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TGS MLB PREVIEW...PLAY BALL!  2016 AL "FUTURES" TO WATCH!

by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor and Daniel M. Gray, TGS Baseball Consultant


AL EAST: BEST BET...The East remains a treacherous neighborhood, where flaws can be exploited ruthlessly. And we see plenty of those on the roster of the Baltimore Orioles (78 ½), who appear on course to continue their descent that began last season, when they dropped 15 games (all of the way to .500) from their 2014 ALCS qualifier. Playing even .500 ball would be a nice trick this summer, however, as skipper Buck Showalter deals with an alarming shortage of quality arms. The best of those probably belongs to Kevin Gausman, but since he will be needing frequent cortisone shots to deal with shoulder tendinitis and could open the season on the DL, his chances of moving into (and staying at) the number one slot in the rotation are probably slim. Meanwhile, Ubaldo Jimenez has endured a rough March in Sarasota and could be earning a demotion to the bullpen, while ex-Brewer Yovani Gallardo has been auditioning for Showalter.

Meanwhile, C Matt Wieters has been dealing with an elbow injury that might also land him on the DL, and top offseason additions Pedro Alvarez (likely the main DH) and and 1B-OF Mark Trumbo are noted strikeout risks, which adds to the already considerable wind power in a notorious swing-and-miss lineup. The Birds will occasionally thrill with the long ball and exciting plays from 3B Manny Machado and CF Adam Jones, but it will not be enough to compensate for subpar pitching. It's an "under" for us at Camden Yards, still worth the visit if you can quickly get in and out of downtown Baltimore, and allow enough time to enjoy some of Boog Powell's BBQ and Eutaw Street, or some of the sinful sausages at the Polock Johnny's stand on the concourse.

OTHERS: We know for sure there will be some serious smoke coming out of the bullpen for the New York Yankees (85), who added Reds fireballer Aroldis Chapman to a relief corps that already boasted of Dellin Betances, who displayed some 91-octane stuff last summer when striking out 151 over just 84 IP. Along with Andrew Miller, New York could challenge the Royals for the AL's best relief corps. But once again the Yanks were not major players in free agency, going the trade route to add Chapman (who will miss the first 30 games as he deals with an MLB suspension stemming from an off-field domestic incident) and Starlin Castro, the ex-Cub SS now now penciled in at 2B for skipper Joe Girardi, who squeezed 87 wins and a wild card berth out of last year's roster that was minus key cogs 1B Mark Teixeira and CF Jacoby Ellsbury for long swaths of the campaign. Even adding the 26-year-old Castro, the Yanks still have the appearance of a baseball version of George Allen's long-ago Washington Redskins "Over the Hill Gang," with a lineup dotted by players in their mid-to-late 30s, and even their 40s, the latter including A-Rod, who has announced his will be his penultimate trip around the track but who nonetheless cracked a surprising 33 homers a year ago, working almost solely as a DH. Of those in the 30-plus-years-old brigade, Teixeira (now in a contract year) hit 31, C Brian McCann hit 26 homers, and RF Carlos Beltran another 19 a year ago. But keeping all of those oldsters healthy over 162 games might be a chore.

Worryingly, one of the top fill-ins, 23-year-old 1B Greg Bird, who impressed in Teixeira's absence down the stretch last year, is already down for the season with a torn labrum, though versatile Rob Refsnyder's impressive spring in Tampa suggests he could be a useful super-utility option. There is some upside in the rotation, especially if CC Sabathia is beyond some of his off-field problems. Another ace-like season from Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda finally living up to his hype as a top prospect in the Mariners' system, Nathan Eovaldi finding a way to miss bats with his mid-90's fastball, and Luis Severino reprising last year's impressive rookie campaign can get the Yanks in contention. We're looking "over" in The Bronx, where we hope to finally get to the new Yankee Stadium in early June when making our annual trip to the Belmont (the Tigers are in for a visit that June 10-11-12 weekend).

