Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in just over a month, but our 2021 Athletics predictions are here now. The Oakland Athletics have not been very active this offseason, and they lost a lot of key pieces that will make competing in the same division as the Houston Astros significantly harder.
2021 Athletics Predictions: Replacing What They Lost
The Athletics‘ bats were aggressively mediocre in 2020, ranking 15th in runs scored per game, which will likely take a hit in 2021. The Athletics are without their leadoff hitter in Tommy La Stella, and they are currently looking to replace star shortstop Marcus Semien with Vimael Machín, their Rule 5 pick from 2019 who has all of 71 mostly ineffective MLB plate appearances to his name.
This is not to mention 2019 All-Star and 2020 AL Reliever of the Year Liam Hendriks, who likely priced himself out of Oakland’s budget with his phenomenal play.
2021 Athletics Predictions: Going With The Young Guns
Chris Bassitt will lead the 2021 Athletics rotation. He struck out 55 batters over 63 innings in 2020 to the tune of a 2.29 ERA and a 3.59 FIP. Bassitt’s success will continue if he can limit the walks and homers, as his reliance on his sinker, cutter, and four-seamer (thrown over 75% of the time) doesn’t bode well for his strikeout numbers.
Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas will again be expected to cover the bulk of the remaining innings while the Athletics nurture their young flame-throwing duo in Jesús Luzardo and A.J. Puk. Expect the veterans to be around league-average arms, and hope to be pleasantly surprised.
Luzardo’s stuff has been electric, showing a 97mph fastball and a devastating changeup, but the Athletics need him to take a step forward in 2021. Similar to the other pitchers, Luzardo needs to get the homers in check and he will be one step closer to the elite arm he was projected as.
A.J. Puk is a mountain of a man, standing at six-foot seven-inches and 248 pounds. His fastball averaged 97.5mph in his short MLB stint in 2019, and his slider’s effectiveness has been heralded by scouts for his entire career, garnering comparisons to the legendary Randy Johnson. Athletics fans should be excited for Puk’s probable breakout campaign in 2021.
The 2021 Athletics bullpen is without an elite closer, but expect Jake Diekman or J.B. Wendelken to handle the 9th inning based on the matchup. James Kaprielian and Dany Jimenez are two prospects who aim to receive much of their 2020 work out of the pen. As it stands today, expect an average to slightly below-average bullpen with a few prospects that could pan out.
2021 Athletics Predictions: A Swiss Cheese Lineup
They’re full of holes, but the 2021 Athletics outfield could survive with Mark Canha in left, Ramón Laureano in center, and Stephen Piscotty in right. They also have the two best defensive corner infielders in baseball with Matt Chapman and Matt Olson.
Rookie catcher Sean Murphy was the only unanimous selection for Baseball Digest’s All-Rookie First Team, and his bat will continue to develop with his above-average glove and framing.
Khris Davis now has two years in a row with below-average offensive numbers, and at 33 years old, don’t expect a resurgence to his former glory. A’s fans can hope that he can figure out how to be an above-average hitter again, or bad enough that Oakland gives Sheldon Neuse another extended shot at the lineup.
Our 2021 Athletics predictions have them winning the AL West over the Astros, but don’t expect a serious World Series run with the roster as it stands today.
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