Oakland A’s

 

 Sad news for local fans. Former Missouri Tiger and current Denver Bronco running back Damian Nash has died at the age of 25.  Official cause of death is unknown.  He had participated in a charity basketball game earlier in the day for his foundation set up to fund heart transplant research.  The foundation was set up after his brother, Darris, became a heart transplant recipient.

 

Kurt Warner will speak at the Promise Keepers rally in Cape Girardeau on April 28.

 

 Check  out Tim Kurkjian’s article on Wainwright over at ESPN.com.  He really seems like a good guy.  We had a chance to meet him at the Cardinal Caravan and came away very impressed.

 

Wainwright is also the subject of John Sickel’s Crystal Ball at Minorleagueball.com.  He projects him out at 12-10 with and ERA over 4.  Let’s hope he is off mark with this one.

 

Another article about Wainwright, this time from Derrick Gould.  He will start Wednesday’s opener against Florida.  Troy Cate will start Monday against Florida Atlantic.  Also of note, Cardinal’s number 1 prospect Colby Rasmus will start in center.

 

Outside of the rotation, probably the biggest concern for Cardinal fans is Duncan’s fielding.  Joe Strauss reports that Duncan is working hard with help of former Cardinal Larry Walker.

 

Steve Finley agreed to a minor league contract with the Rockies.

 

Ranger’s shortstop Michael Young is close to signing a five year extension, tying him up through 2013.

 

Both SEMO and Mizzou were rained out.

 

 

2006 Finish: 93-69, 1st place, beat Minnesota in the ALDS, lost to Detroit in the ALCS

 

Manager:  Bob Geren, first year as a MLB manager

 

Comings:  Mike Piazza, Alan Embree, Lenny DiNardo, Shannon Stewart

 

Goings: Barry Zito, Frank Thomas, Jay Payton

 

Offense:  Piazza was brought in to take over Thomas’ role as the DH.  Thomas was very good in 06 and his production will be hard to duplicate.  Nick Swisher is a rising star, hitting 35 HRs and driving in 95.  Milton Bradley has a ton of talent, it is a crapshoot though knowing if he is going to give you all he’s got.  Bobby Crosby is coming back off a back injury.  He is a solid contributer when healthy.  Eric Chavez had a down year and Oakland will really need him to advance further into the playoffs.  Jason Kendall is the leadoff hitter, but he has really slipped in recent years.  Dan Johnson was a pleasant surprise in 05, but really struggled last year before being sent down.

  

Defense: Mark Kotsay in center is a very good defender.  Chavez is a gold glover.  Bradley is an above average when he wants to be.  Crosby is solid when healthy.  The rest of the defense is average at best and team speed is not something the A’s stress.

 

Rotation:  Gone are the days of the big 3, but no one in baseball is feeling sorry for the A’s.  Dan Haren has established himself as one of the best starters in the AL.  I know it has been said a million times before, but wouldn’t Cardinal Nation love him back.  If Rich Harden is back and healthy, he is a true number 1 starter.  Estaban Loiaza is a gamer who can eat up innings.  Joe Blanton has good stuff, but still has not lived up to his reputation coming up.  Joe Kennedy has the inside track on the fift spot with Brad Halsey waiting in the wings.

  

Bullpen:  Huston Street had 37 saves last year.  Justin Duchsherer is one of the top setup men in the AL.  Former Cardinal Kiko Calero was very solid with 67 K’s in only 58 innings.  Embree was brought in to help from the left side.  Chad Gaudin sported a 3.09 in 55 games.  Lenny DiNardo has a shot at the other left-handed relief role.

  

Prospects:  Daric Barton-1B-Former Cardinal farmhand, considered to be one of the top pure hitters in baseball.  Injured his elbow last year, but finished the year at Triple A as a year old.  Could possibly end up in the bigs with a strong spring.

Travis Buck-OF-A pure hitter who has raked at every stop through the minors.Owns a .328 avg in close to 500 ABs in the minors.  Has hit 53 doubles in his short minor league career but only 10 HRs.  Projected to be in Oakland possibly in 08, but could be sooner if needed.

Kurt Suzuki-C-A walk on at Cal State Fullerton, has been clutch his whole career.  A natural leader, he is never satisfied and keeps working to get better.  Defense was very suspect, but keeps improving each year.  Nice line drive stroke, a .283/.386/.430 hitter in close to 1000 at bats in the minors.  Should take over for Kendall in the near future.

 Analysis:  If the rotation is healthy, there pitching 1-12 could hold its own with anyone.  The real question is offense.  Can Piazza match Thomas’ numbers?  Can Johnson come back so Swisher stay in the outfield?  Or can Barton take over?  Will Chavez come back to his normal self?  Is Crosby healthy?  If a majority of these answers are yes, then the A’s could definitely be back in the postseason.

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