The Oakland Athletics have been scoring runs — a lot of runs. This is somewhat unusual for a club that is fighting with the Los Angeles Angels to be the one who will not finish last in the AL West this season.
Since expanding the roster on September 1, the Athletics have scored 93 runs. That number is the same as they scored in the entire months of both July and April.
With 12 games left on the 2016 schedule, they are going to surpass their August total of 96 runs, which could easily happen Tuesday night in Oakland against the Houston Astros. In order for them to have their highest-scoring month of the season, the A’s will have to score approximately 2.5 runs per game, which should be easy enough as long as they keep going at the rate they have been.
While there were some small daily changes to the A’s lineup over their most recent seven-game road trip that took them through Kansas City and Arlington, the overall look and feel of the lineup was the same each day. Is it possible that the A’s are giving the baseball world a glimpse of what their lineup will look like in 2017?
The team and fans should hope so, given that the team swept the reigning-World Champion Royals, outscoring them 43-12 over four games. They then moved on to take two of three from the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, outscoring them 22-11. As a team, the Athletics scored a total of 65 runs over seven games, an average of 9.3 runs per game.
It appears that some of the young prospects that have been called up have been helping the few producing veterans on the roster up the team’s offensive output.
Ryon Healy, who was called up in July, has gone on two double-digit hit streaks, hitting 16 doubles and 11 home runs while driving in 30 runs for the A’s. Healy’s power has been a complement to slugger Khris Davis, who hit his 39th and 40th home runs of the season on Sunday. Since the beginning of the month, Healy, 24, has been hitting mainly in the number five spot in the lineup.
Since being called up on August 31, Joey Wendle, 26, has been a staple at the top of the A’s lineup. Wendle has the speed to be the team’s leadoff hitter in 2017. Sunday he led off the game in Arlington with a bunt single.
In his 17 major league appearances, he has 18 hits and has driven in nine runs without accumulating a large number of strikeouts. Being that the second baseman has the speed and ability to get on base, his position for 2017 appears to be set. He’ll lead off and be the starter at second base.
Twenty-five-year-old Bruce Maxwell is another new face in the A’s lineup who is likely to remain there in 2017. After filling in a good part of the season for injured A’s backup catcher Josh Phegley, it looks as though Phegley may be the one out of a job in Oakland next season.
Maxwell has been a staple behind the plate when A’s two-time All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt needs a day off or hits in the designated hitter’s spot. Usually catching the more experienced pitchers, Maxwell has been able to learn from Vogt on how to play behind the plate but he hasn’t needed any help when stepping up to it. He’s currently hitting a cool .270 with 11 runs batted in in 23 games with the big league club.
Two other new faces who may end up as regulars in the A’s lineup have really done most of their talking while playing in the outfield. Both Brett Eibner, 27, and Jake Smolinski, also 27, have made some amazing plays, many of them game-saving, while rotating between center and right field. They’ve perhaps done enough on defense to be probables in the A’s outfield in 2017.
Eibner will likely be the team’s rotating fourth outfielder since he can play all three positions. He’ll help out in case of injury or just giving Davis, Smolinski and, assuming the A’s hold onto Danny Valencia — who leads the team in batting average — until at least the 2016 trade deadline, a day off.
Eibner is only hitting .210 on the year, having played 26 games with Kansas City before being traded to Oakland for Billy Burns and continuing on to play in 34 more games with the Athletics. His defense is a big upgrade from Burns’ and he has more potential for power, meaning it’s a good possibility that he’ll be in the lineup off and on next season.
Smolinski is batting a decent .248, but his .311 on-base percentage leaves something to be desired. He’s hit seven homers and driven in 27 runs in 90 games so far for Oakland. While neither Smolinski nor Eibner are the strongest at the plate, they both have shown good speed while on defense, so having them hit in the eighth and/or ninth spots in the lineup actually works out well for Oakland.
Basically, the preview that the A’s have given us so far this September is a lineup that, for the most part, has looked something like this:
- Wendle – 2B
- Valencia – RF
- Vogt – C
- Davis – LF
- Healy – 3B
- Alonso – 1B
- Semien – SS
- Eibner/Smolinski – CF/RF
The designated hitter role is usually rotated between Davis, Vogt and Valencia, which allows the A’s to keep the productive veterans in the game, while also getting Eibner and Maxwell playing time.
Things could change with offseason moves or changes in performance during spring training, but having a more stable lineup this month has helped the A’s score, on the whole, more runs than they have all season. It wouldn’t be completely surprising to see most or all of these guys in the team’s lineup in 2017.