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Athletics Outfield: Depth Chart Discussions

General Manager Billy Beane has done a magnificent job of acquiring depth in the outfield. Both he and manager Bob Melvin seem to have a firm grasp on the value of platooning positions, and the outfield that the A’s have built is exhibit A in this. With so much talent, the question is of course guaranteed playing time and starting roles.

After his breakout season last year, Josh Reddick should be a fixture in right field. He did struggle down the stretch (read: all of September). He did set a career high in games played in a single season by 10, almost 20 more games than he played in 2011. It could easily be chalked up to a mix of fatigue and pressing too much in a playoff hunt. Seeing his September/October triple slash of .164/.214/.295 was brutal to watch (although his home run in Game 2 against Detroit was amazing to see live). His .174 BABIP during that time frame speaks volumes about his real struggles, as his K% was lower than his seasonal average and his BB% dipped just a tick. His average will never inspire you, but his power is real and his counting stats should be plenty enough to warrant a mid round draft pick.

Coco Crisp‘s first half disappointment is only matched by his second half surge. A first half line of .236/.299/.318 against his second half slash of .281/.349/.511 speaks for itself. Of note is his first and second half BABIP splits as — unsurprisingly — it was .258 and .302 respectively. He doesn’t offer much in the way of power, but his legs still have plenty of life in them. Last season he set the Oakland Athletics successful consecutive steal record of 36 in a row. Crisp finished with 39 steals to just four caught stealing. For cheaper steals, you can basically pen Crisp for 30 every year.

As much as Reddick broke out in 2012, Yoenis Cespedes could break out even more this season. Given a full season, I can easily see 30 home runs from Cespedes and 15, maybe even 20 steals. His athleticism is as advertised. In fact, a season of .290, 30, 100, 90, and 20 wouldn’t be a huge shocker to me. He has all of the tools and talents to be successful and he has the mind to make in-season and even in-game adjustments. I was in the camp that wondered if he had the patience to lay off of breaking balls out of the zone, but he has posted essentially league average K% and BB%. I don’t think it is a question of “if” with Cespedes, but more of “when” will his big season come. And I think 2013 is looking mighty good for it.

Joining power threats Reddick and Cespedes is newcomer Chris Young. No slouch himself, Young can drive the ball out of the park 20 times a season himself. Young has three 20-20 seasons under his belt, but playing time and park factors will work against him in Oakland. Young doesn’t have a starting spot as of right now, but has the distinct possibility of still accruing 550 PA’s. Seth Smith will also see some playing time in the field, but he and Young will most likely form a platoon situation at DH most of the time. Smith didn’t even start 60 times in the outfield last year, plenty enough to keep his eligibility, but clearly a reduced role in the outfield. Of the two players, I would expect to have Smith log more time at DH and Young in the field, given that Young can handle center and Smith can’t. Factor in up-and-comers like Michael Taylor (who played 109 games in the outfield in Triple-A last season) and Grant Green (who plays all over the field). Taylor has been logging time at first base and Green will get a hard look for the second base job, as the A’s infield is in a flux as well. No matter what, there are plenty of options for the A’s.

Against right-handed starters the A’s can have the platoon advantage with Smith in left, Crisp (as a switch hitter) in center, and Reddick covering right field. When facing a southpaw, the A’s could trot out Cespedes in left field, Crisp in center, and Young in right. That still leaves plenty of PA’s for the center fielder and DH to share — even before factoring probably injuries. Young missed time with a quad injury late last year and missed time early in the year with shoulder pain. Crisp was limited to just 120 games last year due to shoulder soreness as well, and Cespedes joined them on the DL with a strained muscle in his hand. While no ever hopes for injuries, they are a part of the game and contingencies are needed. The A’s outfield has taken depth to a whole new level, if not at the cost of guaranteed playing time for some. This situation isn’t as convoluted as trying to figure out who Mike Shanahan will call his starting running back in fantasy football, but playing time is a necessity. Drafting Cespedes, Reddick, Crisp is an easy call, Young should be owned in most leagues, and Smith in deeper leagues.

Early Depth Chart:
Right Field: Josh Reddick/Chris Young
Center Field: Coco Crisp/Chris Young
Left Field: Yoenis Cespedes/Seth Smith
DH (rotating): Seth Smith/Chris Young
In the mix: Grant Green, Michael Taylor