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Oakland Athletics 2011 Preview: Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus Could Be Key Additions To A's Offense

The Oakland Athletics enter the 2011 MLB season with a fairly legitimate chance at winning the American League West title. They’ll face plenty of competition from the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, and to a lesser extent the Seattle Mariners. However, the team loaded up this offseason with a variety of key free agent acquisitions.

While the A’s bullpen received serious upgrades, the offense could see the greatest improvement if the free agent acquisitions pan out. The A’s added new starters in designated hitter Hideki Matsui and outfielders David DeJesus and Josh Willingham. Each has an injury or age concern, but that has come to be expected in most Oakland free agent additions. However, if the three of them, or even two of the three can remain healthy and consistent, the A’s lineup could improve to the point of providing a solid middle of the pack offense. For many teams that might not be enough to contend, but for the A’s, that would be enough behind a potentially dominant pitching staff.

I’ve posted the entire list of position players at the bottom. Andy LaRoche was arguably the biggest surprised/revelation this spring as he did enough to earn the utility infielder role, in spite of a lack of playing time at the two middle infield positions. LaRoche was once the top prospect in the Dodgers farm system, but he never lived up to expectations. Now he finds himself in a low profile role, with a chance to make a significant impact. Given the A’s injury history, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get some significant playing time.

The A’s haven’t released their official lineup for their opening night game with Seattle, but I’ll take a stab at a projected lineup for most of the season (barring injury)

CF Coco Crisp
1B Daric Barton
RF David DeJesus
DH Hideki Matsui
LF Josh Willingham
C Kurt Suzuki
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
2B Mark Ellis
SS Cliff Pennington

Based on that lineup, I think the only significant changes would be in the 3-4-5 group, and then the 6-7-8 group. I saw a mention that Kouzmanoff might actually start the season hitting eighth. GIven Susan Slusser’s knowledge of the team and work with the coaching staff, I suppose I should just slot him in eighth. However, in looking at a lineup for the whole season instead of just tonight, I think Kouzmanoff settles in around the six or seventh spot.

Landon Powell
Kurt Suzuki

1B Daric Barton
2B Mark Ellis
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
Utility Andy LaRoche
SS Cliff Pennington

Coco Crisp
David DeJesus
Conor Jackson
Ryan Sweeney
Josh Willingham

Designated Hitter
Hideki Matsui