Considering I just covered the A’s infield earlier this month when the team acquired infielder Jed Lowrie in exchange for Brad Peacock and Chris Carter, this one will actually be short and sweet. There hasn’t been any change in the two weeks since that last article was published. What I did do was a little more studying of the team and consulted with those who follow the A’s much more closely than I do and whose opinions I trust and respect.
So as always, let’s start with a quick look at the initial depth chart…
|C||John Jaso||Derek Norris|
|1B||Brandon Moss||Daric Barton|
|2B||Jed Lowrie||Jemile Weeks||Scott Sizemore|
|SS||Hiroyuki Nakajima||Adam Rosales||Andy Parrino|
|3B||Josh Donaldson||Eric Sogard|
Catcher: Jaso is just the type of guy Billy Beane wants behind the plate. His defensive skills are solid and he sports a career 13.4-percent walk rate with a .359 on-base percentage. Though he makes excellent contact, he still hits too many ground balls and hasn’t been the luckiest of hitters with respect to his BABIP, so his average will probably hover in the low to mid-.270’s. With mid to low-end power he won’t dazzle you in the counting stats, but if you’re in a league that counts OBP instead of average, he makes for an excellent selection as a second backstop. You could probably get away with him in a one-catcher OBP-league, but the position is deep enough that you may only need him as a reserve. And speaking of reserves, that’s exactly what Norris has become.
First Base: The A’s obviously had enough faith in Brandon Moss’ ability that they felt very comfortable handing him the full time job this year. His glove work is fine and over the last few years he has shown tremendous power at both the Triple-A and major league level. His .306 ISO last season was crazy good and while he strikes out too much for me to believe that he will duplicate his .359 BABIP and .291 average, he should still supply enough overall production to be a decent corner infielder. The fact that he doesn’t generate any power against lefties could be an issue, although the career .261 average against them isn’t completely terrible. But Barton, as the primary back-up, should see a fair amount of starts against southpaws as he owns a .281 career average with an even more impressive .389 on-base percentage. Every once in a while, though, we could see Lowrie make an appearance over here as well.
Second Base: The position was a veritable nightmare for the A’s last year as Sizemore was lost for the year during spring training and Weeks was a disaster at the plate. Lowrie comes in and will take over at second predominately pushing Sizemore and Weeks into a fight for the back-up job.Sizemore’s versatility in the infield just might given him the edge in the end, though Weeks’ speed has him listed before him on the current depth chart. They both hit lefties about the same so they’ll continue to fight it out this spring for the chance to man the keystone on days Lowrie spells Moss. As for Lowrie’s fantasy value, it’s obviously tied to his health which has been a huge issue throughout his career. If he stays healthy, he’ll easily see enough at-bats to be a worthwhile middle infielder, but the injury history obviously makes him far too difficult to trust as your starting second baseman or shortstop.
Shortstop: Beane dipped into the Far East talent pool to land himself a starting shortstop and even with Lowrie in-house, the A’s have been adamant with the fact that Nakajima will not be platooned. He was signed to a two-year, $6.5M deal with a third year option at $5.5M and hopefully, his skills translate to the American game. He has above-average defensive skills and since 2007, the infielder has averaged 20.5 homers per 162 games, along with a .310 average and .381 on-base percentage in Japan. He’s falling through in nearly every mock draft I’ve done, so target him late if you’re looking for middle infield depth. He’s still too much of an unknown commodity, though, to trust as your starting shortstop. Rosales and Parrino will compete for a back-up spot on the 25-man roster but neither holds any fantasy value.
Third Base: The A’s will be giving Donaldson every opportunity to man the hot corner on his own this year. Part of my research was looking into his defense, and yes, I was wrong last time for saying that Lowrie’s defense was better. Granted, we don’t have a lot of major league data to go on, but a friend of mine who watched him play both at third and behind the plate at Triple-A Sacramento said that the glove in the infield is for real. That being said, Lowrie still may spell him at third on days the team feels he needs a rest, but this is Donaldson’s position. The contact rates are a bit off and the batting average is weak, but if his power potential can translate, he could make for decent depth as a plug and play option. While Sogard is listed as the back-up, there’s a good chance he lands back in Triple-A as Sizemore can play third fairly well and gives the team some flexibility.