Even though the majority of the Oakland Athletics’ starters are currently on the disabled list, there will be a surplus of qualified pitchers who could fill the five spots on the starting rotation come spring training in 2016. Right now, the only definite for the rotation is young ace Sonny Gray. The other four spots are up for grabs. The A’s will have the tough job of evaluating each starting pitcher and deciding whether or not he will be able to handle the role. Let’s take a look at who might fill these remaining spots.
It is clear that Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, and Kendall Graveman will all be vying for a position on the starting rotation. Throughout the season, fans have all of these young pitchers before. They all had their ups and downs, but overall they were quite impressive during their rookie year. Right now, Hahn and Graveman are on the disabled list and Hahn has just returned from a shoulder injury he incurred at the end of August. It will definitely be interesting to see how they all bounce back next season. Their performances during spring training in 2016 will ultimately be the factor in deciding if they should be a part of the rotation.
Other familiar faces who will be looking to compete during spring training are long relievers Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz. Like many of Oakland’s starting pitchers, both Chavez and Pomeranz are on the DL – Chavez with a fractured rib and Pomeranz with AC joint soreness, which he has been dealing with for much of the season. However, both of these pitchers are expected to be healthy by spring training.
Pomeranz was inconsistent as a starting pitcher and faired much better as a reliever, so the A’s might consider keeping him there since the rest of the bullpen underperformed this season. Chavez started off great as a starter this season but then faded during the second half. Since they both experienced their own problems as starting pitchers and will be competing against some young and talented arms, the likelihood of them earning a spot on the rotation is low and fans will probably see them in the bullpen in 2016.
Then there is also Sean Nolin, who was called up this September, and prospect Sean Manaea. Nolin has made five starts for the Athletics since joining the team and has done OK. However, he did just return from the disabled list before coming to Oakland, so perhaps he is still getting back into the groove of things since he was out for the majority of the 2015 Minor League season.
Manaea was the key to the Ben Zobrist trade this July. This 23-year-old has been quite impressive in Double-A this year, posting a 1.90 ERA over seven starts with the Midland RockHounds. Even though he has not pitch at any level higher than Double-A, it is expected that he will be ready to compete for a starting rotation spot in 2016. However, he has yet to pitch against Major League batters and he will definitely be tested this spring.
We cannot forget about the veterans, Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. It is expected that they will not make the starting rotation initially because they will not be healthy by spring training. However, Parker was pitching very well during his rehab assignment before re-injuring his elbow. If he is able to duplicate that success in his next rehab assignment, the chances of him making the starting rotation as some point in 2016 are high. Griffin, on the other hand, seems to have a very slim chance of making the starting rotation and there is no word on the progress of his shoulder injury since being shut down during his rehab assignment this year.
Lastly, there has been some talk that the A’s should sign a veteran starter this offseason. It would not be a bad idea considering that the bulk of the pitchers competing for a spot on the rotation are 26 years old or younger and most have only pitched one full season in the MLB. A veteran would help balance out the rotation as well as give some guidance to the younger starters. The Athletics have not yet expressed that they are considering acquiring a veteran, but it is something to keep an eye on this winter.
A spot on the starting rotation will be one of the most highly sought after positions among Oakland’s pitchers this spring. If everyone is healthy, the Oakland Athletics could possibly be evaluating nine pitchers to fill just four spots. It will be fun to watch all of these starters go at it during spring training in 2016 and even more interesting to see how the rotation evolves over the course of the season.