The Bee's Matt Kawahara take a Q&A look at the team as it enters spring training.
THE OAKLAND A'S
1. WHAT WILL THE ROTATION LOOK LIKE?
The A's won 94 games and the American League West last season using an all-rookie rotation down the stretch. This year's rotation figures to be young again outside of Bartolo Colon, who still must serve five games of a 50-game drug suspension and will be 40 in May. Brett Anderson, 25, who made six starts last season after returning from Tommy John surgery, should provide experience. Otherwise, the A's figure to have three second-year starting pitchers Jarrod Parker and Tommy Milone, who each won 13 games as rookies, and their No. 5 starter, which shapes up as a battle between A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily.
2. WHO'S AT SECOND AND THIRD?
The A's infield is crowded. Hiroyuki Nakajima, recently signed from Japan, will get first crack at shortstop. Brandon Moss, a converted outfielder, platooned at first base last year and hit .291 in 84 games. Jemile Weeks started 2012 as the everyday second baseman before playing his way back to the minors but should compete again for the role, possibly with Scott Sizemore, who missed last season because of a knee injury. Sizemore could also push Josh Donaldson at third base. And, the A's recently acquired Jed Lowrie, who is most comfortable at shortstop but can play all four infield positions. Manager Bob Melvin was deft at juggling personnel last year, so it's a situation that might stay murky for a while.
3. CAN MOSS RECREATE 2012?
Moss, a journeyman who spent most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons in the minor leagues, had a power surge with the A's last year with 21 home runs in 265 at-bats. In 678 previous major league at-bats, he had 15 homers. So, was this an emergence or an aberration? For most of the season, Moss formed the left-handed side of a platoon with Chris Carter, whom the A's traded to Houston for Lowrie. Will Moss get the opportunity to hold down the job full time? Or will the A's try another platoon, possibly with Lowrie, a career .292 hitter against left-handers?
4. WHAT DOES CESPEDES DO FOR AN ENCORE?
It quickly became apparent in 2012 that the A's had a potential superstar in Yoenis Cespedes, a Cuban defector who was second in A.L. Rookie of the Year voting. Cespedes hit .292 with 23 home runs and 16 stolen bases, and he flashed range and a powerful arm in the outfield while battling nagging injuries and personal issues and playing in 129 games. A's general manager Billy Beane repeatedly has said "the sky's the limit" for Cespedes as long as he stays healthy. Whether Cespedes can fulfill that potential this year and anchor the middle of the A's lineup will be one of the more intriguing and entertaining story lines in Oakland.
5. HOW WILL HIRO HANDLE THE MOVE?
Nakajima said during his introductory news conference the biggest adjustment coming to the majors from Japan will be a relative lack of bathtubs in the United States. If that's the case, the A's should be thrilled Nakajima, 30, was a career .302 hitter in Japan and is taking over a position the A's received light offensive production from in 2012. Nakajima will have to adjust not only to new pitchers and new infields but new teammates and a new culture. His open personality seems suited to the move, and the A's think he'll be a good fit in their loose clubhouse. But he remains an unknown until the season begins.