A's keeping steady approach

Prospects may play key role in 2017

A's keeping steady approach

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Athletics squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the vision?

OAKLAND -- Early projections that traditionally accompany the advent of Spring Training do not reveal favorable results for the 2017 A's, though this can hardly be surprising.

After just 69 wins for their second consecutive last-place finish in the American League West last season, the A's might have trouble making a large step forward after an offseason that saw them only slightly improve their roster through short-term moves.

R. Davis on joining Athletics

Their lineup has been patched up with the inclusion of Matt Joyce, Rajai Davis and Trevor Plouffe, their bullpen bolstered with the addition of veteran Santiago Casilla. But the A's division remains formidable, which could make it tough for the club to climb out of the cellar.

Every club preparing for Spring Training with own vision

Oakland's front-office members recognize the challenges ahead and remain realistic about their chances of contending while trying to be patient with a young core that could produce winning teams in the future.

Gray looking to rebound in 2017

The A's are seemingly willing to sacrifice short-term success for this long-term vision, though they're also cautiously optimistic of surprising this year with a likable rotation led by Sonny Gray, and they've never bought in to the idea of a complete rebuild.

"Obviously it's not going to be an easy road," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "We know our backs are against the wall, but I do think we're going to surprise people. I do think we are better than what people think. I probably say that every year, but it's the truth."

"Our expectations are to compete on a nightly basis," general manager David Forst said this winter. "Whether that translates to competing over the course of the year, we'll see, but we know from our recent history that when you have a starting pitcher every night that gives you a chance to win, you never know what's going to happen. We have a good young group that will continue to get better, and hopefully that buys our position players some time to do the same."

Further developing these young arms -- notably Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton, along with Raul Alcantara, Frankie Montas and the injured Daniel Mengden  (foot surgery) -- is a priority that extends outside of the rotation. The A's are eager to see what kind of production they can get from a handful of players who got a taste of the big leagues last season, including corner infielder Ryon Healy and catcher Bruce Maxwell.

Barreto can make impact for A's

Top prospects Franklin Barreto and Matt Chapman could make their Major League debuts by season's end, which will only add intrigue to a potentially exciting A's future. Current players have reason not to hit the fast-forward button, though.

"You never know what can happen," Vogt said. "That's why you play 162. Some of these guys are so talented, and if they get hot and stay hot, you never know what can happen. You have to stay optimistic, you have to believe that everybody is going to have the best year of their life."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.