2015 Fantasy Outlooks: Oakland Athletics

Sonny Gray

A second place finish for the Oakland Athletics was the result of a decent 2014 season but there will be disappointed they finished 10 games behind the Angels. One of the busier teams in the offseason they added interesting pieces in Billy Butler, Ike Davis, Brett Lawrie, Marcus Semien, Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard. They also added Yunel Escobar only to flip him to Washington in the Clippard deal. They also saw some big names leave with Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Jeff Samardzija all making their way out of the AL West. Even though the three names leaving are bigger than most of those they added it’s hard not to think the Athletics didn’t improve with their offseason manoeuvring. Perhaps the biggest loss going forward is that they gave up Daniel Robertson in the deal that saw Zobrist added. While that may strengthen them in the short term Zobrist is ageing and may not be a major factor much longer.

Hitting

Predicted Line-up (courtesy of www.rosterresource.com)

  1. Coco Crisp, OF
  2. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  3. Josh Reddick, OF
  4. Billy Butler, DH
  5. Ike Davis, 1B (vs RH), Mark Canha, 1B (vs RH)
  6. Brett Lawrie, 3B
  7. Stephen Vogt, C (vs RH), Josh Phegley, C (vs LH)
  8. Marcus Semien, SS
  9. Sam Fuld, OF (vs RH), Craig Gentry, OF (vs LH)

Mr Super-Utility: Ben Zobrist, 2B (SS and OF eligible)

Zobrist’s value to fantasy teams has always been reasonably high thanks to the position eligibility he brings even as his actual fantasy production has wained over the years. Currently I have him projected to be outside the top 10 at both 2B and SS which means the 12th round would be considered over-drafted if he didn’t have the position eligibility. The advantage of having Zobrist is that if your 2B or SS is slumping (I am ignoring outfield because you aren’t drafting him to play there) or gets injured you can pick from either of those position to find a new player and slot Zobrist in at the other spot. Personally there is someone else in this Oakland line-up I would rather have who is available much later and could have 2B/3B/SS eligibility two weeks into the season.

Living on Reputation: Coco Crisp, OF

The hope for people drafting Crisp is that he can channel the spirit of 3013 Coco when he was a top 25 outfielder scoring 93 runs while going 20/20. In 2014 the home runs more than halved and he scored 30 less runs than he had in 2013. The steals have declined since he had 49 in 2011 and now we are looking at a player where 20 steals would be a bonus. His 2013 power surge was the most homers he has ever hit in a single season and only the second time he has hit double digit dingers in the last 9 years! At 36 age finally seems to be catching up with him and drafting him at all in a 12 team league seems a waste when you could be gambling on upside across your roster with that pick.

Will he Ever?: Brett Lawrie, 3B

The main name that came from Toronto in the trade which saw Josh Donaldson go the other way. Lawrie has big boots to fill at third base after the way Donaldson has performed over the last couple of years. Lawrie has been somewhat of a fantasy sleeper at third base the last couple of seasons after having a top 15 year in 2012 but he has yet to build on that and now he has moved away from hitter friendly Toronto. Personally I have in the low 20’s at third base so for me he should be going undrafted. There is potential 20 homer upside but that is about as high as I can get on Lawrie entering 2015.

Downward Trend: Billy Butler, 1B

The power is gone and the average went missing at times last year for Butler. Now I do expect there to be a bounce back in terms of average but anything significantly over 10 homers would be a shock from Butler in 2015. He has moved from one power hating ballpark to another in Oakland and as a first base/DH player someone who doesn’t hit 15 home runs has limited value in mixed leagues. Instead of Butler I would rather draft Kennys Vargas (DH only) or Adam Lind who are both going after him and have the potential to return more value in a utility spot.

Super Utility Sleeper: Marcus Semien, SS (2B/3B eligible to start the season)

Semien could be considered a post-hype sleeper really because as a prospect he came with plenty of hype but after a bad showing in 2014 the shine has worn off. The reason I love Semien is that based off projections (with slightly limited playing time as well!) he is currently just outside my top 10 at second base and when he gain SS eligibility projections have him as a top 10 SS. If we stretch those projections out for full time at bats then he would sneak up even higher. After I finished my second base rankings I looked deeper into Semien and straight away regretted not ranking him in my top 15 let alone not ranking him at all. 20/20 is a possibility (although 15/15 is more likely) and hopefully he can drag that average up into the 0.260 range and move up the order a little so he can drive in the 3/4/5 of this line-up.