There seems an-almost obligatory bent among the national media to hype the Boston Red Sox (87) whenever possible. And with new GM Dave Dombrowski wheeling and dealing over the winter, the pundits have their latest reason to go overboard, as the Bosox would ink lefty David Price to the most expensive FA contract (seven years, $217 million!) ever given to a pitcher, while bolstering the bullpen by trading several prospects to the Padres for Craig Kimbrel and his pterodactyl-like stretch on the mound. But there has been something wrong with all of the disparate parts assembled over the past few years, with Boston well under .500 in three of the last four seasons, including the last two, though winning the World Series in the other (2013). Reflective of some of the recent dysfunction were last year's disappointing performances by Hanley Ramirez, a ballyhooed FA signee who flopped in LF but is now being auditioned at 1B, and ex-Giant Pablo Sandoval, who far undershot expectations at 3B. Unless Ramirez and Sandoval bounce back, aging DH David Ortiz (another 37 homers in 2015) looks the only reliable power source, and Big Papi turns 39 this season.

There also remain questions in the rotation behind Price, and though Kimbrel should prove an upgrade in the closer role, the bullpen still had the third-worst ERA in the AL a year ago. Even manager John Farrell, back in the dugout after last summer's non-Hodgkin's lymphoma treatments, has been involved in some off-field controversy. The over/under of 87 wins suggests a consistent contender, but lately this has been a very erratic bunch. And even if Price delivers as advertised, he only plays in one of every five games, at the most. We're thinking attention in Beantown turns fully to the Patriots by September, as the Bosox go "under" and miss the playoffs again.

The Toronto Blue Jays (86 ½) caught lightning in a bottle after the All-Star break last season, racing to the AL East title and the ALCS before bowing in an exciting six-game series vs. the Royals. But before the NHL Maple Leafs could put together a losing streak, GM Alex Anthopolous, architect of the playoff roster, would leave the organization, and staff ace David Price would bolt (as expected) in free agency after anchoring the rotation following his July acquisition by Anthopolous from the Tigers. New GM Ross Atkins was thus enlisted from Cleveland, where he worked under new Toronto club president and CEO Mark Shapiro. Moving fast to limit the damage after Price's departure, Atkins quickly inked a 2-year deal to retain starter Marco Estrada and would add from Oakland the durable Jesse Chavez, plus sign JA Happ (a Blue Jay from 2012-14) in free agency, at least solidifying the back end of the rotation. Adding Chavez and Happ allows skipper John Gibbons to move Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen as the Blue Jays look for a proper bridge to young, 20-year-old closer Roberto Osuna, who emerged out of nowhere to record 20 saves a year ago.

There is also hope that SS Troy Tulowitzki, who struggled after his deadline acquisition from Colorado, will be more settled this season, and if so he provides extra dynamite for the left side of the infield that already includes AL-MVP 3B Josh Donaldson (41 HR last year). Had DH Edwin Encarnacion (39 HR) hit one more dinger last season, he would have joined RF Jose Bautista (40 HR) and Donaldson and made Toronto the first team with three 40-homer players since the 1997 Rockies (Larry Walker, Andres Galarraga, Vinny Castilla). There's enough offense to get back to the playoffs, and unless the post-Price staff regresses, there's no reason the Blue Jays should drop too much from a year ago. Another "over" at the Rogers Centre, giving Toronto fans something to cheer as they endure another Stanley Cup Playoffs absence from the Leafs.

It might surprise some that the Tampa Bay Rays (82 ½) won three more games last year (80) than they did in 2014 (77), the final season in which skipper Joe Maddon and GM Andrew Friedman were in the St. Pete fold before bolting for greener pastures. But the Rays would hold their own despite a series of injuries that shut down much of the rotation for parts of the campaign and depleted the everyday lineup. Manager Kevin Cash kept uncovering capable arms, with Chris Archer finishing fifth in AL Cy Young voting and Jake Odorizzi taking nearly a run off his 2014 ERA as the Tampa Bay starters would surprisingly post the AL's best ERA (3.63). Theoretically, things should improve in 2016 if Cash can get full seasons out of Drew Smyly and Matt Moore and if Alex Cobb can return by midseason after undergoing Tommy John surgery last May.

The problem last season was runs, or, more specifically, scoring too few of them, as the Rays' measly 644 runs were second-lowest in the AL and almost 250 fewer than the Blue Jays. At 3B, Evan Longoria continues to produce at a high level, but help is needed from 2B Logan Morrison, acquired from Seattle, and RF Steven Souza, Jr., who clubbed 16 homers as a rookie while missing nearly two months due to injury. We view Tampa Bay as the X-factor of the East, as even slight improvement from the offense gets the team above .500 and perhaps to the periphery of the playoff chase. But the Rays have limited financial clout with which to add needed pieces during the season, and an injury to Longoria would completely short-circuit the offense. As always, we'll tune into one of our favorite play-by-play men, Dewayne Staats, describing the action on MLB Extra Innings, but we're simply going to pass at the Trop.

