Oakland Athletics: A Left Field Platoon Is Necessary For 2016

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Currently, the Oakland Athletics have a surplus of outfielders. With the expanded September roster, the A’s have nine players who can play in the outfield. However, the only position really open for the taking in 2016 is left field. If Oakland does not trade Josh Reddick this offseason, then he will be positioned back in right. Billy Burns pretty much has center field all wrapped up after this year’s success. That just leaves left.

Sam Fuld has been covering left field for most of the season. However, Coco Crisp was expected to be the starter left before he incurred yet another injury. Then there is also Jake Smolinski, who has barely received any playing since being recalled from Triple-A on August 19. These three players will definitely be vying for a starting position in left field for the 2016 season.

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Even though these outfielders may have the ability to be an every day starting player, the Athletics should consider platooning this position. It would not be a terrible idea to platoon left field since each of these three players bring different strengths to the table. Fuld bats left, Smolinski bats right, and Crisp is a switch hitter. Smolinski’s bat is probably the strongest, but he has gone through some major slumps while Crisp is a consistent hitter and Fuld’s bat is usually pretty quiet comparatively.

As for base running, Fuld and Crisp are extremely quick and known for stealing bases. However, Crisp has needed to learn how to slide feet first after incurring a chronic neck injury and he has not quite mastered this skill yet. Smolinski on the other hand does not usually steal bases, but he is young and definitely not a slowpoke. When it comes to playing in the field, Super Sam is known for his diving catches and stellar defense, Smolinski has yet to commit an error in his Major League career, and Crisp’s defensive skills have been slowly declining throughout the years due to numerous shoulder surgeries.

As for looking toward the future, Crisp is only signed through 2016 and it is highly unlikely he will return after that season due to his chronic neck injury that will require surgery to fix completely. Like Crisp, Fuld will be a free agent in 2017. If his contract stays cheap, the A’s might consider resigning him because of his defensive skills. Smolinski on the other hand will not hit free agency until 2021. If the A’s want to mold Smolinski into an everyday starting left fielder for the 2017 season and beyond, it would benefit him to at least get some playing time at the Major League level between now and then. It would also be beneficial for him to learn from and practice with some outfield veterans like Crisp and Fuld. 

Here is a crazy idea: why not have five outfielders on the roster in 2016? Fuld and Crisp could platoon left while Smolinski could be the backup outfielder. Additionally, since Smolinski rarely plays in center field, Fuld could cover that position when Burns needed a day off. Lastly, if Billy Butler continues to underperform next season, the A’s could stick Crisp in the DH spot from time to time in order to lessen the chance of him landing on the disabled list. Then with Reddick in right, the A’s would have numerous options when it comes to constructing the lineup for each game.

The Oakland Athletics love choices when it comes to moving around players to different positions and constructing lineups. This would give them the freedom to do just that as well as ensure that the outfield is covered with qualified players. The Athletics had three catchers on the 25-man roster in 2013 at one point, why not five outfielders?

Next: Oakland Athletics Are Limited In Options For Billy Butler

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