Could a repeat of 2012 be in the A’s 2017 future?

May 15, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Oakland Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick (22), shortstop Marcus Semien (10) and teammates congratulate each other after they beat the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
May 15, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Oakland Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick (22), shortstop Marcus Semien (10) and teammates congratulate each other after they beat the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

In 2012, the Oakland Athletics were expected to lose over 100 games. Instead they came out of absolutely nowhere and quite unexpectedly won the American League Western Division Title.

Finishing at a modest 74-88 in 2011, things were looking up for the Oakland Athletics. At least it appeared that way but that offseason then general manager Billy Beane made a series of, what were at the time, very unpopular trades.

He traded all-star starting pitchers Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzales to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals, respectively. Beane traded another all-star and former A.L. Rookie of the Year, closer Andrew Bailey to the Red Sox for Josh Reddick.

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Many, especially the fans saw Beane dismantling a team that had seemed to be improving, one with potential, for a number of prospects.

Uncharacteristically Beane then signed the then somewhat unknown Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million deal and brought in a series of inexpensive veterans, such as Jonny Gomes and Bartolo Colon, to round out the club.

As previously noted, baseball experts everywhere predicted that the Oakland Athletics would lose at least 100 games. Instead the team gelled, the younger players stepped up and the A’s went 94-68.

They went into game 162 tied with the Texas Rangers who they defeated at home to win the division and advance to the postseason for the first since 2006, the year they finally got past the ALDS.

Could this happen again? Are the A’s poised on the brink of a breakout? One that could send them on another three straight postseason runs?

Probably not. Then again this IS baseball and we all know that absolutely anything can happen. The Chicago Cubs are the reigning World Champions and no matter how good they looked on paper, no one really thought that was coming, right?

The A’s, led now by vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane and GM David Forst have had their most quiet offseason in recent memory. They’ve added just free agent outfielder Matt Joyce and traded utility-man Danny Valencia to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Paul Blackburn.

Oakland Athletics
Sep 26, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Matt Joyce (17) looks on against the Chicago Cubs during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

They added one of the top three international prospects, Norge Ruiz, on a minor league contract but even though the 22-year-old, right-hander is highly regarded and considered MLB-ready, the deal didn’t make much of a splash.

And then there was silence.

The A’s have not made a peep nor a move since. Is it possible BIlly Beane knows something that the rest of us don’t? It’s entirely possible, this is Billy Beane we are talking about here.

Or is it just that he knows that the A’s farm system, that has generally been rated in the middle of the pack by various ranking systems on a number of sites, is vastly underrated.

Perhaps Beane believes that once they gain experience and come together as a collective whole, that they A’s young talent will gel into a team that will get them, at least, into the postseason.

After making the postseason, what happens next is really anyone’s guess.

Still, the A’s record for 2017, as projected by Fangraphs, is just 78-84, an improvement from the past two seasons no doubt, but a playoff spot would not be in their future.

However, if a few things actually go the A’s way they could repeat the tremendously great and surprising season they enjoyed in 2012.

It will take a bounce-back by ace Sonny Gray who struggled mightily in 2016, mere months after having placed third in the 2015 A.L. Cy Young Award race.

It will take breakout years by more than a few rookies and/or repeat performances from their time in the majors last season.

Oakland Athletics
Oct 2, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sean Manaea (55) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

Starters Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton will have to repeat the immense potential they showed last season.

Third baseman Ryon Healy, who was called up in July, hit .305 with 20 doubles, 13 home runs and 37 RBI in just 72 games with the A’s, imagine if he could double those numbers given a full season.

Left fielder Khris Davis, who hit 42 bombs in 2016, as well as Shortstop Marcus Semien who hit 27, would need to both improve their wretched on-base percentages – .307 and .300, respectively for the team to improve.

Starter Kendall Graveman, who has shown signs of brilliance when healthy, would need to stay that way and have the big breakout season he’s been poised for, if not for injury.

Newcomer Matt Joyce would need to contribute by repeating his .405 OBP from 2016, and hit much higher than he did in 2015 (.172) to be able to improve the club.

That’s a lot of “if” scenarios, but stranger things have come together to propel ball clubs above their projected potential before. You never know, it could happen for the A’s in 2017, just as it did just five short seasons ago.

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