Oakland Athletics center fielder Yoenis Cespedes . Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
I was going to save this for tomorrow but I'm going to take kids to Batman, so we'll use it today. I sent questions off to Nico from Athletics Nations. The A's are just off a great sweep of the Yankees. They have the touch with walk off wins this year. I didn't expect the A's to be in the race this year, but they are, at least to this point of the season.
Now that you've seen Yoenis Cespedes for half a season, what do you think about him? Worth the money?
And then some. The guy is already looking like a "star on his way to being a superstar" and he's signed for $9M/year. The only caveat has been Cespedes' OF defense, which has been puzzlingly slow to come around. He gets inconsistent reads in CF and consistently poor reads in LF, but he's such a natural athlete that he'll probably improve a lot by the start of next season. Offensively, he's a legitimate force with an incredibly quick bat and power to all fields. Most of all, the ball just sizzles off his bat.
I don't know much about Bob Melvin, what do you think of him? What are his strengths? Weaknesses?
Bob Melvin has been truly incredible. He has his guys playing hard, believing in themselves, and he puts players in a position to succeed. His biggest strength is that he's a first-rate communicator. His biggest weakness might be a slightly excessive love of the sac bunt. He should, IMO, be Manager of the Year.
Can we have a quick scouting report on the pitchers we are likely to see?
Travis Blackley: Since last seen in 2004, Blackley has added velocity from sitting around 84-85 MPH to throwing 90-91 MPH. His big curve is a good one, and he has thrown strikes -- something he didn't do earlier in his career. At the moment, he is looking like a typical A's "under the radar find".
A.J. Griffin: Griffin won't wow you with velocity or stuff, but has excellent fastball command, a slow curve that gets "under the hitter's bat speed," and a fearless mentality. He has gone exactly 6 innings in each of his 5 starts, and has posted a 2.70 ERA despite facing 4 winning teams (Giants, Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees), the last 3 of whom have potent lineups. He reminds a lot of A's fans of Joe Blanton: A really solid "back of the rotation" guy who will throw strikes and keep you in games.
Tommy Milone: He just keeps making non-believers look foolish. Milone throws 87-88 MPH and flat out knows how to pitch. He can paint either side of the strike zone, has a good cutter, a decent curve, and a plus changeup. He controls bat speed and is coming off his best start yet, when he struck out 10 Yankees in 7 shutout innings.
With the trade deadline coming up, what are the A's looking to add?
If the A's could upgrade anywhere it would be at SS, where Cliff Pennington (currently on the DL) is batting under .200 and his replacements (Brandon Hicks, Eric Sogard) aren't really adequate at the plate or in the field. Yunel Escobar's name has come up a lot on AN, along with Stephen Drew (high risk) and Jimmy Rollins (likely not even being dangled).
Who is your favorite A to watch?
For me, Tommy Milone and Yoenis Cespedes, for the reasons discussed above, along with Josh Reddick, who has been a revelation with his hard-nosed style that has translated into sensational results both at the plate (878 OPS, 21 HRs) and in the field (9 assists).
Anything else we should know about the A's?
Don't play them at home: Oakland has 11 walk-off wins, which means they have walked off with a win in 22% of their home games! But since this series is in Toronto...Almost overnight, the A's have gone from a powerless team to one not only with a lot of power, but also several players capable of hitting true "swung on, gone!" bombs. Along with Cespedes, if Chris Carter or Brandon Moss really ties into one, it could land in the 3rd deck -- if it lands at all.