Which now-healthy A’s players will make an impact in 2016?
ESPN.com published an article recently identifying the top five injury comebacks to watch for in 2016. Writer Stephania Bell identifies five players who’s returns could make an impact for their respective teams in 2016. Beginning with Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins and moving onto Cincinnati Reds’ catcher Devin Mesoraco, she then goes to name Texas Ranger’s starter Yu Darvish, Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers and Jung Ho Kang of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Those are not the only players who should be kept an eye on in 2016. These next five players’ absences made an impact on the poor season the Oakland Athletics had in 2015. They finished at just 68-94. If the following players had been healthy things might have been a bit different for Oakland in 2015. These are the top five A’s players who are returning from injury who will, if healthy, make a difference in the A’s record this season.
Sean Doolittle, Closer
Sean Doolittle appears to be the glue that hold the Athletics’ bullpen together. He won the closing job in May 2014 and was lights out. He was the first player in the modern era of baseball to accumulate 40 strikeouts before allowing his second walk of the season. The unusual left-handed, non-flame throwing closer had only transitioned from first base to being a reliever in 2011and he proved himself to be one of the league’s best, making the All-Star team in 2014.
In early 2015 Doolilttle was diagnosed with a slight tear in his left rotator cuff. He returned to the team in May to make one appearance in which, while he got through his inning unscathed, he didn’t look quite like the Doolittle of old. He was put back on the disabled list a day later with an unrelated shoulder issue. It sounds bad, doesn’t it?
But Doolitle returned in September, after a stint on the 60-day disabled list, appearing stronger than ever. His velocity had come back and in his final home outing of the season he threw a five-pitch save. The Athletics bullpen floundered without him and should he return as strong as he appeared in the end of September, he will have a major impact on the Athletics record.
Jarrod Parker, Starting Pitcher
Starting pitcher Jarrod Parker hasn’t pitched since Game 3 of the 2013 American League Division series and spent all of 2014 rehabbing from his second Tommy John surgery. He was expected to return in early June of 2015 and was nearly there in mid-May.. In his final minor league rehab start Parker threw a wild pitch and tumbled to the ground in pain, having broken the medial epichondyle bone in his right elbow.
He was forced to have yet another surgery on his right elbow,missing the entire 2015 season, but the Athletics tendered him a contract for 2016. Parker can be quite valuable when healthy. Parker has a 3.73 career ERA in his first two full seasons in the majors with the Athletics. If the now 27-year-old right hander can make a comeback after three right elbow surgeries, and the A’s believe he can, he’ll be a major asset to the team whether in a starting role or out of the bullpen.
Jesse Hahn, Starting Pitcher
Twenty-six-year-old Jesse Hahn has only pitched part of two seasons in the big leagues, one with the San Diego Padres making 12 starts and 14 appearances and the second being last season with the A’s. He started off the season strong for Oakland pitching 96.2 innings, making 16 starts and posting a 3.35 ERA.
Then Hahn went down with a right forearm strain that was at first expected to be a short term, 15-day disabled list stint for the right-hander. The injury ended up shutting Hahn down for the remainder of the season. This may have been a precaution made by Oakland, who by this time already knew their season was doomed. By September Hahn was throwing pain-free. Come Spring Training he will be looking to assume his new role as the A’s number two starter behind ace Sonny Gray.
Coco Crisp, Leftfield
There is a saying in Oakland, “As Coco goes, the A’s go.” It’s been very true. Even having Crisps presence in the dugout has helped the A’s in past years. In 2014 Crisp suffered a neck injury while crashing into the centerield wall at O.Co Coliseum in Oakland. After multiple rehab stints it has been determined that the chronic injury will not simply go away. Crisp needs, what would be, career ending surgery. The Athletics then moved Crisp from centerfield to leftfield hoping it would put less strain on his body, but the 36-year-old outfielder couldn’t help by not changing his all out style of play. In 2015 he spent time on the 60-day disabled list and played in just 44 total games for the team.
Still, Crisp has had some of his better and most fun years with the Athletics and has said he would like to retire as a member of the team. He has a year left on his contract with a $13 million vesting option or $750K buyout for 2017. The A’s have made it clear that they want him to stay as long as he can. If Crisp’s neck doesn’t bother him too much this season he will most certainly bring the “Coco mojo” that A’s fans expect and possibly even make his option vest as it depends on his number of plate appearances in 2015 and 2016 combined. Regardless it appears that Crisp’s career is nearing its close but that doesn’t mean that his “Coco mojo” can’t help the A’s in 2016.
Sean Nolin, Pitcher
Prior to being brought to the A’s in the trade that sent Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays, 26-year-old left hander Sean Nolin had pitched in just two big league games. He played in just six games with the Athletics in 2015, spending most of his time at Triple-A Nashville. Having undergone sports hernia surgery prior to the 2015 season and aggravating later while rehabbing at Triple-A Nashville he appeared in just 14 game for the Nashville Sounds.
Despite the fact Nolin played in so few games, he did post a 2.66 ERA on the year. Assuming he remains healthy, Nolin will be a candidate for the A’s starting rotation or will make a very good long reliever out of the bullpen.