The A’s head into what’s all but certain to be a noncompetitive season, one which is more about gauging the progress of young players than short-term results. That’d point towards 24-year-old Nick Allen being the favorite for the shortstop job. Long seen as one of the more intriguing prospects in the system thanks to his defensive ability, Allen indeed impressed with the glove over 809 innings in the middle infield as a rookie. He paired that with well below-average offense, however, posting a .207/.256/.291 line with only four home runs and a meager 5.8% walk percentage through 326 plate appearances.
General manager David Forst was noncommittal about the shortstop position over the weekend, telling reporters he doesn’t “know that we have anything penciled in” (link via Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle). Forst pointed to veteran utilityman Aledmys Díaz — signed to a two-year, $14.5MM free agent deal — as an alternative. Díaz has plenty of experience throughout the infield and is better suited for second or third base defensively, though he’s a more consistent hitter than Allen has yet proven himself to be.
Concerns about Allen’s offense have persisted since his time in the minors, thanks largely to questions about how much impact potential he has in a 5’8″ frame. The former third-round draftee showed decent bat-to-ball skills as a rookie but only made hard contact on 22.3% of his batted balls — the fifth-lowest rate among hitters with at least 200 such events. Forst noted that Allen could continue to see work at second base as well. Aside from Díaz, veteran Tony Kemp and offseason pickup Jace Peterson can work at the keystone and/or at third base.
In other news out of Oakland:
- Kawahara also notes there could be an opportunity for non-roster invitees Jake Fishman or Garrett Williams to crack the roster as a left-handed bullpen option out of camp. That’s in part due to some health uncertainty for southpaw Kirby Snead. As noted by the MLB.com injury tracker, Snead has been shut down from throwing indefinitely after suffering a strain in his throwing shoulder late last month. Acquired from the Blue Jays last spring as part of the Matt Chapman deal, the 28-year-old pitched in 46 games for the A’s last season. He allowed a 5.84 ERA across 44 2/3 innings, striking out a below-average 16.7% of opposing hitters. Snead, who still has a minor league option year remaining, had been vying for a job as a second lefty behind Sam Moll in the relief hierarchy.
- The A’s hosted the Reds for a series in Las Vegas over the weekend as part of Cactus League play. While a pair of exhibition games won’t have any impact on the franchise’s ongoing stadium uncertainty, it naturally led to some renewed attention about the matter. Forst downplayed the series’ relevance to the stadium search, pointing out that the A’s Triple-A affiliate plays in Vegas (link via Martín Gallegos of MLB.com). The GM indicated he didn’t have any preference regarding the franchise’s ultimate destination. “I don’t take sides,” Forst said of the cities. “I have to be focused on us getting a ballpark. (Team president Dave Kaval) is focused on where it’s going to be. We (in baseball operations) really can’t spend a lot of time thinking about the ‘where’ right now.” At the Winter Meetings in December, commissioner Rob Manfred pointed to January 15, 2024 as something of a deadline for the A’s to have a binding stadium agreement (Associated Press link). Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, the A’s would lose their status as a recipient of revenue sharing payments if no deal is agreed upon, either in Oakland or elsewhere, by that date.