In seems like a millennium since the Oakland Athletics were last seen in postseason play—let alone a contender at all—and while this hasn’t been a team that has had a lot of opportunities to land big name players, the A’s are a team that has quietly been building in a solid unit since 2008. Now as the 2011 season approaches, the A’s are looking more and more as if they are a contender in the American League.
From a fantasy perspective, the A’s give fantasy baseball managers plenty to consider, as they draw up their fantasy baseball draft plans.
Not known as a particularly power hitting team, the A’s have always been right smack dab in the middle of the pack in just about every MLB category except power. But with a few additions, and a bright horizon in front of them, the A’s could afford their fans, and fantasy managers, much more than initially expected.
Let’s take a look.
Impact Players (Hitters):
- 1. Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B: The A’s weren’t known as a power hitting team collectively, but leading the way was Kevin Kouzmanoff who admittedly says he had a down year in 2010. Kouzmanoff would like to elevate to a power third baseman; something that would sure help his fantasy baseball value in 2011. Kouzmanoff hit .247 with 16 homeruns and 71 RBI, and will have to improve upon his walk rate significantly from last year which directly affected his OBP (.283). In the end, you could do far worse at third base in the middle of your draft.
- 2. Coco Crisp, OF: If you saw this stat line: (.279/.342/.438, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 51 R, 32 SB, 81 total hits) you would probably say that’s pretty average, but nothing to write home about right? Well how about that stat line in only 75 games and 290 AB!!!? Coco Crisp didn’t play a ton, but when he did he made his mark. He can get on base, obviously can steal, and will more than likely hit leadoff this year. If he can stay healthy, I would wager to say you could justify taking him in the bottom portion of the middle rounds, but if you can push it and grab him in the later rounds you definitely walk away with a steal.
- 3. Daric Barton, 1B: According to Athletics’ GM Billy Beane, Daric Barton is the best first baseman in the league….moving along. OK look, Barton is very serviceable and can add a bit of power and pilfered bases making him a nice late round DH for your team, but an elite hot corner guy he is not. Expect Barton to hit around .290 with a possible line that could look like this: 15 HR, 75 RBI, 85 R, 10 SB…not too shabby for a late-round flyer, especially in AL only formats. Check out where we have Daric Barton ranked among the better first basemen in the league.
The Pitching Staff: The following is a preliminary look at the projected lineup and what you could expect.
|1. Trevor Cahill: Want a top 50 fantasy baseball SP who has two 10 plus win seasons under his belt, and was good enough for AL CY Young consideration last year? Then you might want to take a look at staff ace Trevor Cahill. Cahill ended the 2010 fantasy baseball season with an 18-8 record alongside a 2.97 ERA and a 1.11WHIP. The only knock on Cahill is his low career K/9 rate (5.0). But keep in mind two things: 1. Last year, he raised his K/9 rate to 5.4 from a dismal 4.5 in 2009 and 2. Cahill offers more stability and consistency than any other middle of the pack pitcher in the league right now. He’s worth owning for his value and reliability.|
|2. Gio Gonzalez: Arguably the best pitcher on the staff last year next to Trevor Cahill—arguably the best staff pitcher in terms of fantasy value—Gio Gonzalez will look to build upon a 2010 campaign that saw him finish 15-9 with a 3.23 ERA and a 7.7 K/9 rate. That ERA is a bit inflated thanks to an elevated 4.1 BB/9 rate, but that’s really the only issue with the youngster. If you look at the current ADP numbers, you’ll find Gonzalez ranked higher (45 SP, 173.82 ADP) than pitchers such as Josh Beckett and Jorge De La Rosa which is dead on. In fact, you could make a case that Gonzalez is just as good as, if not better than, the 12 pitchers ranked ahead of him. You can see the full list below, just click on the MockDraftCentral link. Or take a look at where our own Eric Annett scooped him up in his own fantasy baseball mock draft.|
|3. Brett Anderson: Couldn’t get your hands on Gonzalez or Cahill? Don’t worry there’s still more pitchers out of Oakland—like Brett Anderson. If it weren’t for a bout with the injury bug in 2010, Brett Anderson’s ADP (201 according to our friends at MockDraftCentral.com) would be a bit higher, but that is still an absolute steal. Anderson still ended the season with a 7-6 record alongside a 2.80 ERA and racked up a K/9 rate of 6.0 (7.0 career). Anderson doesn’t give up the long ball hardly ever (0.5 HR/9) nor does he walk anyone (1.8 BB/9) making him one of the more delicious SP in just about every format.|
|4. Dallas Braden: Aside from Dallas Braden’s famed perfect game last May, there’s little to get excited about. Career wise, the guy doesn’t strikeout many batters (5.5 K/9) and hasn’t had a winning season in four years of play. But if you do dig a bit deeper, Braden has lowered his ERA in each of the past four seasons (6.72 in ’07, 4.14 in ’08, 3.89 in ’09 and 3.50 last year.) He also lowered his hits per 9 despite still being a very hittable pitcher. If you’re looking for a draftable SP in the very back end of your fantasy baseball draft, you could do a lot worse than Dallas Braden.|
|5. Rich Harden – Brandon McCarthy: This fifth spot is up for grabs between the strike master, but oft injured Rich Harden, and the flyball prone Brandon McCarthy. Both pitchers should make for great waiver wire fodder, but nothing more.|
Brett Anderson, SP: If we get away from the initial stats on Bret Anderson, we can focus a bit more on just exactly why the 2011 fantasy baseball season could wind up being a true sleeper year for him. Anderson was a favorite to bust out last year after posting a 2.96 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings over his final 17 starts as a rookie. But the guy just couldn’t stay healthy. In May he only had one start (strained forearm) and the same happened in June (sore elbow). But as we saw towards the end of the 2010 season, Anderson began to settle in as an everyday starter, finishing the final 12 games of the season in the fashion many figured in the first place with a 2.59 ERA.
Anderson improved upon nearly every category from his rookie year except for strikes, but you can easily chalk that up to playing in 9 fewer games in 2010. He gave up one-third less home runs, cuts his ER count and R total nearly in half and again, despite playing in nine fewer games, one has to imagine that with two full years under his belt and the fact that he is more settled and healthy than ever before, he is worth a consideration for the sleeper tag in 2011.
Let’s not forget that the Oakland Athletics are also stacked in the bullpen with Andrew Bailey, Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes and Michael Wuertz if you’re looking for a high value guy at the RP slot. And with a bullpen comprised of throwers like that, it gives the starting rotation even more intrigue and a bit of extra value.
The Athletics will be far more competitive in the 2011 season, especially with the addition of Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham, but I don’t see any reason why you should draft either of these players. Josh Willingham has played no more than 133 games in the past 3 years (no more than 144 in his seven years of service) and Hideki Matsui is doing his best impersonation of the six million dollar man by continuing to play on those bum knees, making both of these players very risky. Still Willingham could hold more value than Matsui if you need to grab someone in the very back of your draft.
One final note is to keep a close eye on outfielder and first baseman Chris Carter who will inevitably start in the minors again this year thanks to Billy Beane’s affinity toward Daric Barton. Carter was known—and touted—for his power in the minors and ended his 6 season with a .284/.380/.540 batting line, a .940 OPS, and a whopping 149 homeruns. There is still a chance he could wind up playing again in 2011 as a starter as the season progresses.