The Oakland A’s outfield positions seemed secure before spring training started, but Craig Gentry’s lower back strain, which he incurred during the first week of training, has put a wrench in the plan. Gentry was going to be the A’s fill-in outfielder while Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, and Josh Reddick would start in left, center, and right field respectively. Even though Gentry’s injury did not seem serious at first, he has yet to play in a game and there has been no indication as to when he will return.
If Gentry does not make the Opening Day roster due to his injury, will the Athletics put a fifth outfielder in the dugout? Manager Bob Melvin told the San Francisco Chronicle that anything can happen at the start of the season. So, if the Oakland A’s add one more outfielder to their roster for Opening Day, who would it be?
Sam Fuld seems to be the likely choice and has gained a lot of attention this spring. He is a versatile outfielder who plays each outfield position very well, which Melvin has continuously praised throughout spring training. So far, Fuld has a 1.00 fielding percentage in the outfield over the 58 innings he has played these past few weeks.
Besides his outstanding defensive skills, he is not so bad at the plate either. During the spring, Fuld has hit .267 – which includes one home run and two RBIs – and has an .779 OPS. Additionally, he has the most MLB outfield experience compared to the other possible candidates with six years in the major leagues under his belt.
Another possible choice for the Oakland A’s is Billy Burns. Even though Burns was not the Athletics top outfield prospect going into spring training, he definitely is now. And it is his speed that has been impressing everyone these past few weeks. In his first seven games of spring training, he stole seven bases. Burns is only an average batter, but his speed makes up for his hitting since he can almost always make it to first base before any ball he hits.
Burns knows he is not a power hitter and he has worked hard on his defensive skills to make up for what he may lack when it comes to batting. So far during spring training, he has only batted .257 with a .590 OPS. But, like Fuld, Burns has earned a perfect 1.00 fielding percentage over the 74 innings he has played in the outfield. Since Burns does not have any experience playing in the major leagues, it is not very likely he will beat out Fuld for a spot on the Opening Day roster, but we will definitely be hearing about him a lot more in the future.
Lets not forget the A’s first baseman Brandon Moss also has outfielding experience and played 34 games in the outfield last season. Melvin could decide that Moss is a perfectly fine backup outfielder. Since there is a lot of depth at first base, it would be easy to move Moss into the outfield when needed.
When Melvin says “anything is possible,” anything really could happen. So, per usual, we will we have to wait to see what Melvin has in mind for centerfield.