The Blue Jays start a three game series with the A's tonight, at Rogers Centre.
The A's are 9-7, sitting in second in the AL West, just a game back of the Rangers. They are actually scoring fewer runs than we are, they are third from the bottom of the AL in run scored per game, at 3.25. The Jays are close to league average at 3.82.
On the defensive side, they are third from the top in runs allowed, with 3.12 run allowed per game, one spot ahead of us on the list.
I sent off some questions to Alex Hall from Athletics Nation, SB's flagship blog, and he did a great job answering them.
Just for my curiosity, now that he's gone, what did you think of Brett Lawrie?
It seems like a dream now. Did he really happen? Did that person really exist, right here on our team? There's so much to love and so much to loathe all at the same time, and my opinion of him could hop back and forth across that line multiple times in a day. He was exhausting to follow.
Overall it's hard not to be disappointed. He stepped into the shoes of an MVP-caliber player, so he was always going to be a downgrade. But the raw talent simply never fully translated on the field, in ways that make it easy to question if it ever will. He was always a risky player to bank on in such a blockbuster trade, perhaps unnecessarily so, and I think the team made the right call cutting bait and moving on rather than letting the experiment drag on.
My favorite thing was the pure, unbridled enthusiasm. My least favorite things were the swinging strikes and the spazzy fielding -- that highly touted defense never showed up. He burst into town in a whirlwind of tattoos and energy, knocked over a few vases, and then suddenly he was gone. Did it all even happen, or did I just fall asleep watching a Tasmanian Devil cartoon?
I have to ask about some of our former friends. What do A's fans think of Danny Valencia, Kendall Graveman, Marc Rzepczynski, and Liam Hendriks.
The jury is still out on Valencia, and unfortunately the jurors are now taking a 15-day recess while he recovers from a tweaked hammy. He actually hit even better for the A's than he did for the Jays last year, and he won over a lot of the fanbase. I'd say most of us are still cautiously optimistic that he can at least be 80% of what he was in 2015, which would still be a solid player.
Graveman had an up-and-down rookie year, but he's off to a wonderful start this year. We like him a lot and have high hopes that he will be a rotation mainstay, whether as a back-end guy or maybe even something more.
We're still getting used to Zep. He hasn't allowed a run yet in 5.1 innings, so I can say with confidence that no one dislikes him yet.
Hendriks is off to a horrible start (6.1 innings, 7 runs, 15 hits), but I don't think anyone is panicking about him yet. He's throwing hard like we hoped for and he hasn't walked anyone, so all we can do is have patience. We like Aussie relievers, so that will surely earn him some extra leeway.
How is Franklin Barreto doing? Where does he sit on your prospect list? When do you figure he might make it to the majors?
Most sources rank Barreto as our top prospect, though our own Community Prospect List wound up with pitcher Sean Manaea voted into the top spot ahead of him. He ranged between No. 23-35 on the major national Top 100 lists.
Barreto is starting at Double-A this year, after tearing up High-A last summer and then playing at the Triple-A equivalent Venezuelan Winter League. It remains unclear what position he'll play, and he even got a trial in CF while in Venezuela, but he's still at shortstop for now. He's off to a slow start at the plate so far but that likely won't last long.
In a realistic best-case scenario, Barreto reaches Triple-A this year and challenges for a job in 2017, and perhaps a more conservative estimate would have him as a midseason or September callup in '17. I don't think we'll see him debut this year, especially since the A's seem happy with their shortstop situation (Semien), but with the way that elite prospects have been getting MLB chances at such young ages lately, you can never say never.
What do you think of Bob Melvin? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Athletics Nation loves Melvin, which is a pretty rare thing for a manager. He seems to have the respect of the players, and on a personal level he has a great sense of humor and is truly a quality human.
Melvin does a great job mixing and matching a complicated roster into nine lineup spots each day so that everyone gets consistent playing time. We don't always agree with every single one of his in-game moves, and in particular his pinch-hitting choices are sometimes bizarre, but he pulls the right strings often enough to get the benefit of the doubt the rest of the time. He also does a good job managing his bullpen, and in particular he should be praised for quietly shifting Ryan Madson into what now seems to be the primary closer role (while still not being afraid to break the paradigm if the situation calls for it).
Who is your favorite A to watch?
Billy Burns brings the exciting plays, like triples and steals and diving catches.
Every pitch Rich Hill throws is a work of art, for better or for worse.
Sonny Gray is a gift from the baseball gods.
What do A's fans think of Billy Beane? The Billy Butler signing and, of course, the Donaldson trade would have me upset if I was a fan.
Find me 10 A's fans and I'll show you 10 different opinions. Some appreciate all the winning he's done, others lament that he's never brought home a ring. Some defend his more questionable moves, others simply forgive him for what they see as mistakes, and the rest want his head. And you didn't even mention the No. 1 lightning rod: the Cespedes trade, which either tore a championship from our grasp or didn't matter much at all, depending who you ask.
Beane is no longer the GM, though, as he's leveled up to VP. The new GM is David Forst.
What do you think are the A's chances of making the playoffs? What would have to go right?
Chances: Less than 50%, but far more than 0%. It can absolutely happen, but everything needs to go right. In particular, the rotation needs to hit its upside, both in terms of health and performance. The bullpen appears to be fixed so far, and the lineup should score enough runs to be competitive, so if the rotation is a plus then this team can contend in what should be a weak AL West.
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