Not Much Guessing for A's Lineup

Not Much Guessing for A's Lineup

Jan. 22, 2010A'S PAGE
The As held their annual sponsors luncheon and their 2010 media day Thursday, and on my way to the former I decided to do the same type of Guess The Lineup blog that I did for the Giants a while back. After talking with Oakland manager Bob Geren, though, I realized there wont be much guessing involved. He sounded like a man pretty set on how things are going to shake out if -- and even he conceded that this is a massive if -- everyone stays healthy throughout spring training. The only guessing regarding the lineup at this point relates to the biggest if of all, Eric Chavez. If Chavez is healthy, the lineup presented and discussed on Thursday nights SportsNet Central -- and further examined below -- could change dramatically from day to day. If Chavezs most recent comeback attempt, this time as an uber-utilityman, doesnt pan out, heres what youre likely to see come Opening Day: 1. Rajai Davis, LF: Geren said Davis, last years breakthrough player for the As (and biggest doh! for the Giants), might have to learn to play on a corner. Translation: Coco Crisp is going to start in center field. You dont give a guy 4.5 mil and ask him to move; you tell the guy who just enjoyed his first taste of big-league success to move. 2. Coco Crisp, CF: A seemingly delightful chap with a quick smile and engaging charm, Crisp claims to be healthy in the wake of surgery on both shoulders that cost him much of 2009 with the Royals. Hes been a leadoff man for much of his career and said hed like to do it in Oakland. But Geren likes to go right-left-right or left-right-left up and down his lineup to give opposing bullpens matchup problems. Andconsidering that the only name he threw out as a potential No. 3 hitter was that of a right-handed hitter, Crisp, who hits from the left side, Crisp seems slated to follow Davis, a righty swinger with virtually the same offensive skill set. 3. Kurt Suzuki, C: Last seasons team leader in RBIs, Suzuki was the most consistent contributor and has improved every year that hes been in The Show. Its not a stretch to think he could get his batting average up in the .300s and go 20 HRs110 RBIs hitting in this spot. Batting third and handling a young starting staff is a ton of responsibility to throw at a guy heading into his third full season, but Zook is equipped to handle it. 4. Jack Cust, DH: Cust hits from the left side, buthe fitsas the cleanup manas much for his power and ability to get on base as anything. Hes the only guy on the team that you can be near-certain will hit close to 30 bombs. 5. Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B: His 88 RBIs for the lowly Padres last season matched Suzukis RBI total for the lowly As. Cust runs better than most people think, and Kooz is a solid gap-to-gap guy, so it's easy to see Cust drawing a walk and rumbling around to score as a Kouzmanoff drive short-hops the wall in deep left-center at the Coliseum.6. Ryan Sweeney, RF: The other centerfielder in what should be an awfully good defensive outfield, Sweeney had been used in the leadoff, No. 2 and No. 3 spots (among others) during his time with the As, and if he starts hitting with more power, hes a candidate to swap spots with Suzuki at some point. For now, this is a low-pressure, potentially high-RBI spot for Sweeney, who is still just 24 years old and developing. 7. Mark Ellis, 2B: You never really know what kind of offensive production youre going to get from Ellis, who can be streaky with the bat. Buthe's beenone of the best glove men at his position over the past several years, and you knowhe'll give youget smart at-bats, some surprising power and heady work on the bases. 8. Daric Barton, 1B: On this one I have to hedge; Id give backup catcher Landon Powell -- a legit power threat with nice patience -- a serious look at first base this spring. And Chris Carter is definitely going to get a look. But for now its Barton, for whom this season is the biggest of his career. If he doesnt cement himself as a regular, hes going to disappear in a hurry. 9. Cliff Pennington, SS: Coming off a nice showing in his first dose of regular run with the As, Pennington is a pesky, fleet-footed switch hitter with some pop and a good eye. Against lefty starters, hed give Geren right-left-right throughout the order. He was a better hitter against righties last year, though: .307 vs. 200. Again, a healthy Chavez would change everything. But this will suffice until further notice. And with speed at the top and bottom, and at least decent power from 3-8, its certainly an improvement on what we saw for most of 2009.--Mychael UrbanWhat's on your mind? Email Mychael and let him know. He may use it in his weekly Mailbag.

Fultz a perfect fit, but do Kings have assets required to trade up?

Fultz a perfect fit, but do Kings have assets required to trade up?

It’s lonely at the top, which is where Markelle Fultz sits on almost every 2017 NBA Draft board. The Brooklyn Nets should be set for the next decade with a big time scoring point guard. Instead, it’s the Boston Celtics who have no choice but to take Fultz with the No. 1 overall selection after a savvy trade that sent veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets for a stack of picks and players back in 2013.

Fultz can do it all. He’s deadly from the outside, he can take you off the bounce and he has elite passing skills to boot. In a draft packed with star potential, specifically at the point guard position, the freshman from Washington stands out well above the rest.  

It would take a major shake up at the top for Fultz not to have his name called first on draft night, but there are plenty of very talented players sitting on the board behind him. Here is a deeper look at the potential top overall selection.

The Positives:
Fultz has tremendous size, length and athleticism for an NBA point guard. He measured in at 6-foot-5, 195-pounds with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and has a frame built to take on muscle. At just 19-years-old, he is already well defined physically and has plenty of room to grow and get stronger.

A crafty, high-end scorer, Fultz changes speed and direction well and has an advanced Euro-step for a young player. He averaged 23.2 points in 35.7 minutes a night for the Huskies while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from three. He can score from all three levels, finish well above the rim and play through contact.

In his lone season in college, Fultz showed that he is not only a legitimate scoring threat, but he is a willing passer and an unselfish teammate. While Lonzo Ball is considered the true pass first point guard of the draft, Fultz had a higher assist rate (35.5 to 31.5) and lower turnover rate (13.4 to 18.2) than the star guard from UCLA.

Fultz rebounds well for his position, averaging 5.7 rebounds per game at Washington. He also has potential as a defender, posting 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks, although he is a work in progress on that end of the floor.

Known as a high-character kid and tireless worker off the court, Fultz has the entire package. He can also play the lead or shooting guard spot, which will come in handy if the Celtics decide to pair him with All-Star Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt.

The Negatives:
9-16 is a concern. Great college players should be able to will their team to victory, even if the talent around them is suspect. Washington was certainly worse off without Fultz down the stretch, losing their last six while he sat with a knee injury.

Shot selection and sloppy ball handling was also an issue this season. In Fultz’ defense, he played with a group that lacked overall talent and those issues might eventually disappear when he’s added to a roster that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals.  

Fultz is a quality chase down defender, but he fell asleep on plenty of plays or didn’t show a consistent fight on the defensive end. Lack of focus allowed for plenty of back cuts. He also showed an inconsistent effort fighting through screens.

He’s a work in progress on the defensive end, like most young players coming into the league. Most of these issues can easily be coached out of him at the next level.

Projection:
Fultz has an advanced feel and tons of room to expand his game. On the court, he resembles another former Husky in Brandon Roy. Fultz is much further along than Roy was at the same age, but possesses both the ability to score from anywhere on the court, as well as rebound and set up his teammates.  

It’s hard to imagine the Celtics passing on Fultz with the top overall selection, but if they do, teams will scramble trying to move up to select him. He would fit perfectly in the Kings starting backcourt alongside sophomore Buddy Hield, but Sacramento lacks the assets to move from five to one, Fultz’ likely landing spot.

 

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

FUN FACTOR:
The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

FANCY FIELDING:
Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.