StrategyMarch 8, 2012

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Bonus 30T30D: Oakland Athletics

By Christopher Olson

The moves made this offseason by the Oakland A’s front office did nothing if not reignite the debate regarding the baseball competency of the infamous Billy Beane. While Beane is well respected for his now legendary method of cost-effective talent acquisition, some of the players added by Beane this offseason were enough to make even the staunchest Beane advocate furrow a brow.

Throughout the winter months of 2011, one could hear analysts and fans alike asking the same question: Is this team rebuilding or attempting to compete? The trading of promising young pitcher Gio Gonzalez for some even younger prospects suggested that this was to be a rebuilding year, while the signing of 26-year-old Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million contract gave credence to the idea that the A’s were eying the postseason in the near future. To further add to the confusion, Beane then signed wayward 39-year-old slugger Manny Ramirez to a one-year contract, leaving many to wonder just where he fits in either equation.

With all the uncertainty that surrounds the 2012 Oakland Athletics, it is easy to overlook the potential fantasy value that may be acquired by picking up on some of the obscure talent less careful fantasy owners are likely to miss. Though the A’s are a long shot to have any significant impact on the American League West this year, a draft strategy which includes a few of their less sought after commodities may be the difference between postseason and pouting for your fantasy squad.

Note: This submission by the original volunteer was submitted at the last minute, and it was too good to not publish. So enjoy an extra 30T30D!

Offensive Starters

C Kurt Suzuki.237.301.3855414442460 
1B Brandon Allen.200.277.377236183175W/2T
2B Jemile Weeks.303.340.4215023622406 
SS Cliff Pennington.264.319.3695785814515 
3B Josh Donaldson.156.206.281114032in 2010
LF Seth Smith.284.347.48367155910476w/COL
CF Coco Crisp.264.314.3796985449531 
RF Josh Reddick.280.327.457417281254w/BOS
DH Chris Carter.278.371.5445821795320in MiLB

Unsettled: Third base, right field, designated hitter and first base. The hodgepodge of unfamiliar names on the chart above should give you some idea of the level of uncertainty facing the Oakland Athletics going into the 2012 season. With 2011 opening day first baseman Daric Barton suffering a shoulder injury, which has him penciled in as a DH for the foreseeable future, the first base job is up for grabs between Chris Carter, Brandon Allen and Kila Ka’aihue. Of the three, Allen technically has the most major league experience, with 324 career at-bats. However, there isn’t enough data on any of these men to declare one more qualified for the job than another. This looks to be a job that will be won in spring training, with the status of Daric Barton’s shoulder being the X factor, as DH/1B roles may change depending on his ability to play the field.

As we move around the diamond, things don’t seem to get much clearer. Scott Sizemore’s season ending injury a few days ago leaves a hole at third base that newcomer Josh Donaldson will most likely get the first chance to fill. He does not have enough major league at-bats to determine how he will fair at the big league level with any certainty, however the .268/.350/.455 slash line he put up in almost 1,800 minor league at bats suggests he will be at least a capable player if given the opportunity. Moving into the outfield, we know that newcomer Yoenis Cespedes will have his spot, along with mainstay Coco Crisp. This leaves a corner outfield spot for the taking, with the logical choices for the job being newcomers Josh Reddick, Seth Smith and Collin Cowgill. Based on numbers alone, one would think Smith has the job; however he may see some time in a DH platoon with Johnny Gomes, leaving Reddick as the most likely player to occupy the position.

Target: Jemile Weeks. This is a fairly easy target for me. Weeks reinforced his solid minor league numbers in limited time at the major league level last year, slugging .421 while getting on base at a .340 clip and stealing 22 bags. Couple this with the fact that Weeks is currently going around pick 200 in mock drafts and the value here becomes apparent. One may wish to argue Seth Smith as opposed to the more unproven Weeks, but I am a little hesitant about recommending a moderate power guy going from Coors Field to the home run-swallowing behemoth that the Athletics call home.

The Rotation

Brandon McCarthy (R)9-93.321.1312325170.2 
Bartolo Colon (R)8-104.001.2913540164.1w/NYY
Dallas Braden (L)1-13.001.2815518.0DL
Tom Milone (L)12-63.221.0315516148.1in AAA
Graham Godfrey (R)1-23.961.4813525 

Unsettled: The A’s rotation has been rendered nearly unrecognizable due to a combination of trades and injuries, leaving the four and five spots wide open for a number of candidates, including top prospect Jarrod Parker and Tyson Ross. As of the writing of this article, what you see above is how the rotation stands, but it may look very different come opening day.

Target: Brandon McCarthy. I believe Brandon McCarthy is primed to have his strongest season to date. After putting together a sparkling minor league resume in which he posted a strikeout rate of 9.75 K/9 and a walk rate of 1.83 BB/9, McCarthy struggled early in the big leagues as a member of the Texas Rangers. However, in recent years, McCarthy has begun to put it together and has seen a steady drop in his ERA to go along with a climbing strikeout rate and a decreasing walk rate. Entering his age 28 season, McCarthy looks to continue to reap the benefits of a big ballpark, which helped him drastically cut down his HR/FB rate in 2011. Being selected as late as after pick 200 in mock drafts, Brandon McCarthy is not only a value pickup; he may well turn out to be the pitching steal of 2012.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Brian Fuentes (L)123.931.40422058.1 
Grant Balfour (R)22.471.03592062 

Chasing Saves: As of right now, there is no indication that anyone is challenging Brian Fuentes for his closer job, so if you want the reliability, he is there for the taking. With a strikeout rate of 9.5 K/9 last year, Fuentes showed that he does what one has to do to be a successful one inning pitcher: he misses bats.

Final Thoughts

Well, I’m exhausted. Frankly, the 2012 Athletics face a cadre of question marks, and we didn’t even talk about how Manny gets his at bats after he’s served his suspension. In any event, there are some bright spots buried among the wreckage, and with well above average players being mock-drafted in the nosebleed section, the fantasy owner may well have more to cheer about here then the Oakland A’s fan does.

Christopher Olson is a huge baseball fan who roots for both the Yankees and the Nationals in a futile attempt to make himself look like less of a front runner than he actually is. You can catch up with Christopher in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of letter18.
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