Danny Valencia has spent most of his big league career in a platoon role, but at age 31 he just might have found an everyday gig with the A’s.
After an excellent two-month showing with Oakland to end last season, Valencia lines up as the starting third baseman entering 2016, given the roster’s current configuration.
The A’s dealt second baseman Brett Lawrie to the White Sox earlier this month, and general manager David Forst said at the time that more infield maneuvering was possible. But if the team stands pat, Valencia will open the season at third base with Marcus Semien at short, Jed Lowrie at second and a combo of Yonder Alonso and Mark Canha at first.
It’d be a pleasant development for Valencia, who has been with six different organizations over his six years in the majors. He spent 2011 as the Twins’ starting third baseman, logging 154 games that season, but since then he’s mainly served in a platoon role – an effective right-handed bat against lefties.
Valencia had the rug pulled out from under him in August of last season, when Toronto designated him for assignment despite the strong season he was having as a part-time player. The A’s claimed him off waivers, and Valencia played like a man on a mission to find a permanent baseball home.
It was a convincing statement to open this season as the A’s third baseman.
STARRING CAST: Valencia entrenched himself in Oakland’s lineup immediately upon coming over from Toronto. He racked up 37 RBI in 47 games, the most RBI in franchise history for a player with fewer than 60 games played. For the season, he hit .290 with a career-high 18 home runs and 66 RBI in 105 combined games with the Blue Jays and A’s.
Were he to repeat that kind of production in 2016, it would be quite a boost for the A’s offense.
CAMP COMPETITION: Valencia doesn’t appear to have a serious challenger to the A’s third base job right now. Max Muncy came up through the farm system as a first baseman and has improved at third, but he faces a tough task to crack the 25-man roster. Lowrie could handle third, but that scenario would only play out were the A’s to trade Valencia. Canha took grounders at third base throughout last season but played just one game there.
Renato Nunez, ranked as Oakland’s No. 6 prospect by mlb.com, is a player to watch after making a good impression in his first big league camp last spring. The natural progression would have Nunez advancing to Triple-A Nashville this season after hitting .278 with 18 homers and 61 RBI in 2015 with Double-A Midland. Injuries limited him to 93 games. He’s still just 21, and along with first baseman Matt Olson, boasts some of the best natural power in the A’s system. But his timetable for arrival in the majors is probably tied to how well he keeps developing defensively.
PAY ATTENTION TO: How 2014 first round pick Matt Chapman looks if he’s invited to big league camp. He slugged 23 homers for Single-A Stockton last season but had his year interrupted by a wrist injury. Chapman is projected as a potential Gold Glove defender at third with an exceptionally strong arm.