The 2012 season was defined by the multitude of rookies who defied the odds, and carried the team to the most unexpected of postseason runs. Therefore, in 2013 that drive was primarily field by second year players. The impact of rookie players is always felt, but in 2013 the club of rookies was an exclusive one. Aside from Nate Freiman and Sonny Gray, the group of rookies included players who really just made cameo appearances with the Athletics. Dan Straily was technically considered a rookie, but his experience last year disqualifies him from consideration for the purpose of this article. We saw the likes of Shane Peterson for a blink of an eye, and saw Michael Choice get his feet wet as well during the month of September. Stephen Vogt gets a nod as well for notching his first big league hit with the A’s after an extended drought. We also saw Michael Taylor for a brief moment, but that figures to be all we ever really see of him.
The three players out of that group that really did play a vital role on the 2013 Athletics would be of course Sonny Gray, Nate Freiman, and Stephen Vogt.
Oct 10, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the fourth inning in game five of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at O.co Coliseum. The Detroit Tigers defeated the Oakland Athletics 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Sonny Gray became a household name during the playoffs with his spectacular start in Game 2 of the ALDS, out dueling Justin Verlander as the A’s won in walk off fashion. During the regular season though, Gray showed the A’s a lot to the A’s as to why he was a first round pick. In 64 innings at the big league level, Gray posted a very nice 2.67 ERA with 67 strikeouts in the process. His 2.70 FIP indicated that he really did perform as well as his numbers showed. The future is extremely bright for Gray, and the Athletics couldn’t be happier.
Nate Freiman was brought in right at the end of Spring Training via waivers, and as a Rule 5 selection, he had to stay on the active roster for the duration of the season or else be offered back to his original team, the San Diego Padres. Freiman was given a chance, put into a role he could succeed, and succeed he did. Freiman became part of a platoon with Brandon Moss at first base, and Freiman more than held his own against left handed pitchers. Overall Freiman hit .274/.327/.389, but hit .302/.352/.453 against left handers. The power wasn’t quite there, especially considering his massive 6’8″ frame, but when you deliver big hits like the 18th inning walk off single against Mariano Rivera, it doesn’t matter too much.
Stephen Vogt was another pickup that seemed like nothing more than organizational depth. But injuries dictated that he was not only given a chance in Oakland, but thrust into an important role on the team. With John Jaso on the shelf with concussion symptoms, Vogt took over the duties as the left handed hitter in a platoon with Derek Norris behind the dish. Vogt had two amazing highlights of 2013, his first hit which came in home run form, and of course his amazing walk off single in Game 2 of the ALDS. Vogt hit .252/.295/.400 in 148 plate appearances, and played solid defense behind the plate. While his blocking of balls in the dirt could have used a little work, his ability to throw out would-be stealers was huge (31% caught stealing), as he showed in the 5th inning of Game 2.
The Athletics have put into place a strong core for the near and the distant future, every year there are rookies who will make significant contributions. Next year figures to see more of the same, with perhaps Addison Russell highlighting the potential call ups in 2014.