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How the White Sox stack up against the Oakland Athletics

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Oakland Athletics originally appeared on nbcsportschicago.com

As the 2019 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we’re taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

The A’s got some guys. Some.

It’s unknown at this point which of them will be played by Chris Pratt in the upcoming blockbuster “Moneyball 2: The Year The A’s Won 97 Games And No One Noticed.” But Chris Pratt will play one of them.

Just like “Moneyball 1: The Moneyballing,” the 2018 sequel featured an out-of-nowhere team of A’s shocking the baseball world to, in the end, accomplish very little. Yeah, they won 97 games (somehow) and that was great, but they were unceremoniously knocked out of the playoffs by the 100-win New York Yankees in the AL wild card game. They’re still in the same division as the Houston Astros, a team that will be tough to topple – even if there was reason to believe in a repeat of all those victories, which there doesn’t seem to be.

Again, the A’s do got some guys. Khris Davis led baseball with 48 dingers in 2018. He also turned in the same .247 batting average he had in each of the previous three seasons. Now that’s consistency. Matt Chapman had an .864 OPS and won a Gold Glove at third base. He’s one of the best defenders in the game, and the 24 home runs weren’t too shabby, either. Those two guys both finished in the top 10 in AL MVP voting. Matt Olson‘s got plenty of pop, too, good for 29 dingers last season. He also won a Gold Glove at first base. Stephen Piscotty hit 27 home runs last season and had a very nice second half, with an .873 OPS after the All-Star break.

But none of those guys can pitch, unfortunately, and it’s hard to figure how the A’s could win 97 games again with this starting rotation. Three of its best performers from 2018 – Sean Manaea, Trevor Cahill and Edwin Jackson – might combine to throw zero pitches for the A’s in 2019, due to either being injured (Manaea) or no longer on the team (the other two). Even though the numbers were fine in 2018, one ESPN writer ranked the A’s rotation as baseball’s worst heading into this season. There are pitching positives, like incoming prospect Jesus Luzardo and closer Blake Treinen, who was one of the best at his job in the game last season. But there are more unknowns.

There are a lot of fun Easter eggs for White Sox fans on this A’s roster. Frankie Montas (remember him?) is one of the A’s starting five and only about to turn 26. Marcus Semien (remember him?) is their starting shortstop and has made, get ready for this, 85 errors over the past four seasons. Joakim Soria (remember him?) is their new setup man after a postseason stint with the Milwaukee Brewers last fall. And Josh Phegley (remember him?) is their backup catcher and slashed a horrific .204/.255/.344 last season. Mercy.

But given those pitching questions – the average age of the staff is 32 – and the absence of Jed Lowrie (who was a top-20 AL MVP finisher) and the fact that the Astros, Yankees and Boston Red Sox are uber teams with three of the AL’s five playoff spots on lock, the likelihood of the A’s repeating their head-scratching feat from a season ago seems low.

As low as the likelihood of MC Hammer, one-time A’s batboy and all-around super dope homeboy from the Oaktown, resurrecting his career at 56.

2018 record: 97-65, second place in AL West

Offseason additions: Marco Estrada, Jurickson Profar, Joakim Soria, Robbie Grossman, Nick Hundley

Offseason departures: Jed Lowrie, Matt Joyce, Trevor Cahill, Jonathan Lucroy, Edwin Jackson, Jeurys Familia

X-factor: As NBC Sports Chicago’s very own Tony Andracki demanded, the A’s X-factor is Jurickson Profar, who really turned his career around in 2018 with the Texas Rangers. A once can’t-miss prospect, Profar’s major league career looked like this heading into 2018: a .229/.309/.329 slash line with 12 home runs and 53 RBIs in 206 career games. Last year? Different story. He posted a .254/.335/.458 slash line with 20 homers and 77 RBIs. The A’s traded with their division rivals this winter to get Profar, and he’s now their leadoff man and starting second baseman. An X-factor if there ever was one, right, Tony?

Projected lineup:

1. Jurickson Profar, 2B
2. Matt Chapman, 3B
3. Matt Olson, 1B
4. Khris Davis, DH
5. Stephen Piscotty, RF
6. Robbie Grossman, LF
7. Marcus Semien, SS
8. Nick Hundley, C
9. Ramon Laureano, CF

Projected rotation:

1. Mike Fiers
2. Marco Estrada
3. Brett Anderson
4. Daniel Mengden
5. Frankie Montas

Prediction: Second place in AL West, no playoffs

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