More 2017 A’s outfield previews: Has a new candidate emerged?

Mar 3, 2017; Mesa, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Alejandro De Aza (57) double in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants during a spring training game at HoHoKam Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 3, 2017; Mesa, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Alejandro De Aza (57) double in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants during a spring training game at HoHoKam Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

We’ve already previewed the potential A’s left fielders here on White Cleat Beat. Now it’s time to move on to center and right fielders.

However, a new candidate has emerged to be the Oakland Athletics main backup outfielder. First let’s take a look at the team’s probable starters for center and right field.

Rajai Davis

Rajai Davis will be the A’s starting center fielder in 2017. With the exception of an injury, the job is essentially his.

He is capable of playing anywhere in the outfield but the 36-year-old veteran has spent the majority of his career playing in center field.

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After starting his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2006, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants in 2007 and to the Athletics in 2008.

Having played for the A’s before for two and a half seasons, Davis knows how to cover the expansive outfield in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

He played in centerfield more times with Oakland than with any of the other teams he has been with in his career, according to

Davis’ has played for the Pirates, Giants, A’s, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers and most recently the reigning American League Champion Cleveland Indians.

In 2016, at age 35, Davis led the league in stolen bases with 43 and hit a memorable game-tying home run in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series.

He will also act as Oakland’s leadoff hitter.

Matt Joyce

Matt Joyce is slated to be the starting right fielder for the Oakland Athletics in 2017.

Joyce made his big league debut in 2008 with the Detroit Tigers but spent the majority of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Oakland Athletics
Sean Rodriguez. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

An all-star in 2011, Joyce hit .277/.347/.478 with 19 home runs and 75 RBI and played 126 of his 137 games that season in right field.

Over nine big league seasons that include one each with the Tigers, Los Angeles Angels and Pirates and six with the Rays, Joyce has played the in right field 56 percent of the time. He’s maintained a league average .986 fielding percentage there as well.

Joyce was brought onto the Athletics on a two-year deal, mainly due to his astonishingly high on-base percentage last season with Pittsburgh. He got on base at a .403 clip in 2016 and has a career OBP of .341.

It’s an area in which the A’s finished last in the majors as a team last season, so hopefully Joyce will be of help in that area.

He’s also already hit two home runs for the team during the first week of Cactus League play. He’s capable of a 20-home run season so if the 32-year-old can add some extra power to the lineup that would just be an added bonus of having him be the daily starter in right field.

In the 2017 preview of potential left fielders for the Athletics Jake Smolinski, Mark Canha and Matt Olson were named as possible players to fill in for slugger Khris Davis. However, since that article was written some circumstances have already changed.

It has been noted that Smolinski is currently dealing with a sore right shoulder but that he was slated to be ready to play by the start of the season. Smolinski has yet to play this spring and a new name has emerged as the probable fourth outfielder for Oakland, Alejandro De Aza.

Alejandro De Aza

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The 32-year-old veteran has been impressive so far this spring. He’s been leading off on days when Davis is resting and he’s currently hitting .444 having gone 4-9 this spring with a double and a triple.

He’s also, like Smolinski, able to be a backup for all three outfield positions.

After struggling from 2015-2016, a period during which he bounced around between five different teams, De Aza is showing signs of playing the way he did during the heart of his career with the Chicago White Sox.

Over his nine-year career De Aza has averaged 10 home runs and 50 RBI per season while playing all around the outfield. His career fielding percentage is, like Joyce’s, right at the league average and he definitely has speed, as he’s been used as the back-up leadoff hitter.

Besides speed De Aza also brings a left-handed bat to the table and the reputation of being a positive influence in the clubhouse, having been a close friend of Marcus Semien when they were both with the White Sox.

The A’s have needed positivity in recent seasons in the clubhouse so someone like De Aza would be a welcome addition. Marcus Semien said of De Aza,

"“He’s always been good to me,” Semien told reporters this week. “We shared lockers right next to each other. I bounced stuff off of him and he would give me advice. He’s a big league outfielder. He’s shown that.”"

Manager Bob Melvin, told’s Jane Lee, that nothing has been decided and that the team will likely “go back and forth all spring,” on how to fill out that last roster spot.

Whether the A’s decide to carry five outfielders, an extra infielder along with Adam Rosales, or a third catcher, it appears that if De Aza keeps playing the way he has been then he has already gotten himself in a pretty good position to make the final 25-man roster.

*Update: Saturday 3/4/17 4:15 PM: Jake Smolinski is tentatively penciled in to DH for the Athletics in Sunday’s game against the Seattle Mariners*

Next: 2017 A's left field preview

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