Over the past couple years, Oakland has seen some, for better or for worse, unexpected player performances. 2018 most notably saw the breakout of Blake Treinen. 2019 saw the downfall of Treinen, as well as significant setbacks from Khris Davis, Stephen Piscotty and Lou Trivino. However, last year also had major breakouts from players like Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks and Mark Canha. Following this trend, let’s examine some of my picks for potential bounce back, setback, and breakout candidates for the A’s in the (hopefully) 2020 season.
Khris Davis: the Khrush A’s fans have come to know and love was lost in 2019. After three straight years of 40 HR/.247 AVG, Davis put up a mere 23/.220 mark, along with an 81 wRC+ over the course of 533 PA. He did deal with some health issues, but there was clearly something more going on. However, only one season removed from leading the league in big flies, he no doubt has the skill to bounce back; and that’s exactly what I think he’ll do. Now, he probably won’t be the 40 homer Khrush of old, but that’s unrealistic to expect. What is realistic is a home run total somewhere in the 30-35 range, with a wRC+ back over 100.
Lou Trivino: after a rookie season in which Trivino broke onto the scene with a 2.92 ERA, 3.69 FIP, and a 9.97 K/9 in 74.0 IP, things turned south quickly. In 2019, his ERA skyrocketed to 5.25, his K/9 fell to 8.55, and his BB/9 jumped to 4.65, along with poor peripherals. To me the main thing that hurt him last year was his loss of command. He’s a streaky pitcher, and being more consistent with his pitches is a must for him going forward. However there is plenty of hope for Lou; from 2018 to 2019 he actually improved his exit velocity to 85.5 MPH (95th percentile), barrel% to 3.9 (96th percentile), and xSLG to .343 (90th percentile), along with an xwOBA that only rose from .290 to .296 (3.83 xERA). These factors seem to indicate that Trivino also suffered from some bad luck in 2019, and combine that batted ball data with hopefully improved command, and he’s definitely set up for a bounce back year.
Mike Fiers: after trading for Fiers in mid-2018, the A’s have gotten some solid work out of him. In 2019, he started 33 games and pitched to a 3.90 ERA. However, luck was a large part of that success. He overperformed all his peripherals, with a 4.97 FIP, 5.19 xFIP, 5.19 SIERA, and a 5.02 xERA. This is obviously a clear sign of regression, and I really hope A’s fans aren’t expecting too much out of him this season.
Sean Manaea: this one is much more obvious than Fiers, because no one actually thinks that his 1.21 ERA over the course of 5 starts last year is sustainable (I hope). But, his performance at the end of last season has made many A’s fans see him as the ace of the staff. In reality, there is no reason to believe that Manaea has transformed himself into an ace, or even the best starter on the A’s, as Montas or Luzardo should easily be taken over him. A fall back to Earth is awaiting Sean in 2020. However, there are reasons to be optimistic about him. From 2018 to 2019, he used his slider more and his changeup less, clearly working out for him as he rose his strikeout rate from 16.5% to 27.5% between the two seasons. Even in a small sample size, this could indicate that he’s made some advancements as a pitcher, and that some of his success from 2019 was real.
J.B. Wendelken: I’m very excited to see what J.B. is capable of in a full season at the big league level. After 62.0 innings in the majors over the course of three seasons that he spent up and down from AAA, he should finally get his fair shot in the bullpen this year. In 32.2 IP pitched with the A’s in 2019, he impressed, posting a 3.58 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 3.78 SIERA, and a 2.37 xERA, alongside a 9.37 K/9, and a 2.48 BB/9. He also features 76th percentile fastball velocity, and above average spin rates on all his pitches. Everything points to him being a successful big-league arm.
Franklin Barreto: this is not a name that A’s fans have come to think of positively. The once highly touted prospect Barreto has been given many chances at the big-league level over the past few years, and all of them have flopped. In 209 MLB PA’s he’s posted a 57 wRC+, 43% below league average. He’s also shown no discipline, with a 3.3 BB% and 40.7 K%. But, Franklin is still only 24, and is still full of raw, unharnessed talent. He has the ability to hit the ball hard, with a career 9.5 barrel% and .385 xwOBACON. If he could cut down on his whiffs, he could turn into a productive big-leaguer overnight. In a year that’s likely make-or-break for him, keep an eye on Barreto for a potential long-awaited breakthrough.
Written by @trunks.coverage