|Milton Bradley was cut soon after his rehab stint with Triple-A Sacramento. b>|
|Shannon Stewart was surprisingly durable for the A's. b>|
Injuries forced the A's to use a number of other players in the outfield, including utilityman Marco Scutaro, , designated hitter Jack Cust, rookie Danny Putnam (who made the leap to the majors directly from Double-A), former New York Yankees prospect Kevin Thompson, former Seattle Mariners prospect Chris Snelling, journeymen Jeff DaVanon, Dee Brown and Hiram Bocachica, former Atlanta Braves outfielder Ryan Langerhans, infielder J.J. Furmaniak and even catcher Jason Kendall. Stewart was the only A's outfielder to appear in more than 100 games at any one outfield position.
Good-Bye And Hello
|Fan favorite Nick Swisher was dealt in January. b>|
In the place of Swisher, Kotsay and Bradley are Chris Denorfia, Ryan Sweeney and Emil Brown. Denorfia was acquired from Cincinnati in a trade last April, but he missed all of last season with an elbow injury. Sweeney was part of the Swisher trade and the veteran Brown signed as a free agent. In addition, the A's added two young outfielders who could be future starters for the team in the Dan Haren trade – Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Cunningham. The team also claimed prospect Jeff Fiorentino off of waivers and signed former San Francisco Giants prospect Todd Linden to a minor league contract.
Outfielders Invited To Camp
*Denotes member of the 40-man roster
Number Of INFs Likely On Roster – 5 or 6, including the designated hitter position.
Locks To Make The Team
|Emil Brown signed a one-year contract with the A's. b>|
The A's will look to the right-handed hitting Brown to be a balance for their heavily left-handed middle of the order. Over the past three seasons with Kansas City, Brown has posted an 841 OPS against left-handed pitching, more than 100 points higher than his efforts against right-handers. He is versatile defensively, and can handle both corner positions well and could be used in center in a pinch. He stole a career-high 12 bases last season and still has decent speed despite being 33 years old. In a perfect world for the A's, Brown will be a fourth outfielder, platoon-player for some of the team's young outfield talent. However, if the A's have any injuries or if their young outfield talent needs more time in the minor leagues, Brown could see as much time as Shannon Stewart did for Oakland last season.
|Travis Buck is looking for a healthy 2008 season. b>|
The biggest criticism of Buck's work in 2007 was that he didn't get to work enough. Buck missed almost half of the season with a variety of ailments. He had off-season surgery on his right elbow and should be 100 percent for the start of the season, but he has had a number of injuries during his short professional career, so the A's will monitor his health closely. When healthy, Buck is one of the A's best all-around players. He hits for average, can get on-base, has good extra-base power and can steal the occasional base. Buck also demonstrated last season that he can play above-average defense in the corner positions and can play center if the team needs him to. If Buck is healthy enough to give the A's 140 games in 2008. the team should be much improved offensively.
|Jack Cust was a feel-good story in 2007. b>|
The A's will be counting on Cust for similar production in 2008. Although he may sit against the occasional lefty, Cust will more than likely be in the line-up on an everyday basis. Oakland demonstrated that they weren't afraid to play Cust in the field at times last season, although the A's shouldn't have to play him out there very often.
|Chris Denorfia is coming off of elbow surgery. b>|
Denorfia is a versatile outfielder who can play all three positions, including centerfield. The A's are likely to use Denorfia primarily in centerfield in 2008. Although Denorfia will turn 28 during the 2008 season, he is still an inexperienced major league player, as he has only 67 major league games under his belt. Denorfia will also be coming off of a year layoff, and it is always a guess as to how much that layoff will affect a player's timing at the start of the season. Although he will have the first crack at being the A's full-time centerfielder in 2008, Denorfia will have to perform well to keep the job. Ryan Sweeney and Jeff Fiorentino both have major league experience and can handle centerfield and either could challenge Denorfia for his spot during the season if he struggles. In addition, if Carlos Gonzalez gets off to a fast start at Triple-A and Denorfia struggles, the A's could move Buck to centerfield and promote Gonzalez to play right (or have Gonzalez play center). If Denorfia plays well, however, he should get the majority of the playing time in center this season.
