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MLB Oakland Athletics

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

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

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland Athletics made a surprising run in 2013, winning the AL West division title and taking the Detroit Tigers to five games in the ALDS before losing once again to a superhuman effort from Justin Verlander. Despite the departures of All-Star pitchers Grant Balfour and Bartolo Colon, pitching will still remain the strength of the team with talent and depth abound. The Athletics also brought in two new faces in Scott Kazmir and former Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson.

While it might be crazy to think that the Athletics could be better this season than they were in the last two division-winning seasons, it's a possibility that this could happen if power hitters Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick can hit to their potential. Having those two players produce would send a statement to the rest of the division that the Athletics are far and away the best team out west, especially since the Athletics finished a comfortable five games ahead of the second-place Texas Rangers.

The starting rotation even without last year's no. 1 Colon will return everyone else, most of whom will be entering either their first or second full major league seasons. Another year of seasoning and development for these youngsters could turn this rotation into one of the most fearsome in the entire MLB.

Oakland Athletics fans certainly have a good reason to be optimistic once again in 2014. Here are five Athletics players to watch for in Spring Training in the team's quest for a third consecutive division title.

Percy Chao is a writer for Follow him on Twitter @PercyChao, "Like" him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Addison Russell

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Top prospect Addison Russell has already drawn rave reviews from the Athletics organization. GM Billy Beane has come out and said that Russell is on the cusp of the majors already. Although the Athletics have tended to hold their youngsters in the minors for longer than usual, this young shortstop will certainly get every opportunity in Spring Training to make the Opening Day roster.

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4. Jarrod Parker

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Longtime top prospect Jarrod Parker pitched impressively in the first half of the season before fading in September, posting a 6.41 ERA in five starts in the final month of the season. Parker will be looking to improve his stamina this spring in order to hold up over the course of the entire season.

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3. Sonny Gray

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After matching zeroes with Verlander in last year's ALDS, Sonny Gray will enter the 2014 season following a thumb injury in his non-throwing arm. Gray was dynamite as a very late-season call-up from the minors last season, and should continue to build upon that initial success from the very beginning.

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2. Dan Straily

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Dan Straily is the third member of a young Athletics rotation that made his breakthrough late in 2013. Straily should continue his development as a solid mid-rotation pitcher in 2014.

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1. Derek Norris

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Although he split time with Kurt Suzuki and Stephen Vogt over the entire season last year, Derek Norris still proved to be the best offensive option at catcher for the Athletics. Either way, Norris will either be the first-string catcher or the ace-in-the-hole pinch hitter that can change games day in and day out.