Four Category Potential: Josh Reddick, OF

For a late round pick/undrafted player Reddick is a potential steal but right now there are injury and consistency concerns surrounding him. If we get a repeat of 2014 then we are looking at a 100+ ranked outfielder who doesn’t offer extraordinary power or any steals but if we consider that a floor and expect a bounce back then there is real potential we could see a 70 run/RBI player who hits 15+ homers all at an average in the 0.270 range. If he does that then he can help you in four categories for nothing and if he struggles then he is expendable at no cost. Taking a flyer on Reddick bouncing back seems like a solid, if not exciting, plan. Some upside guys going after him I would take a gamble on are; Adam Lind, Anthony Gose and Travis Snider.

Any Other Business?

Oh look we are left with 6 projected platoon guys! Of them my favourites are Ike Davis and Stephen Vogt especially if Vogt earns catcher eligibility then he will becomes a top 20 catcher for me and a valuable commodity in two catcher leagues. Davis will offer a little power and some RBI but no steals and a below average average. Really there isn’t a lot here other than Vogt for two catcher leagues. If Gentry gets full time play then he could be a valuable steals and potentially runs guy.

Pitching

Projected Rotation

  1. Sonny Gray
  2. Scott Kazmir
  3. Jesse Hahn
  4. Drew Pomeranz
  5. Kendall Graveman

(DL: AJ Griffin, Jarrod Parker)

There are no superstars in this Oakland pitching staff and actually the highest drafted guy in Gray could very well end up being a bust based upon his current draft positions. Consensus projections have him finishing the season in the 40-50th ranked pitcher and he is currently being drafted as a top twenty to twenty five pitcher. His current draft position is the ceiling to his value and for that reason he is being over drafted. Chances are he regresses in 2015 and there is no wiggle room for that before he will start being considered a bust.

While Gray could very well end up being a massive bust in 2015 Kazmir could end up being a massive sleeper. Currently being drafted as the 57th SP off the board I am expecting a top 40 year from him with potential further upside. Kazmir is definitely someone I am looking to gamble on in 2015.

Hahn and Pomeranz are outside draftable in 12 team roto leagues with Pomeranz being relevant in points league where his relief pitcher eligibility can really help fantasy owners out late in drafts.

Projected Bullpen

CL: Tyler Clippard

SU: Ryan Cook

SU: Fernando Abad

MR: Dan Otero

MR: Eric O’Flaherty

MR: Evan Scribner

LR: Jesse Chavez

(DL: Sean Doolittle, Taylor Thompson)

With Doolittle on the DL Clippard has an unimpeded run at the closer role to start the season. That is probably really bad news for Doolittle because Clippard is a very good pitcher. Had Doolittle started in the job he had a chance of keeping Clippard at bay but trying to replace Clippard is not a job I envy for him. Even if Clippard has the job all season I struggle to see him as one of the true elite but he should be just outside the top 10 to end the season. Ryan Cook is a deep sleeper for a few saves if Clippard and Doolittle fail or get injured but he is a waiver wire add at some point in the season.

Prospect Report

  • Joe Wendle, 2B: The main piece that moved in Oakland’s direction in the Brandon Moss trade saw his path to playing time blocked by the addition of Zobrist in the offseason. However, given the frailty of the Crisp, Reddick, Fuld, Gentry foursome in the outfield it is conceivable Oakland could use Zobrist out there clearing a way for Wendle to get AB’s. Probably not going to be the first choice at second base this season if Zobrist moves but may get a chance in September to stake a place for 2016.
  • Sean Nolin, SP: Currently recovering from Hernia surgery during the offseason will delay Nolin’s chances of breaking the rotation early in 2015. Currently it looks like he will head for extended spring training before going to the minors. If his recovery goes well he is a mid-late call up at best in 2015 with high upside in 2016.
  • Matt Olson, 1B: Olson’s path to the majors wasn’t helped by the additions of Butler and Davis but with Butler’s decline last year and Davis’ ability to look unconvincing all the time there is a real chance Olson could be a surprise call up. He hit 37 home run in class A and has been worked out at outfield during spring training. A call up to start the season may be throwing him in at the deep end before he is ready but to see him a couple of months into the season would not surprise me. He has great power potential and should be added to watch lists in case of a call up.

2 Comments

  1. MJ

    March 20, 2015 at 11:00 am

    In what way do you think Gray could be a bust? The only stat I am interested in is ERA. If he gives me 200 innings with an ERA of 3.40 or less I’d be thrilled. In my league he will be drafted somewhere around the 80th overall pick.

  2. Ben Rolfe

    March 20, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    If ERA is all you are worried about then Gray will be fine. I am just not sure he gives the full package to be worth his current day value. I am expecting a #4/5 pitcher as opposed to a 2/3

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