The Oakland A’s are going into the 2014 season attempting to win their third straight American West pennant, while having the second lowest team salary in the division. Having to compete with a limited salary is nothing new for General Manager Billy Beane and Manager Bob Melvin, in the past two seasons they have won the West without access to the top free agents, but instead with good scouting and development through their farm system.
The A’s have been fortunate with good young arms at their disposal that have been able to allow the team to be competitive. The A’s , in this span, have successfully won the AL West with a team pitching staff that ranked in the top 10 of MLB teams pitching rankings. Going into the 2014 Spring Training, once again the Oakland’s strength is its pitchers. Beane improved an already good bullpen and added left handed starter Scott Kazmir to the starting staff in the off-season.
Beane and Melvin are now in a odd spot with uncertainty in their starting rotation after injuries to a number starting pitchers thoughout spring training. The worst news is projected staff ace Jarrod Parker will need his second Tommy John surgery, and will be sidelined for the entire 2014 season. Parker was projected to be the ace and lead the staff. Parker, entering his third full season with the A’s, was trying to lead the A’s to their third AL West crown. Instead, Parker will attempt to bounce back in 2015 from a second major surgery to his throwing arm. This major injury isn’t the only blow to the staff, Kazmir, entering his first season with the club, is dealing with tricep tightness in his throwing arm. Kazmir will, in all likelihood, enter the season on the disabled list. Kazmir had a career resurgence last season with the Cleveland Indians after years of injury and mechanical issues. A’s starter A.J. Griffin also will start the season on the DL with a injury to his throwing elbow.
All starters are dealing with injuries to their throwing arms, which means an ongoing issue when attempting to pitch 200-plus innings as a starter. The wear and tear throughout the season will undoubtedly have these pitchers on and off the disabled list. At this point, the healthy starters are Sonny Gray, Tommy Milone and Dan Straily. These young arms have a combined four years of service at the Major League level. As of today, the A’s should start the season with Jesse Chavez in the starting rotation. Chavez is pitching well in spring training and has excelled in the minor’s , but has not had much experience at the major league level except for spot bullpen appearances throughout the years.
As for the fifth starter, that can only be speculated at this point. Drew Pomeranz, brought over in a trade in the off season, looks shaky after a rough spring training. Instead, Pomeranz should start the season at Oakland’s AAA affiliate. During spring training, Arnold Leon has had a quality start and maybe a candidate for the spot. Unfortunately, being so close to the start of the season the free agent pool is very shallow with talent and really is not a quality option. Beane and Melvin are experiencing a new challenge to their team and it is uncertain what they will do. There is still time, just not much.