AL CENTRAL: BEST BET...As a year ago, the oddsmakers seem to be making this an easy call for us in the Central. Or perhaps it is the fault of the wagering public, which for some reason remains cool on the Kansas City Royals (84) despite their back-to-back World Series visits (which even the teams of the George Brett-led glory era between 1976-85 couldn't accomplish) and dramatic success in the Fall Classic a year ago. The roster has only a few tweaks from a year ago with the core still intact, and the lights-out bullpen might even be stronger by adding the accomplished Joakim Soria. He has been an effective closer in the past but now likely becomes one of the bridges along with Kelvin Herrera to gas-throwing closer Wade Davis, who proved an upgrade from Greg Holland and converted 17 of 18 chances after assuming the closer's role following an injury to Holland (now a free agent). Even last summer's staff addition Johnny Cueto, who would move to the Giants in free agency, is not likely to be missed after he proved a significant disappointment following his acquisition. But the starters usually have to worry only about going six innings, and the rotation should fill in seamlessly for Cueto with Ian Kennedy, signed as a FA after a couple of effective years with the Padres.

The everyday lineup is full of accomplished, still-mostly-young talent that continues to blossom, with SS Alcides Escobar the next possible star after sorts such as LF Alex Gordon, CF Lorenzo Cain, 3B Mike Moustakas, 1B Eric Hosmer, and C Salvador Perez have already reached that status, and the defense and baserunning should remain among the AL's best. Again, why are these guys being discounted? Just as automatic as ordering a burnt ends plate at Arthur Bryant's BBQ is another "over" recommendation at the Big K.

OTHERS: There is an awful lot of respect being given to the Detroit Tigers (82 ½) after their nosedive to 74-87 a year ago, a stunning 16-win drop from 2014. Longtime GM Dave Dombrowski was a casualty of the meltdown and was relieved of duties before the 2015 season was complete, with assistant Al Avila promoted in his place. Avila wasted little time addressing needs in the offseason, quickly trying to rebuild a bullpen that has been more of an arson squad in recent campaigns and was again one the AL's worst a year ago. New closer Francisco Rodriguez, along with Cubs SP John Lackey being the last remaining active links to the Angels' 2002 World Series team, was added in a trade with the Brewers, with Avila also dealing with the Yankees for lefty Justin Wilson and signing FA Mark Lowe from the Blue Jays as late-inning bridges to "K-Rod." With the bullpen hopefully solidified, Avila tried to upgrade the rotation, signing a high-priced deal with ex-Nat Jordan Zimmerman and also inking ex-Twin and Met Mike Pelfrey. The workhorse Zimmerman, however, logged a lot of innings in Washington, and holdover Justin Verlander has not resembled his old Cy Young-winning form for some time. (We're not sure if blame goes to girlfriend Kate Upton or a succession of injuries over the years.)

Offensively, there is hope for a bounce-back year from DH Victor Martinez, who slumped to just 11 HR in an injury-riddled 2015, but he's now 37, and the recovery is no guarantee. Outfielders Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin are new additions to a lineup that still features 1B Miguel Cabrera, like V. Martinez off an injury-plagued year. While Avila has thrown a lot of new pieces into the mix, the pressure is on manager Brad Ausmus to fit them all together. It's possible Ausmus succeeds and gets the Tigers back into playoff contention. But a slow start could also doom Ausmus, who barely survived the purge that claimed Dombrowski. Too much to ask to improve 9 wins, we think, so we look "under" at Comerica Park as we continue to steam about the removal of Leo's Coney Island from the stadium year ago. Blasphemous!

Slowly climbing back to the .500 level after bottoming out at 63-99 in 2013, the Chicago White Sox (80 ½) hope they are ready to make the jump to contending status after finishing a combined 62 games under .500 since 2012. Too much to ask? Maybe not, as AL observers insist the energy level has been much higher this spring in Glendale, due partly to vet offseason additions SS Jimmy Rollins and 3B Todd Frazier, who as much as anything should add much-needed spurs in the clubhouse. Recent Chisox news from the Cactus League had more to do about 1B-DH Adam LaRoche retiring after being told not to bring his son around to work every day, with team VP Kenny Williams receiving the brunt of the criticism. But practically speaking, this should not be a significant negative after LaRoche's disappointing 2015 was part of a team-wide power shortage that resulted in an AL-low 136 homers, hard to do playing half of the games in a hitter-friendly park such as The Cell.

