Oakland Athletics: The Battle for an Outfield Position

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Oakland Athletics have at least eight outfielders at spring camp but only four spots to fill for Opening Day

The Oakland Athletics’ roster is a little crowded right now – especially with outfielders. While some positions seem set in stone, others are a little more up in the air. As spring training continues throughout the month of March, a handful of players will be competing for a spot on the A’s Opening Day roster and not everyone will make it.

There are a few players whose positions are basically guaranteed for the 2016 season. Josh Reddick will be manning right field barring any injuries and Billy Burns will likely be in center. The Athletics have voiced how much they value Reddick and would like to sign him to a long term contract before the 2016 season ends. Burns earned the everyday starting center field position last year after Coco Crisp went down with an injury and Sam Fuld took over left field. Should Reddick and Burns perform consistently throughout March and are healthy at the start of the season, fans will see Reddick in right and Burns in center.

There is also Crisp, who will likely make the roster because he has one year left on his contract with the A’s and it would be difficult to move him. Despite putting Crisp in the same washed-up veteran category as Billy Butler prior to spring training, Crisp is looking healthier than ever this March. Manager Bob Melvin talked to the press on Monday about Crisp’s encouraging batting practices and base running skills that he has demonstrated during spring camp so far.

Then the Athletics have all of the newcomers. During the 2015 season, Oakland did not have that much outfield depth and they were in desperate need of a left fielder with a strong bat. So, the A’s went looking for some power hitters who could fill the void in left field. First, they found Andrew Lambo. He was not the ideal ballplayer the A’s were looking for to fill left. He did not have a strong bat, but he did add depth to the outfield. Even though he has been performing well during the first couple of preseason games, Lambo is a long shot when it comes to making the Opening Day roster.

One of the reasons Lambo will probably not made the A’s roster this season is because Oakland acquired both Khris Davis from the Milwaukee Brewers and Chris Coghlan from the Chicago Cubs in February. Davis will definitely bring a power bat to the left field position for he hit 27 homers and 66 RBI in 2015. To put it in perspective, Reddick had the most home runs and RBI for Oakland last year with 20 and 77 respectively. 

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Coghlan has a consistent bat and versatile fielding abilities. He batted .250 in 2015 with 44 RBI. Additionally, he can effectively field at all of the outfield position and second base. Unfortunately for Lambo, Coghlan brings a lot more to the table in terms of power at the plate and utility man abilities in the field.

Lastly, there is Fuld and Jake Smolinski. Even though Melvin speaks highly of Fuld and believes there is a place for him on the roster, he, along with Lambo, seems like the odd man out. Since Fuld is not strong offensively, he will have to prove that his defensive skills are worth keeping him on the 2016 roster.

Smolinski was the hot rookie when he made his MLB debut with the Texas Rangers in July of 2014. However, he – and his bat – has since cooled. If he wants to even be considered for the Opening Day roster, he will need to be very productive at the plate during spring training and show that same spark he demonstrated while with the Rangers. Unfortunately, it is more likely that he will start the 2016 season in Triple-A.

On a side note, Mark Canha can also play in the outfield. However, I consider him a first baseman. Thus, he was not included in this list of outfielders who are currently battling for a spot on the Opening Day roster.

While there are a handful of players who seem as though it is almost certain they will earn a spot on the 25-man roster, there are also numerous players who are on the chopping block. The Oakland Athletics are going to need to make some tough decision during March. By the time April 4 rolls around, half of the A’s outfielders currently at spring training in Arizona could be gone.  

Next: A's 2016 Preview: Pitcher John Axford

Which outfielders will make the Opening Day roster? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below! 

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