The A’s are planning to open the season with a platoon arrangement at shortstop, manager Mark Kotsay said over the weekend (link via Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle). Aledmys Díaz will get the bulk of the reps, taking playing time against right-handed pitching. Nick Allen will work on the short side of the platoon, with the right-handed hitting Díaz moving to another infield position against southpaws.
Allen picked up 57 starts at shortstop and 35 games at second base last season. The defensive specialist rated highly with the glove at both positions. Longstanding questions about his offensive impact continued during his rookie season, however. The 24-year-old hit only .207/.256/.291 in his first 326 big league plate appearances. Allen made a decent amount of contact but rarely hit the ball with any kind of authority, at least against right-handed pitching. He mustered only a .179/.232/.226 line with one home run in 232 plate appearances without the platoon advantage. Allen connected on a trio of longballs with a .276/.315/.448 slash in 96 trips to the dish against southpaws.
Despite those glaring small-sample splits, it’s a little surprising a rebuilding Oakland club plans to limit Allen’s exposure against right-handed pitching. He’d need to take a significant step forward against northpaws if he’s to emerge as a potential bottom-of-the-lineup regular down the line. Nevertheless, the A’s are set to give the majority of the playing time to Díaz, who signed a two-year free agent deal over the winter. The seven-year MLB veteran has been a solid hitter against left and right-handed pitching alike in his career, though he’s never played particularly good defense at shortstop.
Díaz has rated as a solid gloveman at second and third base, where he figures to take some reps against left-handed pitching. Tony Kemp and Jace Peterson both hit from the left side and have struggled against southpaws in their careers. That’s also true of first base/corner outfield option Seth Brown.
Rule 5 draftee Ryan Noda also hits from the left side and will factor into the infield at first base. The club recently informed the former 15th-round pick he’s made the Opening Day roster, Kawahara tweets. Noda, who turns 27 on Thursday, will get an MLB crack after six seasons in the minors. He spent the 2022 campaign with the Dodgers’ top affiliate in Oklahoma City, hitting .259/.395/.474 with 25 home runs and a huge 16% walk rate over 574 trips to the plate. The Cincinnati product struck out in 25 of 52 at-bats this spring, but that wasn’t enough for the Oakland front office to look past his strong offensive track record against minor league pitching.
The A’s will have to carry Noda on the MLB roster or injured list for the entire season in order to permanently obtain his contractual rights. If Oakland decided to take him off the roster, they’d have to make him available on waivers and then offer him back to L.A. if he goes unclaimed.
Another question facing the coaching staff and front office this week is how to align the starting rotation. Paul Blackburn was already known to be headed to the injured list and Kotsay indicated over the weekend that Drew Rucinski would join him. The A’s have tabbed left-hander Kyle Muller as the Opening Day starter, with Ken Waldichuk, James Kaprielian and Shintaro Fujinami also in the rotation. The fifth spot is still up for grabs between Adam Oller and JP Sears, though Kotsay said tonight that both pitchers will be on the season-opening active roster (via Kawahara).
One of that duo will move to long relief, with Oller seeming the likelier bet. He’s come out of the bullpen for three of his six outings this spring, while Sears has started four of five appearances. Both pitchers made their big league debuts in 2022, with Sears having a better first crack. Oller surrendered a 6.30 ERA in 74 1/3 innings; Sears pitched to a 3.86 mark over 70 frames, albeit with a modest 17.7% strikeout percentage.