Outfield to Watch in 2019: Oakland Athletics

As the A’s look to make it back to October in 2019, their outfield should play a big role in Oakland’s success. The Opening Day starters will most likely be: Nick Martini in left field, Ramon Laureano in center, and Stephen Piscotty playing right. The three non-starters will be Mark Canha, Chad Pinder and Dustin Fowler. While the average baseball fan most likely doesn’t know anything about these guys, they should.

Martini and Laureano both debuted in 2018, while Stephen Piscotty was playing his first season with the A’s after being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals during the offseason. All three had fine seasons.

Nick Martini was called up to the Majors on June 6, then was optioned back to the minors three different times throughout the rest of the season. He was optioned twice in the month of June, at a time where Martini hadn’t yet been given the chance to showcase his talent.

He went on to play in 55 games throughout the rest of the season, collecting an impressive .296 batting average with one homer, 19 runs batted in, .397 OBP, .357 wOBA, and 129 wRC+. Whether he was at the top of the lineup or bottom (mostly top), Martini was very productive. He was a great leadoff hitter, which is obvious by his .397 OBP. Overall, Martini stayed consistent when playing everyday at the end of last season, and we’ll see if he can do the same when being on the Opening Day roster.

Ramon Laureano was a big story for the A’s last year, receiving recognition for his solid offense, and even better defense. Laureano made numerous highlight-reel plays in his small time in the Majors, showing off his arm, speed, and defensive skill.

Laureano was called up to the big leagues on August 3, and played a big role for Oakland in the remaining two months of the season. Over 48 games, the rookie batted .288 with five homers, 19 RBI, .358 OBP, .186 ISO, 129 wRC+, and .357 wOBA. Like Martini, Laureano was very productive at both ends of the lineup, and showed consistency when in the starting lineup every day. Laureano is a solid leadoff hitter, and one that also has some pop.

Martini and Laureano are very similar, with the fact that they both debuted in the later part of last season, and were very successful offensively and defensively. Obviously, their amount of games played wasn’t a huge sample size, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t be consistent when beginning the 2019 season in the starting lineup.

Along with solid left and center fielders, the A’s have a consistent, powerful fight fielder in Stephen Piscotty. The Athletics acquired Piscotty from St. Louis in December 2017, and he fit in perfectly as Oakland’s right fielder. Overall in 151 games, he hit .267 with 27 home runs, 88 runs driven in, 41 doubles, .331 OBP, .223 ISO, .351 wOBA and 3.0 WAR. Also, along with Laureano, Piscotty made numerous difficult plays, and showed off his defensive skill along with a strong arm. He stayed consistent throughout the entire year, and in fact improved as the season passed.

Along with an impressive starting outfield, the A’s also have some pop coming off their bench. Mark Canha is one of them, who served as a solid left and center fielder for Oakland in 2018. Overall throughout 122 games, Canha batted .249 with 17 homers, 52 RBI, .220 ISO, .334 wOBA, and 113 wRC+. He did a great job against left-handed pitchers, hitting .282 with 13 homers in 149 AB.

While he didn’t necessarily hit for a high average, Canha made up for it with his power. He’s a great tool to have off the bench, and would be good enough to be in the starting lineup if Oakland’s outfield wasn’t already so solid.

If you need versatility, Chad Pinder is your man. Pinder can play all over the field, and spent most of last season as a platoon-player in the Oakland outfield. Like Canha, Pinder also displayed some pop, as he batted .258 with 13 HR, 27 RBI, .332 OBP, .338 wOBA, 113 wRC+, and .178 ISO last year.

Also like Canha, Pinder is terrific against lefties, hitting .289 with six homers and a .368 OBP over 135 at-bats in 2018. He and Canha are great guys to plug into the lineup against lefties, which we could see a lot of with Nick Martini.

Lastly is Dustin Fowler, who bounced back and forth between the minor leagues and Majors throughout the 2018 season. He struggled both offensively and defensively when up in the Majors, and will possibly start 2019 in the minors. Over 69 total games in the Majors as a rookie last season, Fowler hit just .224 with six homers and 23 runs batted in. He was terrific in his time at AAA, but unlike Martini and Laureano, Fowler was unable to translate his success from the minors to the big leagues. He was meant to be Oakland’s leadoff hitter, yet posted an OBP of just .256 and walked very little, collecting a 3.9 BB%.

This of course came on the heels of the terrible injury he suffered from the year before, as he ruptured his right patellar tendon while making his MLB debut for the Yankees. Fowler was once a high-ranked prospect in the Yankees’ system, and then was traded to the A’s as one of three prospects in exchange for Sonny Gray. When suffering from a gruesome injury like Fowler, many prospects take a little longer to adjust at the Major League level. Hopefully that’s the case for Dustin Fowler.

Overall, the Oakland Athletics have a very strong outfield heading into the 2019 season. The one downside is that it relies heavily on the consistency of younger players, as two of the three starting outfielders were in the minor leagues at the start of last season. However, Martini and Laureano showed great consistency when playing everyday, making it more likely that they can be consistent in 2019. The A’s and their fans should be very excited to see those six outfielders playing big roles on the team next year.

Photo Sources: NBC Sports, Associated Press, Getty Images, AthleticsPR via Twitter, Sports Illustrated

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