Who Among the Athletics Gets Biggest Boost From Going to a 30-Man Roster?

John Hickey

We don’t know when pitchers and catchers will report. Again. We don’t know if infielders and outfielders will report at the same time.

We don’t know when opening day will be. We don’t know how many games will be played. We don’t know how many teams will make the playoffs.

Let’s face it. When it comes to the 2020 Major League Baseball season there isn’t much that we do know.

One of the few things that we think we know, or which at any rate seems more likely than not, is that big-league managers will have a 30-man roster with which to make moves. It’s been 25 men from just short of forever, and was supposed to go to 26 this season.

But with a compressed spring training after a long lockdown, getting about three weeks instead of the usual 6-plus weeks, expanding rosters makes a fair amount of sense. When you add in a schedule with fewer days off and the likelihood of more doubleheaders, having a padded roster becomes more of a necessity.

How are the Oakland A’s likely to handle that?

It seems like the big winners could be a third left-handed reliever, a third catcher and extra depth at second base, first base and left field.

Lucas Luetge was a borderline roster choice with the team expecting to break with 26 players. If the A’s were going to go with just 13 pitchers, it’s likely that right-handed reliever J.B. Wendelken, who was already on the 40-man roster, would have been the man. Expanding by one gives the A’s the opportunity to carry a third bullpen lefty, and Luetge, who was 9-3 with a 2.38 ERA in the minors last year for Arizona while averaging about 1.1 innings per game, could be the lucky man.

The A’s were almost certainly going to go with right-handed hitting Sean Murphy and lefty Austin Allen, guys with about 200 big league at-bats between them, before the lockdown hit baseball. The roster expansion stands to be very good news for switch-hitting catching prospect Jonah Heim, who hasn’t played above Triple-A – he hit .358 in 35 games for Las Vegas last year – doesn’t provide veteran’s influence, but Heim’s .320/.370/.400 slash line in a dozen games this spring suggests he might be a useful addition.

With the Jurickson Profar experiment at second base in the past, Franklin Barreto once again finds himself battling to make a name for himself, pitted against former Cub Tony Kemp and Rule 5 addition Vimael Machin in the second base derby. It was likely that it would be either Barreto or Machin working with Kemp; with a 30-man roster, it can be both.

Seth Brown made a mark for himself last with seven RBI in his first 22 big-league at-bats as a backup first baseman/left fielder following a 37-homer minor league season at Triple-A Las Vegas. It was going to be a tough fit to get him on the roster behind a first baseman, Matt Olson, who doesn’t take many days off, and with the outfield healthy again. So, if he’s there, it’s due to the expansion to 30.

Here’s our early version of Oakland’s 30-man roster:

Starting pitchers (5): RH Mike Fiers, LH Sean Manaea, RH Frankie Montas, LH A.J. Puk, LH Jesus Luzardo.

Relief pitchers (9): RH Liam Hendriks (closer), RH Lou Trivino, RH Yusmeiro Petit, RH Joakim Soria, RH Chris Bassitt, RH J.B. Wendelken, LH Jake Diekman, LH T.J. McFarland, LH Lucas Luetge.

Catchers (3): Sean Murphy, Austin Allen, Jonah Heim.

Infielders (7): Matt Chapman, Marcus Semien, Tony Kemp, Franklin Barreto, Vimael Machin, Matt Olson, Seth Brown.

Outfielders (5): Mark Canha, Chad Pinder, Robbie Grossman, Ramon Laureano, Stephen Piscotty.

DH (1): Khris Davis.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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