StrategyMarch 6, 2011

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Oakland A’s - 1 comments

By R.J. White

Once considered the darlings of Moneyball for their ability to reach the postseason with such a low payroll, the Oakland A’s have been shut out of the postseason since 2006. Last year was no different, although the team rebounded from finishing in the cellar in 2009 to post a .500 record and end the season second in the division to the Rangers. A large amount of Oakland’s success early in the decade can be attributed to its excellent rotation, but do Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez have the chops to become the new Big Three?

In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2011 fantasy baseball drafts.
Offensive Starters

C Kurt Suzuki.242.303.3665513713495 
1B Daric Barton.273.393.4057910577556 
2B Mark Ellis.291.358.381455497436 
SS Cliff Pennington.250.319.3686464629508 
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff.247.283.3965916712551 
LF Josh Willingham.268.389.4595416568370w/WAS
CF Coco Crisp.279.342.4385183832290 
RF David DeJesus.318.384.443465373352w/KC
DH Hideki Matsui.274.361.4595521840482w/LAA

Unsettled: The lineup is at close to set in stone as it could be after offseason acquisitions of Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui. Former top prospect is waiting in the wings for his shot at an outfield spot. So is Conor Jackson, who lost the last two seasons to injury but still possess the kind of high-OBP bat the A’s covet. Finally, prospect Chris Carter could be close to getting his chance at the big time. Between the three, look for Jackson to get the first crack at the outfield or first base in the event of an injury. It’s worth noting that the A’s signed Andy LaRoche to a minor-league deal, so Kouzmanoff could be on the hot seat at the hot corner if he posts another terrible OBP.
Target: Josh Willingham and Coco Crisp. On a per-AB basis, Willingham was outstanding in 2010, notching 16 HRs and eight SBs in 370 at-bats. When extrapolated out to 500 at-bats, those numbers suggest a 20/10 pace. Willingham has looked good early in spring training and deserves an end of the draft bench spot in mixed leagues. Speaking of great paces, Crisp stole an unbelievable 32 bases in under 300 at-bats last season. Again looking at that statistic on a per-500 at-bat pace, Crisp could have stolen 55 bases if he had the chance. Don’t reach too high for speed freaks Juan Pierre, Michael Bourn and Rajai Davis, as Crisp could surpass their speed scores if he remains healthy.
The Rotation
Brett Anderson (L)7-62.801.197522112.1 
Trevor Cahill (R)18-82.971.1111863196.2 
Dallas Braden (L)11-143.501.1611343192.2 
Gio Gonzalez (L)15-93.231.3117192200.2 
Brandon McCarthy (R)4-23.361.10441156.1in AAA

Unsettled: There’s an interesting battle afoot for the last spot in the A’s rotation. Oakland reunited with former ace Rich Harden this offseason, but stiffness in his lat muscle threatens to jeopardize his chances to establish himself as a rotation candidate. The favorite for the role is Josh Outman, who didn’t pitch in 2010 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He did a solid job in 2009 before the injury, posting a 3.48 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in 67.1 innings. However, the real excitement rides with Brandon McCarthy, a former top pitching prospect, who could be on his way to resolving his control issues after abandoning his four-seam fastball. Still just 27 years old, McCarthy has the potential to be a trademark post-hype sleeper if he wins a rotation spot or if the A’s suffer an injury in the rotation early.
Target: Brett Anderson. While the top four members of the A’s staff all turned in remarkable ERAs in 2010, Anderson has the best shot at keeping his ERA under 3.50. In 19 starts last season, Anderson issued just 22 walks while posting a respectable 6.0 K/9 rate. That K-rate was an even better 7.7 in his rookie season, and if he can return to form he should be a bargain at his current price. Draft him as a third SP that could produce top-15 numbers at the position.
The 8th and 9th Innings
Andrew Bailey (R)251.470.96421349.0 
Brian Fuentes (L)242.811.06472048.0w/2T
Grant Balfour (R)02.281.08561755.1w/TB

Chasing Saves: Andrew Bailey is one of the top young closers in the league, posting sub-1.00 WHIPs in each of his first two seasons. Injury concerns may deflate his value a bit on draft day, but this is a reliever you definitely want to be targeting in drafts. The A’s rebuilt their bullpen in the offseason, adding Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour to set up Bailey. Fuentes, the former closer, may be the bigger name, but odds are the A’s will go with Balfour in the closer role in the event of a Bailey injury, as the righty had a far superior season in 2010.
Final Thoughts
The baseball world has grown accustomed to seeing mediocrity from the A’s, but there is plenty to like about this team in 2011. While the pitching is expected by-and-large to regress, performing in a pitcher’s paradise half the year should curtail the regression to some extent. Most of the pitching staff doesn’t cost much in fantasy drafts and auctions, so there is plenty of room for profit should the A’s staff come close to its 2010 season. On offense, the lineup is filled with high-OBP guys like David DeJesus, Daric Barton and Josh Willingham, but only Willingham and Coco Crisp are likely to contribute in standard-sized leagues. Deeper-league owners want to gamble on Kurt Suzuki for a bounce-back season. Don’t forget about the speed of shortstop Cliff Pennington, who delivers about 90 percent of the production of Elvis Andrus at 10 percent of the price.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Seattle Mariners.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and has previously written for FanHouse. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz.
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One Response to “30 Teams in 30 Days: Oakland A’s”

  1. User avatar quiksilver says:

    The A’s had more missed days to injury last season than any other team. I see the pitching progressing more than regressing. They are young and improving, and I think the majority of their “luck” measures were more a factor of them being anchored by the best infield defense in the league (and a speedy OF that covers ground to boot). Cahill for example may regress somewhat – he may not remain one of hardest pitchers to get a quality ball in play off of – but given ballpark and overall defense he should be able to maintain that lower than normal BABIP.

    Overall I like the depth added, which addresses our injury woes. We now have multiple suitable options if Bailey goes down. Overall the bullpen is a positive, and Rich Harden is a low risk investment at his price (and in the pen). Chris Carter and Michael Taylor are chomping at the bit.

    A little bit of pop from Matsui and Willingham in the 20-25 HR range, and some consistent health I definitely see this team contending. I still see them about a step short in the division, but they have certainly closed the gap on the Rangers (minus Guerrero, losing Young?, can pitching repeat?) and I think they will be in a dogfight with a rebounding Angels team (Morales healthy, Vernon Wells on board, full season of Haren)… but just lose out to one or both in the end. 86-76ish.


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