2017 Clarence A's Preview
This time next week the Clarence A's will be taking the field against the Cubs for their Spring Training game before opening the season Sunday, May 14 at 3:30pm against the Nationals. There have been several moves in the offseason for the A's that will contribute to their potential success this summer, and the same can be said about the guys they've brought back:
Departures: Jordan Hrynczak, Brady Siwek, and All-Stars Drew Ailing and Anthony Castellani
The losses of Hrynczak and Siwek are ones of pure disappointment: Hrynczak came into 2016 being looked at as a workhorse on the mound that would give Mason King some relief and Siwek was expected to be a bottom of the order bat with great speed and tremendous defensive prowess. Both played a combined four games last season, and although they played well in their appearances, it was far too inconsistent to give them the invite back for 2017. Ailing and Castellani, however, did get invited back, but both had to decline for personal reasons. Ailing was a power bat in the top five of the lineup for the A's in 2016 while playing a shutdown third base to the point where, quite literally, nobody was safe hitting the ball his way. The same can be said for Castellani, who roamed center field in Andrew King's absence and tracked down every ball hit his way. He also finished his only season with the A's with an even .400 batting average and utilized his speed on the bases every chance he got, which earned him last year's Best Rookie award.
Additions: Chris Salasny, Colin Barnes, Dylan Moscato, and Dillon Boyack
The A's front office did a fantastic job this offseason addressing the needs of their ball club through their free agency additions. First to sign was former Penguins manager and Legends outfielder Chris Salasny, who looks to be another anchor in the outfield for the A's. Very similar to Castellani, Salasny has great wheels, can track down any ball, and has a lightning rod for a bat from the left side of the plate. Next was Colin Barnes, who played his last two seasons on the Clarence High School Varsity team, the same program that seven other A's came from. Barnes will be a reliable bat in the bottom half of the lineup and a swift fielder in the middle infield. Although the team has Jimmy Honsberger, Jr., Mitch Alexin, and others who can play up the middle, we did see Ailing play in the middle infield for some time last year, so having a life-long shortstop mix into that rotation will bring a higher level of confidence to the A's pitchers. Shortly after the Barnes signing was the signing of Dylan Moscato, who played in the Williamsville North High School program. Moscato will find himself playing everywhere in the field and batting toward the bottom of the lineup to start 2017, but after seeing the progression of Jake Garvelli last year, we can definitely see Moscato move up in the lineup in the same fashion if he's able to find himself at the plate. The fourth and final signing for the A's came just a couple of months ago when they signed former Clarence High School and current Niagara County Community College pitcher Dillon Boyack. Boyack figures to fill the roles of both Ailing and Hrynczak by being the second ace in the rotation and playing a shutdown third base and hitting in the top of the lineup on his nights off.
Returning: All-Stars Jimmy Honsberger, Jr., Pat Doherty, and PJ Martucci, Jake Garvelli, Skipper Jordan Honsberger, Mitch Alexin, John Strohemeir, Andrew King, Mason King, and Eric Nash
Any time you make a run to the championship series, it's important to return the majority of your team and make tweaks where you need to in order to give yourself another chance at a title, and that's exactly what the A's did this offseason. A total of 10 guys coming back for 2017, the team is excited about the building blocks they have for another year on the roster after a 2016 season that was a huge learning experience.
The A's return 3 of their 5 all-stars: Honsberger, Jr., Pat Doherty, and PJ Martucci. Honsberger, Jr. has continued to be one of the lifelines for the team, batting leadoff and playing shortstop or taking the mound in relief appearances, and this is why he received the 2016 Coach's Award. This season will be interesting, due to the additions of Salasny and Boyack, to see where Honsberger, Jr. ends up in the lineup, but no matter where he is we can expect the above average performance that he's always had. Doherty, last year's team MVP and Best Hitter, will also be a major contributor when he's at games, which could be limited this season due to a relocation. Martucci started last season hot, blasting balls out to right field further than anyone would've thought of playing him. He cooled off as the season progressed, but make no mistake, that hot bat could come back to stay at any time, which would be a huge boost for the A's lineup.
Garvelli is coming off a rookie season where he shattered expectations in the field, at the plate, and on the bases and if he's able to continue with that then you can expect a strong lineup all the way through. Jordan Honsberger started to come into his own toward the end of the regular season last year at the plate as well as behind it. Having a solid catcher is one of the most underrated things in the game of baseball, and he can certainly be a serviceable option as long as he continues to work as he has on his at-the-plate approach and his arm when throwing runners out. Mitch Alexin has continued every year to improve, to the point where last year he was a solid contributor in every aspect of his game and earned the Most Improved Player award for 2016. Alexin has worked hard on improving his game both on and off the field, so this kid could be someone fun to watch come opening day.
John Strohmeier is another one who broke out last year and shattered expectations. After a slow-paced rookie season, Stroh came into 2016 focused and hungry at the plate. It showed he knew he belonged in the middle of the order when he was consistently squaring up balls all over the zone and even finding lots of green space in the outfield on some of those hits, and this eventually earned him the team's Unsung Hero award for 2016. If we see anything close to what he did last year, Stroh could prove to be another solid piece of this championship aspiring puzzle. Andrew King, as mentioned, was out for most of the 2016 season because he was studying abroad in Singapore, but he's back for a full season and couldn't be more excited about it. King is the type of guy to wear his emotions on his sleeve and have fun with the game of baseball, and it shows in his collected approach. In limited time and with minimal practice, he came out and was able to play a solid center field and put balls in play almost every chance he had. Like Honsberger, Jr., King's spot in the lineup isn't known yet because of the additions of Salasny and Boyack, but he's had experience in every part of the lineup, so there's no worry about his ability to hit in a certain part of the order.
Mason King continued to dominate on the bump last year, taking home the team's Best Pitcher award for the third straight season. But this year may prove to be a little more difficult for him to four-peat because of the addition of Boyack to the starting rotation. King's excited about the addition, though, because he knows it'll make his job easier in the long run to have another ace alongside him. King also raked at the dish last year, once again proving he's not a typical pitcher who can't do anything else. With the addition of another huge arm, look for King to be even more effective in his starts and, due to the rest, it should prolong deeper into the season than in previous years. Eric Nash has, year in and year out, been one of the most quiet contributors to the A's. He's played almost every position in the field and has spent time in almost every spot in the lineup, and most impressive of all he's done all that effectively. It's always important to have a "plug-and-play" guy on a roster, and Nash will continue to be that into 2017 for this team.
Overall, this team is once again looking to be in the top few spots in the league and will make for an interesting series in the playoff rounds for whoever they play. Because of the depth at pitcher, the aggressive type of play, and the fact that the entire lineup can hit well, they're going to be a tough out come August and will get the best out of every team in the league.