Manager Bob Melvin revealed Frankie Montas will be the Opening Day starter set to face the Los Angeles Angels on July 24.
How will the opening day lineup look? What will the A’s do with players who don’t necessarily fit into an everyday role? Let’s break it down.
Opening Day lineup projection
1. SS Marcus Semien
Lost in the mad rush of summer camp and a looming opening day is Semien’s unique free agency outlook. A big offseason payday — from the A’s or another team willing to spend — is dependent on Semien replicating his MVP-caliber 2019 season. Only, he’ll have 60 games (if that) to maintain his value as one of the best shortstops in the game.
Maybe that’s a concern for another day, but look for Semien atop the lineup to dig even deeper off a season in which he put up a 8.9 WAR, slashed 285/.369/.522 with a career-high .892 OPS and 33 home runs.
2. 3B Matt Chapman
Chapman’s ultra-competitive nature flashed in his first conversation with reporters regarding the coronavirus testing delays. In so many words, Chapman deferred blame onto the A’s organization for operating with the urgency he believed the talent on this team deserves. “We’re not just some other team,” he said. “We consider ourselves one of the best teams in the big leagues.”
Chapman’s frustrations are valid, especially considering the trajectory the 27-year-old is on heading into 2020. Back-to-back Platinum Glove awards cemented him as the most dominant and compelling defensive player in the league. Injuries and fatigue cooled Chapman at the plate considerably in September last season — if he can put together the June and July he had in 2019 in this 60-game bonanza, he could be at the MVP conversation’s forefront.
3. 1B Matt Olson
That the A’s can inch one of the game’s best budding power hitters in the third slot speaks to their offensive depth. Olson is one of the A’s few left-handed bats on the roster, but he might be the ultimate one. Not to mention, he’s one of the best defensive first baseman in baseball.
After spending his earliest years toiling in the platoon saloon, expect Olson to have a breakout season at the plate as a potential MVP candidate. Despite missing the first 35 games of the 2019 recovering from a fractured hamate, he tied for 18th-most in MLB with 36 home runs. It may be no coincidence that the A’s slow start last year sped up when Olson returned.
4. DH Khris Davis
Davis wasn’t himself for most of last season; a hip-to-rail collision in May knocked the ‘Khrush’ out of the one-time home run leader. After falling down the rabbit hole of injury and doubt, he delivered disappointing 23 home run season.
Davis says he’s regained his confidence, and the pressure is off after watching the rest of his team carry the A’s to a second-straight wild card berth. That mix could bring 32-year-old Davis — in the first season of his two-year, $33.7 million contract extension with the A’s — back from a 2019 low in which he batted .220 with a .679 OPS.
5. LF Mark Canha
Canha went from fill-in first baseman to everyday outfielder in 2019. He solidified his starting role after becoming one of the most disciplined hitters in baseball as spring turned to summer, hitting .273 with 26 home runs and a .913 OPS in 126 games. His team-leading .396 OBP perhaps is most indicative of plate discipline.
Even against right-handers, Canha could be irreplaceable in the lineup. He could DH and play first if the A’s need to plug switch hitter Robbie Grossman into left field against righties, or to amplify the outfield defense. Andrew Heaney, the Angels’ opening day starter, is left handed, so expect Canha here to start.
6. CF Ramón Laureano
Laureano has already been snapped robbing summer camp home runs over his favorite wall in center field. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Though, he acknowledges that his route running could use some tweaks. For all the spectacular plays he can make with his athleticism and arm, his first-read and jump backward puts him at -5 outs above average, per Statcast. His solution: position himself further back.
Laureano’s aggression on the base paths and at the plate adds an essential dynamic to this lineup. His all-out approach put him on and off the injured list last year, but he managed 24 home runs and a .288 average in 123 games.
7. RF Stephen Piscotty
Finally off the injury merry-go-round, Piscotty entered camp swinging and locked in, according to coaches and his teammates. The Bay Area native and Stanford graduate made some tweaks to his swing, and he’s hoping the results could push him back into his 2018 form.
8. C Sean Murphy
Perhaps Murphy could land higher in the lineup, but the upside to incredible depth is a lineup flip that includes a possible Rookie of the Year candidate batting from its bottom.
Murphy is known for his defensive work, but has potential for serious power, too. He hit four home runs in his call-up last season, averaging 94 mph exit velocity on fastball offerings. He hit an offspeed pitch for a home run, too.
9. 2B Franklin Barreto
Barreto gets the nod because he is right-handed, and the A’s are slated to face Angels left-handed pitcher Heaney on Opening Day. Manager Bob Melvin has strongly hinted that second base will be platooned to start the season, at least, and Barreto has had his typical strong showing at camp.
Left handed hitter Tony Kemp should be his platoon partner against right-handed pitching. Having speed at the ninth sets the A’s up for a back-to-back leadoff hitter special, essentially.
Chad Pinder? Melvin said he can’t remember the last time the right-handed utility man recorded an out. In a 60-game season, the A’s might find it necessary to play the hot hand more than a 162-game marathon. Pinder would be an everyday starter on any other team, but is without an everyday role on the A’s. With wins at a weighted value, the A’s might find a way to get Pinder in the lineup with more regularity.
Though he’s lacking in reps at second base — he’s putting in work there during camp — he can play any position.
Opening Day starter: Frankie Montas.
Montas might be the ace of the staff until Jesús Luzardo can stretch out and challenge Montas for that spot. With a chip on his shoulder and confidence at a career high, Montas was the clear choice to start the A’s season on the right foot.
Bench: Backup, switch-hitting catcher Austin Allen, switch-hitter Vimael Machin (who has been a “machine,” Melvin says.) Left-handed outfielder Seth Brown.
Taxi squad: catcher Jonah Heim, right-handed pitchers Daniel Gossett and Paul Blackburn.