For Oakland Athletics to contend, youth must be served

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 15: Sean Murphy #12 of the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 15, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 15: Sean Murphy #12 of the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 15, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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The Oakland Athletics have a strong roster heading into 2020. But in order to contend, their youth must be served.

Heading into 2020, the Oakland Athletics have a strong roster. With Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Marcus Semien in the lineup, the A’s offense should be able to put plenty of runs on the scoreboard. The pitching staff may have some question marks, but if Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas can return to form, and Liam Hendriks can replicate his 2019 success, the A’s have an excellent chance to return to the postseason.

However, there are some very important parts of the roster that have little experience. The final two places in the rotation are expected to be held down by rookies A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo. Likewise, the A’s catcher depth chart is comprised of rookies in the top three spots.

There is no questioning the talent possessed by Puk. He showed that potential in his time with the A’s last season, posting a 3.18 ERA and a 1.324 WHiP over his 11.1 innings, striking out 13 batters with five walks. However, Puk has dealt with injuries throughout his professional career, missing all of 2018 due to Tommy Joh surgery, and being sidelined during spring training with shoulder woes.

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The same health concerns follow Luzardo. He also received his first taste of major league action last season, posting a 1.50 ERA and a 0.667 WHiP in his 12 innings, striking out 16 batters with just two walks. Luzardo also had Tommy Joh surgery, with his coming in high school. He has also thrown over 100 innings as a professional just once, adding to his own durability concerns.

Then there are the questions at catcher. The A’s are likely to enter the season with a pair of rookies, with Sean Murphy as the starter and Austin Allen as the backup. Murphy looked like a future cornerstone of the franchise during his September callup, while Allen struggled during his time with the Padres. Behind them is another rookie in Johan Heim, who had a breakout 2019 campaign.

That youth will be the key for the A’s in 2020. Yes, there were signs of brilliance, as Luzardo looked like an ace in the making and Murphy appeared to be a solid all around catcher. But any player can look good in limited action and without teams having a chance to scout their weaknesses. It is their development, and how well they make adjustments, that will make a difference.

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For the Oakland Athletics, that development could shape the course of the season. Their playoff aspirations will ride on the backs of their youth.

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