A's promise to make 2017 interesting

Melvin: Oakland 'not afraid' of being underdogs

A's promise to make 2017 interesting

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: The perfect season.

OAKLAND -- The 2017 A's season won't be perfect but it could be perfectly interesting should this squad manage to put on a surprisingly good showing.

Are the A's expected to compete? No. Especially not in an intimidating American League West field. But neither were the 2012 A's, who delivered one of the greatest come-from-behind division wins in Major League history.

A lot would have to go right for history to repeat itself, but baseball typically delights with a surprise team each season, and the A's say there's no reason to believe that can't be them.

"It's anyone's game," catcher Stephen Vogt said last month. "You never know what's going to happen. That's the beauty of it. Everyone's goal going into Spring Training is to win the World Series. If it's not, you're coming for the wrong reason."

Across the Majors, goals set for 2017

Each year, many clubs fall short of the expectations placed on them by the outside masses, but the A's could very well surpass the expectations. They potentially have the rotation to do it: Sonny Gray hopes to pitch like an ace again, Kendall Graveman expects to repeat his 2016 success, and the A's have a slew of likable, high-upside young arms, starting with Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton.

Outlook: Madson, RP, OAK

Oakland's bullpen -- equipped with four closing options in Ryan Madson, Santiago Casilla, Sean Doolittle and John Axford -- also figures to be solid, leaving the lineup to do the rest of the work.

Rajai Davis can excite with speed at the top, with power found below in Marcus Semien, Ryon Healy, Mark Canha and Khris Davis, who enjoyed a 42-homer season last year. Newbie Matt Joyce's consistent on-base ways will also factor in, making this an upgraded lineup.

Outlook: Davis, OF, OAK

The A's will surely be better than their 69 wins last season, but how much better? Maybe it's safe to throw out 75 wins, which would still mark an improvement, but to envision them climbing above the .500 mark and toward 90 just might not be so irrational.

The effects would extend beyond the standings, too, for the A's would be more inclined to hold onto Gray rather than be influenced to move him at the Trade Deadline -- a likely scenario if they're out of contention.

The perennial underdog A's have the chance to ensure that doesn't happen.

"It's a lot of younger guys, guys getting the chance to perform," manager Bob Melvin said. "We're not afraid to be that underdog, and sometimes being under the radar isn't a bad thing."

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