Projected Starters - John Jaso/Derek Norris (C), Brandon Moss/Daric Barton (1B), Scott Sizemore/Jemile Weeks/Jed Lowrie (2B), Hiroyuki Nakajima/Jed Lowrie (SS), Josh Donaldson/Jed Lowrie (3B), Yoenis Cespedes (LF), Coco Crisp/Chris Young (CF), Josh Reddick (RF), Seth Smith (DH)
I've never seen an infield with so many position battles. The entire infield is unsettled at the current date, and the issue is that, no matter what, whoever wins the battles will not be an impact player. In my mind, their best infielder is Jed Lowrie. He was a 2.5 WAR player in under 400 at-bats last season, and would provide nice pop from either middle infield spot. The issue with Lowrie is health, as he's never reached 400 AB's as a major leaguer. Outside of that, the first base battle between Brandon Moss and Daric Barton is interesting. Moss is certainly the favorite after he hit 21 homers in under 300 PA's last season, but Barton is one of the best defensive first basemen in the league, and he'll see some time. The outfield is much better than the infield, and the best player on the roster is Yoenis Cespedes. The 27-year-old outfielder hit 23 homers and stole 16 bases with a .292/.356/.505 slash line last season, and with that being his first full year, the prospects of another step up are high. His fielding numbers were ugly last year, but he does have the tools to be better, and if he improves there, his WAR will increase from last year's 3.1. Josh Reddick was fantastic last season for Oakland, leading the team in WAR (4.8), homers (32), and runs scored (85) with hugely successful outfield defense. The underlying trends suggest that he isn't that player, but if he hits 25 homers with mediocre average and good defense, he's valuable. This offense isn't going to be incredible, but they did top 700 runs scored last season (14th in MLB), and if they get power production from the middle of the order (Cespedes, Reddick, Moss), it should be decent.
Projected - Brett Anderson, Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily, Bartolo Colon/AJ Griffin
I'm fully in the tank for Brett Anderson. I'm aware that he's never thrown more than 175 innings, and that he's only made 20 starts one time in his career, but he's got a career 3.57 ERA (in the AL) at age 25, and he's got over a 3-to-1 K/BB ratio. I'm sure the A's would rather have Anderson come along slowly (off of injury again), but they need him in a big way. Tommy Milone is a classic home/road split guy, as he was much better in Oakland than elsewhere last year, but he did finish the year with a sub-4.00 ERA in 190 innings, and he'll only get better at age 26. Parker was the team's best pitcher over the full season last year, and the former top prospect is really solid. His K-rate is down under 7.00, but the groundballer gets outs easily, and I'd expect another ERA in the mid-3.00's. The back-end of the rotation is up for grabs a bit, but the results could be ok. Dan Straily was putting up cartoon-ish numbers in the minors last year before struggling a bit in the Majors. With that said, he's a high-strikeout guy with solid upside in that ballpark. The 5th spot is between AJ Griffin and Bartolo Colon, and honestly, both guys were very, very good last season.
Projected - Grant Balfour (closer), Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Pat Neshek, Chris Resop, Jerry Blevins
For some reason, Grant Balfour never gets any love, but he's always good. He's got three straight seasons with an ERA of 2.53-or-below, and a career K/9 of 9.59. Basically, he's an elite reliever, and while there's the concern of "closer" status, he's a good pitcher. Cook and Doolittle form a very nice set-up duo, with elite strikeout stuff combined with low ERA's, and this could be a strength if everything goes right.
In the end, I believe the A's success this season comes down to their lineup. I don't trust a single player in that lineup to produce at an above-average rate. Yes, I'm positive that someone will do it, but there are negative signs on everyone (Cespedes and Reddick included), and they need some significant uptick to score enough runs in a tough division.
80-82, 4th in AL West