Second Base: Jed Lowrie/Chris Coghlan vs. Johnny Giavotella
Now we get to the interesting matchups: the ones that include platoons. Johnny Giavotella is a below-average second baseman defensively, having the third-most errors in the league among second basemen, with 12. Chris Coghlan has made some nice grabs to his left during spring training, and A’s fans are very familiar with what Jed Lowrie can do.
Still, neither of these guys are defensive geniuses. Lowrie didn’t have any playing time at second base last season, but committed three errors at third base last year while playing for the Astros, in only 47 games at the position. Coghlan played limited time at second base – 15 games – and committed one error. So let’s take a look instead at their bats.
Lowrie in 2015: 69 games, .222/.312/.400
Coghlan in 2015: 148 games, .250/.341/.443
Giavotella in 2015: 129 games, .272/.318/.375
Lowrie was bad (due to injury), Giavotella was serviceable, and Coghlan was offensively better thanks to a higher OBP and touching more bases than Giavotella (195 vs. 170 total bases last year). Plus, Coghlan stole 11 bases and Giavotella only stole two.
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Shortstop: Marcus Semien vs. Andrelton Simmons
This is an obvious choice. Who led the league in errors at shortstop last year? Who was runner-up at the Gold Glove Awards night last year, and who had won twice prior?
The little voice inside your head might be saying, “But Marcus Semien has more power! He hit 15 homers! Andrelton Simmons only hit four!” Put that thinking to rest. Semien struck out 132 times last year, and Simmons only struck out 48 times. The two had the same amount of doubles last year (23), but Simmons gets on base more and strikes out less.
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Third Base: Danny Valencia vs. Yunel Escobar
Here are two guys who are pretty underrated, but their fans certainly don’t think so. Danny Valencia brought life back into the lineup for the A’s when he came in after being designated for assignment from Toronto. He shocked Oakland, hitting three homers in his first six games, and then hitting 11 overall in his 47 games with Oakland. Valencia hit a cool .300/.382/.500 in the Coliseum.
Yunel Escobar, an Athletic for five days, was flipped from Tampa Bay to Oakland and then traded to Washington to net Oakland Tyler Clippard. He was moved again to LA this past December. Escobar’s worth is inherent in his .350 career on-base percentage, and last year he uncharacteristically slugged .415, scoring 75 runs in the process. Despite these high numbers, his career average is closer to .281, and he may not ever hit more than nine home runs again. The last time he hit more than that was in 2011, with 11.
Escobar put up some nice numbers last year, but he had an exceptional season in 2015 and may not continue to have such success given his past. Valencia hit with more pop in fewer games last year.
Next: A's vs. Angels: Left Field and Center Field