MLB Oakland Athletics

5 Players Who Are Sure to Shine During Oakland Athletics Spring Training

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Oakland Athletics Spring Training: 5 Players Sure to Shine

Craig Gentry
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics are gearing up for a three-peat in the American League West. Spring training will force new-found talent into the limelight and push preseason question marks toward 25-man roster status or the minor league ranks.

The A’s don’t face a ton of uncertainty as pitchers and catchers get set to report as general manager Billy Beane has spent the entirety of the offseason replenishing Oakland’s roster with players capable of filling the voids created in free agency.

The Athletics remain mostly uncompetitive in big-time contract negotiations but seemingly didn’t lose a ton of talent since falling to the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS for a second straight season. Beane brought-in former top prospect Scott Kazmir to solidify the rotation. Similarly, lights-out closer Jim Johnson was acquired via trade, adding stability to the bullpen.

Spring training will showcase new faces and top prospects for the A’s, including shortstop Addison Russell who is widely regarded as one of the best up-and-coming players in the game. Backstop Bruce Maxwell, another non-roster invitee, will also be an intriguing prospect to watch. The A’s have faced relative inconsistency at catcher over the past few seasons, but Maxwell offers future promise and stability behind the plate.

Oakland will additionally get their first look at dynamic outfielder Craig Gentry, who was acquired in a trade with the arch rival Texas Rangers. Gentry didn’t develop into the premier player the Rangers thought he would become, but he could supply the A’s with much needed depth.

The following slideshow previews five players sure to shine during spring training for the Athletics.

John Shea is a San Francisco Giants writer for Follow him on Twitter @cutthroatpicks. “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Addison Russell (SS)

Addison Russell
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Russell isn’t expected to land a 25-man roster spot this spring, but he could earn a call-up at some point this season. At 20-years-old, Russell is rated as the 12th best prospect in baseball, according to The near-big league ready shortstop has posted impressive numbers in two seasons in the minor league ranks, registering a .918 OPS and 105 RBI in 761 plate appearances. The A's don’t appear willing to rush Russell to the show as continued development should sharpen his skill-set.

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4. Craig Gentry (OF)

Craig Gentry
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Gentry is expected to greatly improve the Athletics’ outfield defense. The A’s traded top prospect Michael Choice to the Rangers for Gentry, who owns .280 career batting average in 669 official at-bats over five big league seasons. Gentry doesn’t offer a ton of power, but he frequents the base paths and has great speed. He posted an outstanding .373 on-base percentage in 287 plate appearances last season, greatly contributing to 3.6 wins above replacement. Gentry might not seem like a concrete difference-maker on the surface, but he supplies tremendous value nonetheless.

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3. Bruce Maxwell (C)

Derek Norris
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Maxwell is a raw talent who has significant room for improvement. At 23-years-old, Maxwell could be on the verge of a breakout season in the minor leagues. He owns a .725 OPS with 75 RBI in 707 plate appearances over two minor league seasons. Maxwell also owns a .351 on-base percentage. He was drafted in the same class as Russell and figures to contend for a 25-man roster spot within the next few seasons. He could be Oakland’s future starting catcher, eventually replacing Derek Norris behind the plate.

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2. Dan Straily (RHP)

Dan Straily
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest question mark surrounding the A’s this spring will be, “Who will round out the starting rotation?” The front end of Oakland’s staff is set as Jarrod Parker, Sonny Gray and Kazmir have been unofficially proclaimed starters before pitchers and catchers report. The battle over the final two rotation spots figures to be highly competitive, headlined by Dan Straily and A.J. Griffin. Straily was moderately effective in first full season as a big league pitcher in 2013, posting a 10-8 record with a 3.96 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 27 starts. Teammate Tommy Milone and newcomers Drew Pomeranz and Josh Lindblom will challenge his spot in Oakland’s rotation this spring.

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1. Scott Kazmir (LHP)

Scott Kazmir
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Athletics’ pitching staff has been the biggest reason for their success over the past two seasons. After losing Bartolo Colon to the New York Mets in free agency, Beane was forced to address a glaring void in Oakland’s rotation. In response, the A’s signed Kazmir to a two-year, $22 million deal. Kazmir registered decent numbers on the stat sheet in 2013 after missing the entirety of the 2012 campaign. He posted a 10-9 record with a 4.04 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 29 starts. The A’s are expecting big things from Kazmir as he showcases his talents in spring training.