As the roster currently stands, the Oakland Athletics have a plethora of outfielders at their disposal heading into 2015. The two players we know (right now) have starting spots are Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick, manning center and right. Left field has become a question mark, in terms of who will be the regular at the position. Let’s look at each of the candidates.
First, there is the favorite to receive a bulk of the playing time in Craig Gentry. He has been called “the best fourth outfielder in baseball” by some, and “kitten face” by others, but the fact remains, he is a solid option for the A’s to consider entering 2015. Last season, Gentry dealt with a myriad of injuries, and only played in 94 games, which was a little less than his average over the previous two seasons of 114.
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When healthy, Gentry provides the Oakland Athletics with a new dimension: speed. Sure, there are other options on the team, but there isn’t a better option than Gentry. Last season, he stole 20 bases and was caught just twice, good for a 91% success rate. He is also a great defender, and can play all three outfield positions. Gentry is going to get playing time, it’s the other two options that will have to fight for theirs.
Sam Fuld became a fan favorite with his hustle, as well as his tumbling throws to home. His bat, however, may earn him a spot on the bench in 2015. In Oakland last season, Fuld hit just .209, compared to his .274 batting average with Minnesota. The potential for Fuld to become a fixture in the outfield mix is there, but he will need to improve upon his numbers with Oakland from last season, with a third option being at manager Bob Melvin‘s disposal.
Mark Canha was selected in the Rule 5 Draft last week by Colorado, then traded to Oakland for minor leaguer Austin House. Due to his Rule 5 status, Canha must stay on the 25-man roster (can’t be sent to the minors) for the duration of the season, or be offered back to his original team, in this case, the Miami Marlins.
Canha will get a shot in Oakland next season, and left field and first base are the two positions he is the most familiar with. Last season in Triple-A, Canha hit .303, with 20 home runs and 82 rbi, to go along with an impressive .382 on-base percentage. Canha has some potential to be a fit in left. The downside with him is his strikeout rate. Last season, he came K’d in 24% of his at-bats. For a player that will be making his major league debut, that rate likely will not decrease. Yet, as Billy Beane said this offseason, he is looking for a team that gets better as the season goes on. Canha has the potential to fit that bill.
These are the options for the Oakland Athletics in left field. If 2015 follows the same pattern as the previous two seasons, all five of these players, and possibly Stephen Vogt, will get a steady dose of playing time due to injuries.
The way I see it shaking out, Gentry will be used as the fourth outfielder as he has been throughout his career. While he may be the A’s best option outside of Crisp and Reddick, his injury history from 2014 (including a season-ending concussion) should cause the A’s to be cautious with him. Fuld and Canha will likely start off the season in a platoon situation, with Fuld being a left-handed batter, and Canha a righty.
The funny part is, both Fuld and Canha have reverse splits, so Canha could see more time against righties, and Fuld against lefties. If either of the two begins to take off, they may just work their way into the lineup more often. Not many jobs on this team will be guaranteed, which could bring out the competitive spirit in the team.