The Oakland A’s may be the defending AL West champions, but it certainly does not feel that way. The baseball universe seems to have written them off, as most places project them to finish behind the Astros and Angels. There are even differences of opinion as to whether or not the A’s will finish above .500 for the year.
It is certainly a surprising development. The A’s were the only team in the division to finish above .500 last year, and it is hard to argue that the rest of the division has markedly improved. Instead, this appears to be more of a focus on what the A’s have lost as opposed to what they have done to solidify the roster.
Given their improvements, and the status of the rest of the division, the A’s should still be considered the favorites. After all, they are the ones raising the 2020 divisional banner in April. And their team should be even better than it was in 2020.
The Oakland A’s are going to repeat in the AL West. Here are three reasons why:
The Oakland A’s offense will be better
The Oakland A’s did not do much to address their lineup. Robbie Grossman, Tommy La Stella, and Marcus Semien departed in free agency, to be replaced by Elvis Andrus, Mark Canha, and a major question mark at second. But the improvements on offense are not predicated on who was brought in so much as who remains.
Matt Chapman should be much better this year. While he still hit for power, he had an uncharacteristically low walk rate and an elevated strikeout rate. Chapman needed surgery to repair a torn hip labrum which knocked him out for the second half of the season and likely contributed to his uncharacteristic showing at the plate.
A full season should do wonders for both Matt Olson and Ramon Laureano as well. Both players were expected to be key parts of the A’s offense in 2020, but both struggled over the abbreviated season. Like Chapman, both are showing signs of returning to form in spring training and should be ready for the start of the season.
Sean Murphy is another player who should benefit from the full season. While he been slowed by a fractured rib and punctured lung, he should be back in the lineup soon. Once he returns, he will be looking to build off a strong second half of the season where he consistently barrelled up the ball and hit it hard, leading to better luck in the statistical side.
The Oakland A’s have plenty of talent left on offense. With a full season and better health, their bats should be improved in the coming season.