Favorite For A Final Spot
|Ryan Sweeney had wrist problems in 2007. b>|
Scouts have always loved Sweeney, who has a long, athletic frame that scouts can project greatness on. However, those same scouts have become frustrated with Sweeney's lack of development in the power area. He looks like a power hitter, but for much of his career, he has been more of a singles hitter. Sweeney is an above-average defensive outfielder in the corners and he has handled centerfield when he has been asked to. He has already spent two full seasons at Triple-A, so he doesn't likely have a lot more to learn at that level. However, he will need to demonstrate that he can bring value with the bat and the glove to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Battling For The Final Spot
|Jeff Fiorentino has gotten off to a slow start in each of the past two years. b>|
Fiorentino has spent much of his career play centerfield and he can handle the position well. He has good power for a centerfielder, good bat control and a patient approach at the plate. Fiorentino has an unusual set-up at that plate, where he puts his upper half of his body over the plate. He has traditionally done well against right-handed pitching and struggled versus lefties. If he out-plays Ryan Sweeney this spring, he could win a spot as a platoon partner for Chris Denorfia in center. If not, he will almost certainly get his first taste of Triple-A.
|Carlos Gonzalez was the top prospect in the package the A's received for Dan Haren. b>|
Gonzalez has all of the tools to be a star in the major leagues, and the A's are hoping that he will be the centerpiece of the team's offense for years to come. He has the ability to hit for average and power. He also has a cannon throwing arm and above-average speed. Gonzalez is best suited for right-field, but he can handle centerfield, as well. Gonzalez's main weakness as a player is his plate patience. He walked only 38 times in 500 at-bats last season. He is also only 22 years old and is still maturing as a player. The A's won't hold Gonzalez back if he looks like he is ready for the major leagues this spring. However, it probably wouldn't hurt Gonzalez to start the season in Triple-A, where he can work with A's coaches to improve his approach at the plate. He should see some time in the major leagues this season regardless.
|Todd Linden travels across the Bay. b>|
Linden has yo-yoed between Triple-A and the major leagues since 2003. In 556 career minor league games, Linden has a career .289 average and an 878 OPS. In 270 major league games, he has a career .231 average and a 638 OPS. His best season in the minors came in 2005 when he hit 30 homers and posted a 1119 OPS in only 95 games for Triple-A Fresno. In the minor leagues, Linden has been a player with above-average power from both sides of the plate and good plate patience. In the majors, Linden's patience has generally disappeared and he hasn't shown much power. He is an average defensive outfielder, but he is limited to the corners. Linden won't turn 28 until June, and he still could be capable of that breakthrough in the major leagues that the Giants were looking for over the past few seasons. Linden will be at a disadvantage in the battle for the final outfield spot because he isn't a strong option in centerfield. However, if he looks like the player he has been in the minor leagues this spring, Linden could be given a chance with the A's at the start of the season. If he doesn't make the team out of Spring Training, he will be one of the veterans on the Sacramento River Cats' roster and should be a top option for the A's during the season if any of their starting outfielders go down with injuries.
Looking To Make An Impression
|Injuries have robbed Javier Herrera of much of the last two seasons. b>|
Despite having been in major league camp during the 2006 and 2007 springs, Herrera still has a lot to prove to the A's coaching staff. He has to show that he is healthy and that he is on the verge of being ready for the major leagues. Herrera will be in his third option year in 2008, so the A's will need to make a decision about his future with the team next season. He has all of the tools to be the A's future centerfielder, but he needs to show that he can stay healthy for an extended period of time before he is given a shot in the major leagues.
|Richie Robnett has a powerful left-handed swing. b>|
Robnett is still a work-in-progress and will almost certainly start the season in Triple-A, where he will be working with manager Todd Steverson for a third consecutive season. He has a strong throwing arm and can play all three outfield positions. Robnett is one of the top power prospects in the A's system. If he can improve his pitch recognition in 2008, he could post huge numbers in the hitter-friendly PCL, which could lead to a September call-up.
|Danny Putnam missed a lot of last season with a broken hand. b>|
While much of Putnam's season was a disappointment thanks to the injury, one positive came out of his 2007 efforts: he demonstrated that he could play some centerfield. Even though he is best suited for a corner, Putnam showed that he could play center if needed, making him a much more versatile player and a better candidate to land on a major league roster as a fourth outfielder in the future. Given that the A's chose to designate him for assignment in January, Putnam isn't a leading candidate to make the team out of Spring Training. However, if he can show some consistent success at the Triple-A level this season, Putnam could work his way back into the A's plans once again.
Here For The Future
|Aaron Cunningham was a Carolina League All-Star in 2007. b>|
Cunningham has drawn comparisons to former A's outfielder Eric Byrnes. He plays with a similar all-out style and does everything pretty well without having one stand-out tool. Cunningham isn't as fast as Byrnes, but he still has above-average speed. Cunningham does a good job getting on-base, and he can play all three outfield positions. The A's think Cunningham will develop into a valuable outfielder at the major league level. He is at least one season from being ready for the major leagues, but he won't turn 22 until late April, so he has time if his development takes more than a year. He should start the season in Double-A, although the A's could push him to Triple-A if he has a standout spring.