence in Geren, but if this had happened last year, I'm pretty sure smoke would have come out of Macha's ears and he'd have told Chavez to put some pads on.

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