Must Own Fantasy Player: Billy Burns
Potential Fantasy Bust: Stephen Vogt
Prospect to Watch: Sean Manaea
The Oakland A’s will enter the 2016 season coming off a last place finish in the division and many fans are unsure on the direction of the team. Billy Beane is no doubt one of the more revolutionary minds in baseball, but his moves over the last few seasons have really decimated what could have been a contending club going forward. (i.e., Tyson Ross, Josh Donaldson and Addison Russell trades)
Now it should be said that these trades are always easy to nitpick after the fact, but Beane’s failures should be noted just as much as his successes are. Which leads to the 2016 team and the fact that they just seem to be an average ballclub. The A’s have been notorious for overachieving before, but in an AL West that seems to be more competitive than ever, it may be a hard hill to climb.
The clear cut star for the Oakland A’s is, Sonny Gray. Gray has easily been one of the best pitchers in the league over the last two seasons and he has proven that he can outpitch his underwhelming peripherals. The only thing of concern may be the fact that his K dipped last season into to 160’s. That clearly knocks him out of that top tier of fantasy SP, but his ERA has not been over 3.08 the last two seasons and he has started 30+ games over that time, so the value is clear.
The rest of the A’s rotation is filled with question marks, but they may also surprise in 2016. Jesse Hahn, Rich Hill, Chris Bassitt, and Kendall Graveman/Henderson Alvarez, are a far cry from the glory days of the Mulder/Zito/Hudson trio, but they all have had moments of success in the bigs.
One of the “biggest” free additions for the club was bringing in veteran lefty, Rich Hill. Hill was well of the fantasy radar last season, until he resurfaced with the Red Sox and started pitching like Sandy Koufax. The intrigue is there and his curveball is still devastating, now in Oakland and in the friendly confines of the Coliseum, he is going to be popular sleeper this spring.
Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman battled injuries last season. Hahn has a history of arm troubles, but when he has been on the field, he has been solid. Graveman was a sleeper candidate heading into last season, but struggled early on and was eventually demoted. Graveman showed some flashes, but he is still hard to trust until. Bassitt was effective both out of the pen and in the rotation, which may entice the team to put him back into a long man type of role if Alvarez can return, but it would not surprise me if gets hot early on and becomes a popular waiver wire add during the season.
Alvarez was great for the Marlins in 2014, even tossing a no hitter for the Fish, but went down last season due to a shoulder injury. These are the types of gambles that Beane has made a name for himself with, and if Alvarez can return in May and not suffer any setbacks, he could be a nice steal off the waiver wire and a stabilizing addition behind Gray.
Moving to the offense, the team has some new faces. They recently made a deal for slugger, Khris Davis, whose power is legit and can play anywhere. While his homer upside takes a hit in Oakland, he should still be capable of posting, 20+ HR and 70+ RBI. Josh Reddick will man the other corner, and when healthy, is a steady source of power as well. Both Davis and Reddick should post the same type of numbers, with Reddick having a higher AVG., making them mid-round targets.
With speed down across baseball, Billy Burns, is a great mid-round target this spring. I covered why I think he is going to be a breakout OF this year here, and with the addition of Davis, his counting stats should increase even more.
The A’s infield lacks the power threats that the outfield does, besides Marcus Semien. It remains to be seen if he can stick at short, but even with his struggles, the 15+ HR upside he offers as a MI is worth a late round flier. Jed Lowrie was brought back to man second, but he can be ignored thanks to his injury history and lack of production the last two seasons.
Lite-hitting, Yonder Alonso, looks to get most of the time at first base and while the AVG will be there, he will not have a power surge in Oakland. Danny Valencia will man the hot corner and had a career season mashing a career high 18 homers. It is hard to chase him after a career season, but he is routinely being overlooked in drafts and if can just simply replicate what he did in 2015, he serves as a quality CI find.
Will the real Billy Butler please stand up? Butler has been one of the best hitters in baseball the last handful of seasons, but last season he was brutal to watch. He will need a good spring to make sure he can get the lion’s share of DH duties, but he should not drafted either way. Owners should still monitor him though, as hopefully his torrid end to the season can parlay itself into early success. But, Mark Canha and even Coco Crisp, lurk behind him if he falters this spring.
The biggest fantasy revelation for the A’s last season was the emergence of Stephen Vogt. Vogt was on a tear the first half of the season and eventually became an all star. But his season stat line, .261/18 HR/71 RBI/.783 OPS, masks a horrible second half of the season. It may be due to fatigue from being a starter for the first time in his career or what have you, but the .217/4 HR/15 RBI/.630 OPS line, is worrisome. He still will be drafted as a starting catcher this spring, but the warning flags are there.
The biggest area of strength for the ballclub heading into next season, will be the bullpen. Sean Doolittle will be the closer entering the season, but it will important this spring to monitor his velocity coming off his shoulder issues last season. If he looks himself, he is a nice buy low RP this season. But, the club certainly has an assortment of replacements waiting in the wings, with Ryan Madson, Liam Hendriks and John Axford in the fold. Madson will be the one to own in Holds leagues and as a Dollittle handcuff.
The A’s have to rely on their farm system more than just about any other team due to their penny pinching ways. They mainly stock the system by selling high on their stars, and that is how they acquired lefty, Sean Manaea, in the Ben Zobrist deal with the Royals. Manaea has a big arm and solid secondary pitches allowing him the chance to jump into the rotation this season. Keep his name in mind, and if he gets the call this season, make him a priority waiver wire add. The K upside and pitcher friendly setting is a recipe for fantasy success.
The A’s should be able to score enough to keep them in games, but the season will come down to if anyone in the rotation, not named Sonny Gray, can step up and become a co-ace. The entire division will fun to watch and the A’s will certainly have a say in the outcome.
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