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3 Players To Watch Series

LOD’s 3 Players to Watch: Oakland Athletics

For this series, LOD writers will pick three players from each MLB team that we feel are players to watch in the 2023 season.

The Oakland A’s ran with the idea of using Sabermetrics to build teams to win, back in 2002.  Since then, that method has changed the way we look at the game and the way owners and teams approach the game. It has revolutionized the sport as a whole.

The A’s were successful the year they implemented the new method when they won one more game (103) then they did in the previous season (102), but the results were the same, as they lost in the ALDS for a third season in a row.  Actually in 2003, they won 96 games, still finished in first and still lost in the ALDS. In 2006, they did make it past the divisional series, but lost in the ALCS 4-0.

The Athletics last won a World Series in 1989 and since then they have made the playoffs thirteen times and but have not gone back to the series. Could that be this year? Do they have what it takes to make a run at the division and possibly shock the world the way the Philadelphia Phillies did in 2022? With a young and hungry team, it’s a possibility.

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Shintaro Fujinami will make his awaited MLB debut not too long after MLB season opens up on March 30th.  The Japanese import spent 10 seasons in Japan and complied an 80-65 record, with a 3.17 ERA, with 1357 strikeouts in 1302.1 innings pitched.

In his first spring training with the A’s, he finished 3-0, with a 3.86 ERA in five starts, while piling up 20 strikeouts through 18.1 innings pitched. In his last spring start on March 25, he tossed six hitless innings, allowing two earned runs, on four walks and struck out three batters.

Fujinami will look to have a good start to his first MLB season make a name for himself here in the states. He is one to watch as the A’s look for a spark to get their season going in the right direction.

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Jesus Aguilar was a big bat in the middle of the Miami Marlins batting order for two seasons (2021/2022) before being released by the fish last August. He finished out the year with the Baltimore Orioles and in the off season signed a contract with the A’s to be their DH/1B.

Aguilar, who made his MLB debut on May 15, 2014, made his presence known in 2018 with the Milwaukee Brewers when he hit 35 home runs and drove in 108 runs, while hitting .274. Mid season he had 28 home runs, which also earned him am All Star nod.

At 32 years old and surely still within in his prime, Aguilar joins a young and small market A’s team that is looking to make some noise in the AL West and surprise some people, possibly even their fans.  What he brings to the table is a bat capable of making a difference in the middle of the lineup.

Aguilar is a must watch to see if he can be a big bat and much needed veteran leadership with his new club.

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Kyle Muller will get his first MLB career start on Opening Day for the A’s. The 25 year old left handed pitcher made his MLB debut on June 16, 2021 with the Atlanta Braves and it was not a day to remember as he allowed two runs on four hits in an inning of work out of the pen.  But he rebounded in his next outing as he started and tossed four hitless innings against the New York Mets, allowing just one earned run, with two walks and struck out three. He followed that up in his next start with a gem by tossing five shutout innings, allowing one hit, two walks and struck out nine batters.

In his first season in the majors, he finished 2-4, with a 4.17 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts) and struck out 37 batters in 36.2 innings pitched, with opponents bating just .202 against him.

The 2022 season was not as fair to the second round pick, as he started three games, posting a 8.03 ERA in 12.1 innings of work.

On December 12, 2022, the Braves packaged Muller in a trade to the A’s along with RHP Freddy Tarnok, C Manny Pina, RHP Royber Salinas, and 2B Esteury Ruiz all for C Sean Murphy.

After a strong start to the 2023 spring season with his new club, where he tossed two shutout innings, allowing just two hits, a walk and struck out four, to earn the victory, he has struggled to keep runs off the board. In his last tune up to opening day, Muller allowed 10 hits, eight runs (four earned), two home runs, a walk and struck out five. Not a way you want end spring training with an impending Opening Day start in your future.

But the test will begin on March 30th as he will face off against Shohei Ohtani and their divison rivals, the Los Angeles Angels.

Can Muller rise to the occasion and give the A’s a quality start and be a consistent and dominating big league pitcher? We will all see on Thursday.

Keep an eye on Muller as he will lead the young A’s pitching staff into 2023.

David is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Legends On Deck®, as well as a Co-Host on Legends On Deck Podcast. David was a Senior Editor for MetsMerizedOnline.com, MetsMinors.net and Contributor for Hardballchat.com that spanned from 2010 to 2014. David made his MLB Debut as a writer in June 2014, while covering the NY Mets at Citi Field, for MetsmerizedOnline.com. David also coaches baseball for ages 13-15, a Babe Ruth League team in his local community. David's passion is coaching the game he loves to the future Legends of Tomorrow as well as making available a website that people can have fun sharing and reading. David is also passionate about his career as a Mortgage Loan Officer which allows him to help many families reach their dreams of owning a home. Connect with David via his Social Media pages as he loves to chat all about baseball.

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