To remedy the lack of pop, GM David Hahn engineered a three-way trade with the Reds and Dodgers that brought the aforementioned Frazier to the South Side, where his 24 HRs from last season have landed him in the cleanup role. Brett Lawrie, who hit 16 HRs for the A's last season, was also added in a deal with Billy Beane and will start at 2B and hopefully provide more protection for 1B-DH Jose Abreu, who socked 30 homers a year ago. The staff, anchored by Chris Sale, should benefit from the departure of Jeff Samardzija, who was worse than awful a year ago, with vet FA Mat Latos hoping to resurrect his career in the middle of the rotation. With the pressure on manager Robin Ventura, and No. 1 Chisox fan President Obama not likely to provide a pardon if the season starts slowly, it's time for the Pale Hose to make their move. That's enough to make us recommend an "over" at The Cell.

The Cleveland Indians (86) are getting a lot of respect from the oddsmakers...too much, in our opinion, projecting more wins for the Tribe than for the champion Royals! We're not getting it, nor are we sure the Indians exceed that 86 after losing traction each of the past two seasons for skipper Terry Francona, who hasn't been to the playoffs since his first Cleveland team made it as a wild card in 2013. Already there are injury woes, as key LF Michael Brantley has played in only two Cactus League games as he recovers from offseason surgery on his right shoulder, and could start the season on the DL. Another slow break from the gate would bring back bad memories for the Tribe, who could never really recover from an 11-20 start last season, unable to get above .500 until late September.

Along the way last year, 2014 AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber pitched in bad luck, losing 16 games due mostly to poor run support, receiving two or fewer runs in 18 of his 32 starts. The rotation still posted decent numbers, as its 3.94 ERA was fourth best in the AL while finishing first in the bigs with 969 Ks, as Kluber (245 Ks) was helped by Carlos Carrasco (216 Ks), Danny Salazar (185 Ks), and Trevor Bauer (170 Ks) who all were firing bullets. And the bullpen posted the AL's second best ERA (3.12) behind only the Royals. So why didn't Cleveland win more last season? The power numbers weren't sufficient (1B-DH Carlos Santana led the team with only 19 homers), and to that end GM Mike Chernoff added Mike Napoli, who split last season between Boston and Texas and brings considerable pop to the lineup. The other significant offseason addition, OF Rajai Davis, likely gets playing time as long as Brantley is sidelined. The Indians see something in their core, which they have kept mostly intact, but we think Cleveland has a ceiling in the mid 80s. So, it's an "under" for us by Lake Erie.

It was nice to see the Minnesota Twins (78 ½) back in contention last season, as new manager Paul Molitor pushed many of the right buttons despite a succession of stats that belied a spirited run into wild card contention until the last weekend of the season. The Twins were middling statistically in most offensive categories while their team ERA was one of the worst in the league, yet Molitor kept the team in the playoff discussion. Still, the staff was more effective than in previous years, especially 2014 when it ranked bottom-of-the-bigs in ERA (5.06). And the improvement came even with staff ace Phil Hughes sidelined the last five weeks of the season, and with Ervin Santana suspended for the first 50 games. Santana (already named opening-day starter by Molitor) and Hughes are now together from the start of the season at the top of the rotation, but we are a bit less convinced with other options.

Meanwhile, the offense, defense, and clubhouse might miss the veteran presence that OF Torii Hunter provided last season in a return "home" for one final campaign. Miguel Sano, last year's rookie phenom with 18 homers and 52 RBI in just 80 games, is being moved to RF to take the place of Hunter, but the Twins are still waiting for a return on investment from touted CF Bryan Buxton, who did not have a Sano-like debut at the plate a year ago, and have given up on Aaron Hicks, traded to the Yankees. In a division without any easy touches, it's hard to say where the Twins land. We expect they'll be doing very well to replicate last year's 83 wins, though Molitor proved adept in his first season calling the shots. We're keeping an eye on the Twins, but are not prepared to commit, so we'll just watch the excellent broadcast pair of Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven on Twins TV and take a pass at Target Field.

