Oakland Athletics roster predictions 2.0: desperate for pitching

Get ready for the Oakland Athletics' spring training as pitchers and catchers report in 10 days. Find out who's joining the roster and what to expect for the upcoming season.
Oakland Athletics v Minnesota Twins
Oakland Athletics v Minnesota Twins / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages

Oakland Athletics' pitchers and catchers report to spring training in just 10 days. It's wild to think about how quickly this offseason has gone by. I've had a ton going on in my personal life so maybe that's just me, but I can't believe we're already in February.

Since baseball is right around the corner, it's time to take one last look at the roster ahead of spring training and try to predict how things will shake out prior to opening day.

The Athletics have some new blood on the pitching staff heading into Arizona. The A's brought in a pair of pitchers in the last few days, acquiring Ross Stripling via trade and signing Alex Wood to a major league deal. The two were teammates in San Francisco last year, and were teammates on the Dodgers back in the late 2010's.

Despite both pitchers having served in swingman roles in 2023, they come to Oakland with the expectation of starting games for the A's in 2024. The A's will need all the innings they can get and these two veterans, assuming they're healthy, should be locked into the A's opening day rotation.

In addition to Wood and Stripling, both JP Sears and Paul Blackburn should have their spots in the opening day rotation locked in as well. Sears led the team in innings pitched last season and it's possible that if everything goes right, he'll do the same in 2024. He's the most likely candidate to be the opening day starter.

Martin Gallegos of MLB.com reported that David Forst has finally acknowledged that righty Ken Waldichuk is unlikely to be ready for opening day. Waldichuk underwent non-Tommy John elbow surgery two months ago but his status was unknown until Forst commented on Saturday.

Assuming Waldichuk opens the year on the IL, that leaves one rotation spot open. The most likely candidate for the job is Luis Medina. He had a bit of a rough year in 2023 but he has as much upside as anyone else in the conversation and most importantly, he doesn't have any minor league options left. He's got too much upside to DFA so unless the team decides to shift Medina to a bullpen role, he likely gets the nod in the 5th rotation spot.

Rule 5 pick Mitch Spence will have a job in the bullpen as he's unable to be optioned down to the minors. Top prospect Mason Miller should compete for the closer position and has the skillset to excel in the role. He'll likely compete for high-leverage innings with righty Lucas Erceg and the newly added Trevor Gott.

If Kyle Muller doesn't win the 5th rotation spot, he'll have a job as a multi-inning bullpen arm. Sean Newcomb underwent arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this offseason but it's been reported that he should be ready to go for opening day. David Forst didn't comment about his status, so it's fair to assume the earlier reports for the time being. He'll function as a swingman for the 2024 A's.

That leaves us with two bullpen spots. Zack Jackson pitched well in limited time in 2023, posting a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings. He has strong strikeout stuff, though he can be a bit wild. Dany Jimenez was too wild last year and the run estimators don't love him in 2024.

The only other candidates as of now are Angel Felipe and Michael Kelly. Felipe posted a 4.20 ERA in 2023. He had a strikeout rate just under 30% but he also posted an astounding 20.3% walk rate. Kelly doesn't have strong strikeout upside but has been solid in limited playing time. If Jimenez or Erceg struggle, he could get the call.

The additions of Wood and Stripling are bad news for the group of guys angling for back-end rotation spots. Joe Boyle and Osvaldo Bido were hot names just a couple weeks ago but are now more than likely on the outside looking in.

The same goes for the group of Hogan Harris, Joey Estes, Adrian Martinez, and Freddy Tarnok. All of them will be in Arizona fighting for a job, but that group seems destined to start in the minors.

The team's mark of 5.70 runs allowed per game in 2023 was good for 29th in the league, ahead of only the lowly Rockies. Wood and Stripling could provide some much needed stability to this pitching staff but they desperately need good health from Sears and Blackburn, and they need Mason Miller to live up to the hype. Anything less and it might be difficult to watch.