Every Major League Baseball team is facing some sort of impact from the coronavirus, which has delayed the start of the regular season and could wipe it out completely. Before the 2020 campaign begins (if it does), MLBTR will break down the ways that the pushed back campaign could affect each big league club. We’ve already handled the Yankees, Phillies and Angels. Let’s stay in the Angels’ division, the American League West, and turn our attention to the Athletics.
Last season was the second straight 97-win, playoff-bound effort for the Athletics. Their success in those years came in spite of tremendous adversity in their pitching staff, largely on account of injuries.
Left-hander A.J. Puk, one of the franchise’s prized young arms, has barely pitched since undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2018. He sat out all of that season and the majority of last year, when he totaled the first 11 1/3 innings of his career from the A’s bullpen. The flamethrowing Puk showed well as a reliever then, but the hope remains that he’ll turn into a quality starter in the majors. Under normal circumstances, those hopes – at least for the early part of 2020 – may have taken a hit when Puk dealt with shoulder issues near the beginning of this month. Puk looked as if he’d begin the season on the injured list then, but with Opening Day a long way from happening, he seemingly now has a much better chance to crack an A’s rotation that should also feature Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, Mike Fiers and Jesus Luzardo.
Like the 24-year-old Puk, Luzardo counts as one of the A’s high-end young southpaws. And injuries have also held back Luzardo, who sat out a significant portion of 2019 but did dominate over 12 innings from their bullpen. Luzardo, 22, has never even hit the 110-inning mark in a season (he threw 55 in 2019), so it stands to reason that he’ll benefit from a shortened season from a workload standpoint. The same applies to Puk, who amassed just 36 2/3 professional frames from 2018-19.
On the offensive side, the A’s could receive more contributions than expected from right fielder Stephen Piscotty. A little over a month ago, the 29-year-old was said to be questionable for Opening Day because of an intercostal strain. So, the longer this shutdown goes, the better his chances are of being available for a full season. Piscotty was an integral part of the A’s lineup two seasons ago, but numerous health woes held him to 93 games and limited his effectiveness a year ago. A healthy, bounce-back performance from Piscotty would be a boon for Oakland, which lacked a solid third outfield producer last season to complement Ramon Laureano and Mark Canha.
In a worst-case scenario, there won’t be any baseball this year. If that proves to be the case, it’s possible one of the A’s stars, shortstop Marcus Semien, has played his last game in their uniform. Semien went from good to great last year, a season in which he slashed .285/.369/.522 with 33 home runs and 10 stolen bases to finish fifth among position players in fWAR (7.6). That could wind up as a platform season for the soon-to-be 30-year-old Semien, who’s due to reach free agency next winter. There has been mutual interest in a long-term contract, but the league has halted extension talks for the time being. Furthermore, considering their low-budget ways, the A’s may not be in ideal position to keep Semien from testing the market and ultimately exiting.
The hope for everyone who follows baseball – especially those in Oakland – is that Semien will line up at short for the Athletics in the coming months. That would mean actually getting to watch baseball in 2020, after all, but it’s anyone’s guess whether Semien has donned an A’s uniform for the last time.