AL WEST: BEST BET...It has been a while, back to 2009, in fact, since the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (80 ½) won a playoff game. Which means that wondrous OF Mike Trout has never experienced the taste of a postseason win. Certainly not Trout's fault, but we wonder if the Halos are any closer to breaking their playoff-win drought after only marginally addressing some of their roster issues in the offseason. New GM Billy Eppler did not completely sit on his hands, as the Angels should improve in the field, adding SS Andrelton Simmons from the Braves and 3B Yunel Escobar from the Nats following a finish in the bottom third of MLB defensive stats a year ago. But the gloves of Simmons and Escobar are not going to help too much with an offense that has a glaring lack of run producers despite the presence of Trout and a still-productive (knock on wood) Albert Pujols, whose recurring foot issues after yet more offseason surgery have limited his contributions this spring in Tempe. With an opening in left field as wide as the Big A's outfield rock formation, Eppler whiffed, or didn't even take much of a swing, on potential FA targets Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes, instead adding only the low-cost Craig Gentry from the A's and the low-power Daniel Nava as FAs. With a lot of subpar-OBP sorts in the lineup still surrounding Trout, RF Kole Calhoun, and maybe (if healthy) Pujols, we're not sure the Halos improve much from their lowly rank of 12th in AL runs scored a year ago.

Then there's the staff, where Garrett Richards might, or might not, regain his ace-like form prior to his 2014 leg injury, where Jered Weaver's loss of velocity remains a concern, where Matt Shoemaker, who surprised in his 2014 rookie season but disappointed a year ago, and where CJ Wilson opens the season on the DL, remain the main options. (Don't be surprised if young lefty Andrew Heaney emerges as the No. 1 starter sometime this summer.) Meanwhile, the bullpen might be weakened after one of the setup men, Trevor Gott, went to the Nats in the Escobar deal, though Huston Street remains a useful closer. Add it up, and we're not sure where the Halos fit in the West, and are less sure that GM Eppler is capable of making the sort of in-season deal that might be needed to help longtime skipper Mike Scioscia. It's an "under" for us at the Big A, but an "over" on visits to Clyde Wright's Tennessee BBQ stand behind the third-base side of the grandstand.

OTHERS: The Houston Astros (87 ½) arrived as a force last season as they completed a 35-win jump from just two years prior, all of the way into an AL wild card berth. A fluke? Not necessarily, as Houston appears built for the long haul, with a collection of live young arms led by AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and now augmented by ex-Tiger and Nat Doug Fister, who solidifies the back end of what might be the AL's best rotation, one in which Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers also matured in tandem a year ago. Adding reliever Ken Giles in a trade with the Phils also strengthens the bullpen and gives manager A.J. Hinch another interesting closer option and the chance to move Luke Gregerson back into his more comfy setup role. The only offseason personnel subtractions invovled non-essential components, so the core of the roster remains intact.

Yes, the offense tended to blow hot and cold and was responsible for the many streaks (winning and losing) that dotted last year's results. But it uncovered a potential superstar in SS Carlos Correa, who hit 22 homers in just 99 games, while do-everything 2B Jose Altuve was a legit MVP candidate for the first half of last season. After taking advantage of Minute Maid Park's forgiving dimensions and belting 230 homers (ranked second in the bigs) a year ago, Houston is darned fun to watch, and retains exciting potential, especially with LF Colby Rasmus and DH Evan Gattis now providing consistent power. After having the Royals on the ropes in last year's ALDS, the Astros appear on the verge of a jump into the elite level. It's an "over" for us at Minute Maid Park.

In retrospect, the one recent blip on the radar of the Texas Rangers (83) in 2014 can be explained by a rash of injuries two years ago that left the team as an MLB version of this year's NBA New Orleans Pelicans. But even using the DL another 26 times a season ago and losing a staggering 1651 player games due to injuries, the Rangers, fortified with better depth, did bounce back to win the AL West for new manager Jeff Banister and advance to the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons (if counting 2013 and the wild-card loss to the Orioles that season). Now Texas gets lefty Cole Hamels, added at the deadline from the Phils last summer, in its rotation from the outset, while former ace Yu Darvish should return sometime in May after missing all of last season following elbow surgery. More Hamels and any amount of Darvish are a nice start for the staff, which looks good by usual Ranger standards, and Texas also has a reliable closer these days after Shawn Tolleson nailed 35 of 37 save opportunities last season.

