Sleeper Team: Oakland A’s

It’s easy to forget about the Oakland Athletics.

After all, the team has been devoid of any superstar player since Josh Donaldson in 2014, and is often billed as the farm system for the rest of Major League Baseball. Even die-hard A’s fans have to do their homework before games in order to keep up on which players are in, and which ones are out. Not to mention, the A’s have taken a backseat in recent years to their more successful step-cousins across the bay, the San Francisco Giants.

However, if you’ve found yourself doing a double-take these days, then you’re not alone. The Swingin’ A’s are back on the uptick, and look like a force to be reckoned with early on this season.

After starting off facing the Los Angeles Angels in seven of their first eleven games, the A’s fell early victim to having been the inaugural team to face Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s dual threat pitcher and slugger. With no immediate answer to the young phenom and the rest of the Angels’ stud lineup, the A’s limped out of the gate with a 2-5 record against its division foe.

Fast forward to Jackie Robinson Day (April 15th), and the A’s have been nothing but stellar since then, winning 8-of-9 during that stretch. While the team has won a few close ones, they’ve also put up some pretty big numbers against good teams. The latest being a six-run ninth inning against the Texas Rangers, sparked by a Marcus Semien home run.

Perhaps the biggest gem in the past week was Sean Manaea’s no-hitter against the white-hot Boston Red Sox (17-5) during a home series, which the A’s triumphantly won. It marked the team’s first no-hitter since former pitcher Dallas Braden tossed a perfect game in 2010. Similar to then, the A’s are shaping up to be a pesky team that no one has on its radar.

Behind Manaea’s not-so-stealthy 1.23 ERA, the A’s are also getting good contributions from pitchers Trevor Cahill, Daniel Mengden, and Andrew Triggs. Although Kendall Graveman has been touched up a bit, the hope is that he can still provide good production to the rotation in the near future. Unfortunately, with the loss of Jharel Cotton and A.J. Puk prior to the season, the A’s will have to go with the hot pitching hand until they can figure out what actually works. At least for the moment, that strategy seems to be working well.

On the offensive side of the ball, Khris Davis is already up to six home runs, while both Mark Canha and Jed Lowrie sport batting averages over the .340 mark. The three Matts (Chapman, Joyce, and Olson) are all getting timely hits, along with Marcus Semien. Everything appears to be clicking on all cylinders for the batting lineup, as the A’s players seem almost oblivious to being the new kids on the block again.

Should the A’s be able to power through their current nine-game divisional road trip (Rangers, Astros, Mariners), and emerge on the right side of .500, then this could be a table-setter of what to expect in the coming months.

While the A’s may not pack the stands night-in and night-out, boast a fancy new stadium, or big payroll for that matter, they seem to pack just enough hard hat, Barney Rubble type grit to prove the naysayers wrong. That being said, don’t let the spring allergy season cloud your judgement when it comes to the A’s. You might just be sleeping on the biggest under-the-radar team that’s primed to make a playoff run before you even have a chance to sneeze. Achoo!