With spring training just around the corner and most of the deals finally finished, the Oakland A’s will now start looking to solidify their roster for the upcoming season. When we start looking at the infield from 2013 to 2014, it does not seem as though there will be much change since most of the players that the A’s acquired in the offseason were pitchers. But with multiple players available for each position, picking a consistent or permanent infield could be difficult. Lets take a look at the potential starters.
Catcher – Derek Norris
This was a close call between Norris and John Jaso. Even though Jaso might be a better batter, Norris is close behind and has more defensive skills than Jaso. In 2013, he had a .246 batting average with a .406 SLG. As for fielding, in the 91 games he played behind the plate, he only made three errors and had an overall .995 fielding percentage. With Norris as catcher, he will bring a nice mixture of offensive and defensive skills to the Oakland A’s lineup.
First Base – Brandon Moss
This is not a huge shock to many seeing as Moss was the A’s starting first baseman in 2013. Even though Daric Barton found some success towards the end of last season, Moss is a more consistent hitter and has more experience in sticky situations. Moss has a career fielding percentage of .987 at first base, which is impressive since he moved to this position fairly recently after playing mostly in the outfield. He ended 2013 with 30 home runs and 87 RBI while earning a .522 SLG – his second highest slugging percentage in his seven years in the MLB.
Second Base – Jed Lowrie
Not much has changed in the infield until we get to second base. Lowrie does not have the strongest throwing arm, which is not ideal for a player at shortstop. He made 16 errors as shortstop last season – the most he has ever made in one season – so a change in position might be good for him. And now that the A’s have acquired Nick Punto, they can move Lowrie to second base, which requires a slightly less powerful arm. He would be replacing Eric Sogard, but Lowrie is better offensively than Sogard and ended 2013 with a .290 AVG and a .332 SLG.
Shortstop – Nick Punto
Punto came to the Athletics in early November when he agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract. Punto is a very versatile infielder who has not only played at all the infield positions over his 13 years in the MLB, but also all of the outfield ones as well. His bread and butter is second base, shortstop, and third base, with over 100 innings logged at each position. Even though Punto will not be the most electric hitter for the A’s, shortstop is by far the weakest position for the Athletics, and Punto would provide some much needed defense in that area.
Third Base – Josh Donaldson
Donaldson became a star last year for his diving defensive plays and his monster bat, which sent many balls flying over the outfield wall. This rookie hit .301 with a .499 slugging percentage in 2013 – by far his best season to date. He was also 7th in the American League for his on-base percentage. With the killer combo of a power bat and strong defensive skills, there is no way that anyone could replace Donaldson at third.
DH – John Jaso
With Norris being predicted to be the full-time catcher for the A’s, Jaso is a the perfect player to fill the DH position. He is a consistent batter with a great on-base percentage. In 2013, he had a .271 AVG and had a .387 OBP before suffering a season-ending concussion. Jaso is also particularly good against right-handed pitchers and his career OPS leaps from 755 to 792 when only looking at his at-bats against right-handed pitchers. Even though his stats are not up to par with other big name designated hitters like David Ortiz, he is consistent enough to be a solid designated hitter.
Reserve – Alberto Callaspo
Callaspo came to the Athletics in mid-July of 2013 just before the trading deadline and made a splash in Oakland almost instantly. From August through September, he had five home runs, 22 RBI, and 43 hits. Additionally, he batted .270 and had a .350 on-base percentage once he became an Athletic. While he played second base for the Athletics last year, he also has extensive experience at third base and a some experience at shortstop. Callaspo is definitely a good backup infielder for the Athletics and may see significant time at shortstop, especially if Punto struggles at the plate.