Don’t be fooled by Bassitt’s shiny 2.29 ERA in 2020. His SIERAs the last three seasons: 4.45, 4.47, and 4.46. He is a perfectly capable mid-rotation arm, but that’s it. Luzardo and Montas will be the ones instrumental to this team’s overall success.
Premium velocity, a ready-made changeup, and a swing-and-miss breaker give Luzardo all the tools to be a top-30 starter in the game. He was fine across 59 innings in 2020 but there’s another level or two in his game. Montas was sailing in 2020 before a back issue flared up and led to 29 runs allowed over his next six starts, which accounted for half of his season. He could have overcome a run like that in a regular campaign, but it was too much in this shortened year. He’s dealing with a ripped middle finger cuticle to start the season, but once healthy, he should be a steady presence as a frontline starter.
Manaea was hoping to put up another 150-plus innings after throwing just 30 in 2019, but obviously that wasn’t possible. He averaged 155 per season from 2016 to ’18, so his projection is certainly possible, which would be a big win for the A’s.
Hip inflammation will sideline Fiers at the outset of the season and opens the doors for Jefferies to take a rotation spot. He has turned heads in spring training with 24 strikeouts in 16.2 innings of work. Injuries have been his biggest issue as he enters his age-25 season, but he is healthy now, throwing some of the best baseball of his pro career, and one of several guys on this staff capable of an appreciable jump beyond their projection.
Puk and Luzardo came up together and were expected to be the dominant lefties atop the rotation, but injuries have stalled Puk’s development. Tommy John and shoulder surgery cost him all of 2018 and ’20; he is now 26 years old with just 11 major league innings under his belt. The obvious physical comps to Josh Hader fuel bullpen predictions, but the A’s may soon see it as the right answer, too. A hybrid role is likely for him.
Holmes and Kaprielian are both one-time top-100 prospects who I am keeping a close eye on this year. As is the case with most prospects who fall off their track a bit, injuries have stifled both. They are 25 and 27 years old, respectively, but still have raw upside that could see them taking on meaningful roles with Oakland, be it starter or reliever… or both.