Granted, there are age and durability issues in the everyday lineup, with warranties needed for sorts such as 3B Adrian Beltre, 1B-DH Prince Fielder, and LF Josh Hamilton, all of whom having dealt with injuries in recent seasons. But at full strength, Texas is pretty scary, with plenty of power and speed (SS Elvis Andrus and CF Delino DeShields in particular to provide the latter) in the lineup and potential dominators at the top of the rotation if Darvish returns near 100%. There is some uncertainty, but the downside seems limited for Texas, a scenario which can play in the less-than-powerful AL West. We're going "over" in Arlington.

In recent years, we seem to be zigging and zagging in the wrong years with the Seattle Mariners (83), who failed to follow up their 2014 breakthrough when falling 11 wins to a subpar 76-86 a year ago. That latest pratfall caused a system-wide housecleaning, with ex-Angels GM Jerry DiPoto enlisted for the same role at Safeco Field, and DiPoto bringing along a comrade from Anaheim, Scott Servais, as the new manager in place of the dismissed Lloyd McClendon. DiPoto then spent the winter wheeling and dealing, completely restructuring the bullpen, with former Cardinal and Marlin Steve Cishek added in free agency as the likely new closer, while Wade Miley (via the Bosox) and Nathan Karns (via the Rays) arrived in trades and likely will be slotted behind the still-intimidating "King" Felix Hernandez in the rotation. DiPoto didn't stop at the pitching staff in his roster re-make, with FA LF Nori Aoki, plus CF Leonys Martin (via Rangers) and 1B Adam Lind (via Brewers) acquired in more trades and now part of the everyday lineup.

DiPoto didn't fool (at least not yet) with cornerstones 2B Robinson Cano, 3B Kyle Seager, or DH Nelson Cruz, but the recent records of similar roster overhauls (such as last year in Oakland) are not promising, and now Seattle breaks in a rookie big league manager (Servais) to boot. DiPito's moves might work, but history suggests such drastic offseason turnovers usually continue into the regular season, adding to the uncertainties. With so many moving pieces, forecasting a 7-win jump from last season appears a bit much to us, so we'd rather look "under" at Safeco Field.

An annual disclaimer needs to be attached to the Oakland Athletics (76) because of GM Billy Beane, who has often made lemonade from lemons and forged unlikely contenders at the Coliseum, to ever be summarily dismissed (though not all of Beane's personnel moves have worked like charms over the past decade). But the fact the A's remain so unpredictable means discounting them is always a risky option, and Beane has pulled several rabbits out of his hat at the trade deadline over the years. Having said that, the upside of the current bunch looks rather limited after having crashed to an AL-worst 68-94 mark a year ago, though Oakland might not have been as bad as the record indicated last season, with injuries eventually decimating the staff and bullpen and the team ending a staggering 31-53 in games decide by two runs or fewer. The A's would also remarkably have a healthy run differential into September, suggesting that a turnaround might not be far away. Sensing the woeful bullpen as a main contributor to last season's ills, Beane almost totally re-made the relief corps in the offseason while hoping closer Sean Doolittle has recovered from the shoulder woes that had him on the shelf for much of 2015. Ryan Madson, Liam Hendriks, John Axford and Mark Rzepczynski have all been added to the pen since last season, which suggests that the relief corps should certainly not be any worse, with holdover Fernando Rodriguez being the pleasant surprise of March in Mesa. And Beane always seems to find fits for his rotation.

But beyond All-Star Sonny Gray, there are many question marks, and the touted Sean Manaea (groin strain) will likely open the season on the DL. Meanwhile, the offense might get a boost from ex-Brewer Khris Davis, whose 27 HRs last season will be more than welcome in Oakland, though he doesn't fit Beane's OBP model. The real key to any A's renaissance probably lies with the defense, which was one of the AL's worst last season (SS Marcus Semien personally guilty of 35 errors) and looked no better in the Cactus League. We don't expect Oakland to contend, but if the pieces fall together, and Beane displays a little more of his personnel magic, the A's might make a run at .500. With all of those ifs, it seems a better idea to take a pass at the Coliseum.


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