Sometimes, misfortune leads to a discovery, and that discovery changes everything. Such was the case for center fielders on the 2015 Oakland Athletics. The team had a veteran firmly entrenched in the position, after five solid and successful seasons with the team. But a significant injury threw all of that into chaos by Opening Day.
The first part of looking forward to 2016 is assessing the season that just ended, and we’re now going over the team’s results, position by position. That’s 11 articles in the 11 days, finishing before the end of the World Series and by the opening of free agency. By Halloween, you’ll know exactly what the A’s need for 2016. We promise. We’ve looked at the infield already last week, and now we move on to the outfield this week (starting with left field yesterday).
Remember, Billy Beane is no longer the Oakland general manager: That role is now David Forst’s to fill, as Beane was promoted to Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations at the end of the team’s worst season since 1997. It will be up to Forst now to see if he can get the A’s that elusive 10th World Series title that has haunted the team over its last 10 playoffs appearances since the 1989 MLB championship.
A’s center fielders ranked seventh in runs scoring among American League teams, mostly thanks to the 70 scored by Billy Burns in just 125 games on a bad team. Burns didn’t get the nod with Oakland until the 25th game of the year, and it was a shame the team waited so long. The team gave 35 starts to Sam Fuld in center field, and as we covered in yesterday’s examination of the left-field problems, Fuld was the problem. Despite the occasional highlight-reel defensive play, Fuld was mostly a zero with his bat.
Burns, however, deserves serious AL Rookie of the Year consideration, even though he won’t come close to winning the award; there were more-hyped prospects in the league this year that came up and played well enough to keep the A’s new CF jewel hidden from the masses. Burns hit .294 and stole 26 bases, while hitting five home runs and driving in 42 runs. His 2.8 WAR value was fifth best on the Oakland roster, and among AL rookies with enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title … oh wait! Burns was the only AL rookie who played the full MLB season, in essence (batter or pitcher).
Just 25 years old in 2015, Burns looks to be the A’s center fielder for a long time going forward, and his speed will keep his batting average solid. Burns notched 38 infield hits, which ranked second in the majors and were the most by an Athletics hitter since Stats, Inc. began tracking infield hits in 1987 (according to the Oakland organization). Coco Crisp may have ruled center for the A’s from 2010-14, but his injury in 2015 was a blessing in disguise for Oakland.