-- Bryant A., Chandler, Ariz.
Don't hold your breath on this one. The A's are ready to pluck from within when deciding who best suits the designated hitter's role this year. That means Chris Carter or Brandon Allen could be seeing time there -- two names that yield the most power potential among anyone on the team. It also means the Guerreros and the Lees of the DH world are not on Oakland's radar, given the organization's rebuilding efforts and frugal ways.
Home runs will again come at a sparse rate, given the current roster makeup. But general manager Billy Beane isn't willing to insert power via a costly rental player just to win a few extra games in 2012. The A's won't be contending, anyway, so they plan on using this year to not only give the unexperienced guys experience, but also take advantage of their many Draft picks -- on whom they plan on spending three times as much as they have in the past -- to develop these missing power bats.
With all the news about Billy Beane making a team for the future, what do you project as a future lineup and rotation for 2016 based on players currently in the system?
-- Frank A., Manteca, Calif.
2016? As things stand, it's tricky enough predicting the 2012 lineup and rotation, let alone ones that will follow in four years, so let's start there. Jemile Weeks at the top of the batting order is, oddly enough, the only sure thing right now. Coco Crisp naturally slides into the second slot -- on any team not named the A's, who really don't have a true fit for the No. 3 hole. Consider that Crisp's job, then, with Scott Sizemore in front of him. If you're already disheartened, skip to the next question, because the fourth spot proves equally uninspiring. I'd suspect Kurt Suzuki sees his name here plenty this season, especially if Brandon Allen -- who I'd pencil in behind him, likely as a first baseman -- gets off to a sluggish start. No sense in putting any added pressure on him.
Right fielder Josh Reddick and Carter -- I envision him DH'ing -- can both dance around the sixth and seventh spots, while left fielder Michael Taylor or possibly Collin Cowgill bats eighth, leaving Cliff Pennington to round out the lineup in the ninth slot.
As for the rotation, I suspect Brandon McCarthy, Guillermo Moscoso and Dallas Braden will be joined by Josh Outman and Tom Milone. Purely a guess, though. Tyson Ross, Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock all have the chance to prove me wrong come spring, and there's no guarantee Braden will be 100 percent by Opening Day.
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If the A's current roster remains as is, how many wins do you predict they'll have this year?
-- Chris S., San Leandro, Calif.
I'm hesitant to pencil them in for 65 wins -- they won 74 with the now departed Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham last year -- but at the same time believe manager Bob Melvin wouldn't allow for a 100-loss season, so perhaps it's best to settle somewhere in the middle and project about 63 victories for the green and gold.
If the A's are rebuilding, why the interest in free-agent outfielders and why re-sign Coco Crisp? It doesn't make sense to collect a bunch of rent-a-players who are just going to eat up payroll and steal playing time from the young guys.
-- Brandon M., Livermore, Calif.
I do think that Crisp's two-year, $14 million deal is a large investment for a 32-year-old outfielder on a team that is years away from contention, but at the same time I believe there's something to be said of veteran presence both on the field and off, and of having a dynamic player like Crisp around a bunch of unproven ones. It doesn't make for a great developmental environment if there are no veteran players around. I don't foresee the A's handing another player a deal like the one Crisp received, but expect them to pick up one or two who can be there when the youngsters need to sit.
Should I believe all the rumors about Kurt Suzuki possibly being traded? Please tell me no.
-- Will B., Berkeley, Calif.
No -- at least not right now. Suzuki's trade value isn't particularly high, so he'll likely stay put. But that could change by the time July 31 rolls around, so expect his name to remain in the trade-rumor mill for the next seven months. In the meantime, I'd like to see what he can do with the club's young pitchers. He's excellent with the entire pitching staff, and his work ethic is arguably unmatched -- something all the young guys can take note of.