StrategyMarch 21, 2009

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Oakland A’s

By Daniel Wilson

This unfashionable team, with probably the most high profile general manager in baseball, has finally addressed their desperate need for offense with the acquisitions of Giambi and Holliday, but what about the random mish-mash that they call their starting rotation? Can Buck, Chavez and Duchscherer stay fit long enough to make an impact? While they should contend in yet another battle royal with the Angels, the A’s still have more questions than answers.

For a closer look at the Oakland A’s and the rest of the AL West, be sure to check out the The Can of Corn AL West Preview Podcast.

Offensive Starters

C Kurt Suzuki.279.346.370547422530 
1B Jason Giambi.247.373.5026832962458w/NYA
2B Mark Ellis.233.321.37355124114442 
SS Orlando Cabrera.281.334.3719385719661w/ChA
3B Eric Chavez.247.295.39310214089 
LF Matt Holliday.321.409.538107258828539w/Col
CF Ryan Sweeney.286.350.383535459384 
RF Travis Buck226.291.432167251155 
DH Jack Cust.231.375.4767733770481 

Unsettled: Ryan Sweeney. Can the pop-less CF hold off a concerted attack from the talented and nearly-ready Aaron Cunningham? The answer is probably no. In 2008, Sweeney had absolutely no clue against LHP, so the potential for at least a platoon right out of the blocks is very real. Sweeney doesn’t have a whole lot of fantasy relevancy anyway, so he should be down as an ultra-avoid.

Target: Mark Ellis. Would you like to have a steady 15/15 2B for nearly nothing? Me too. Ellis is usually taken in the 250th-270th pick range in drafts, and sometimes even later. Shoulder problems ruined the second half of his ’08 campaign, when he was on a 16/18 full season pace. Ellis is (at this stage) the leadoff hitter in front of the Cust-Holliday-Giambi minefield, so he should benefit in the form of runs and pitches to hit. Mark also seems to be “the chosen one” as far as everyday hitters who steal bases for Oakland. Definitely worth a middle infield spot on your team.

The Rotation

Justin Duchscherer (R)10-82.541.009534141.2 
Sean Gallagher (R)5-75.151.5310358115.1w/2T
Dana Eveland (L)9-94.341.4811877168.0 
Dallas Braden (L)5-44.141.42412571.2 
Vince Mazzaro(R)15-62.741.2213145171minors

Unsettled: The whole rotation. Unless you’re in a very deep league, these guys are not for you. Duchscherer has both elbow and hip problems, so he is not someone that you want to rely on for regular production. Both Eveland and Gallagher struggled to find the strike zone for most of 2008. Wait for 2010 and The Cahill and Anderson Show.

Target: Vince Mazzaro. If you find you really have to have an A’s starting pitcher, use your last draft pick/dollar on Mazzaro. In 171 minor league innings between AA and AAA, he only gave up 6 HRs (which is quite fantastic), but temper your expectations as he is only 22.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Joey Devine10.590.83491545.2
Brad Ziegler111.061.16302259.2
Jerry Blevins03.111.19351337.2

Chasing Saves: Joey Devine is another A’s pitcher with a mysterious elbow injury. He had a stint on the 60-day DL due to elbow problems in 2008 and is currently out of action with “elbow discomfort.” He was absolutely outstanding last year, giving up zero HRs over 46 innings. If Devine can stay on the field, he is a very desirable option, especially as it should only cost you any more than a 15th-round draft pick. If you draft him, I recommend you also draft Jerry Blevins as a caddy. Blevins is the future Oakland closer you’ve never heard of. Bob Geren briefly mentioned him as a closing option last year, and if Devine goes down he could be the man. Brad Ziegler is the popular choice as Devine cover, but he really doesn’t have the strikeout rate to be an effective long-term closer.

Final Thoughts

Oakland is (unusually for them) a hitting-heavy team this year. There are reasonably slim pickings fantasy-wise with only Ellis, Holliday, Cust, Giambi and Devine being much help in shallow leagues. Deeper leagues may want to gamble on Buck, Blevins, Mazzaro and Braden, while Duchscherer takes the Rich Harden “good when fit” tag.

Yesterday we previewed the Los Angeles Angels. Check back tomorrow for our look at the Seattle Mariners in the next installment of “30 Teams in 30 Days!”

Daniel Wilson is one of the founding members of the fictitious Travis Ishikawa Fan Club. He is very much looking forward to visiting America in September.You can catch up with Daniel in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of AussieDodger.
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