Rebuilding or not, the Athletics went 34-30 over their final 64 games -- and that's including a seven-game losing streak to end the season. The credit goes to Billy Beane, the innovative general manager whose rebuilding projects, despite his limited resources, never last long.
This would be his longest, though. The A's finished under .500 for the third straight season after eight straight winning seasons. Fortunately, they've only added to last year's team. Ben Sheets could end up being the bargain of the offseason if he bounces back from elbow surgery, and his presence in the rotation can only help ace-in-waiting Brett Anderson. The A's also have Justin Duchscherer, an All-Star two years ago who missed last season with an elbow injury. His long-term health remains a concern, but something is better than nothing from him. If even one of Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez lives up to his potential, the A's will have a surprisingly competitive rotation.
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Which should go well with their already competitive bullpen. Joey Devine returns from Tommy John surgery, not that he has any chance of closing after Andrew Bailey won Rookie of the Year with an improbable 0.88 WHIP and 26 saves -- a number that should only increase with all the pitching around him.
Of course, the A's still have to score some runs. They don't offer a single impact bat in Fantasy, but they managed to get by with the same bunch last year and have since added Kevin Kouzmanoff, Coco Crisp and sleeper Jake Fox, a no-glove minor-league masher who could make an impact in mixed leagues if he finds regular at-bats. If none of them pans out, the team could always turn to prospects Chris C. Carter and Michael Taylor -- something that has to happen sooner or later.
The Athletics probably won't make the playoffs, but they're not exactly cellar dwellers. They're close, and with the assimilation of Carter and Taylor, they might just take that final step.
Breakout: Brett Anderson, SP
When the Athletics gave Anderson a rotation spot as a 21-year-old last spring, it seemed too soon. When he posted a 5.74 ERA over his first 13 starts, it definitely seemed too soon. But something happened on June 29, the same thing that happens to every emerging ace sooner or later: He figured it out. If his 2.96 ERA over his final 17 starts didn't convince you, his jump from 5.9 strikeouts per nine innings to 8.9 surely will. Such a breakthrough for an elite prospect shouldn't surprise anyone, but the suddenness of it might. Fantasy owners who assess him strictly on his final numbers won't know the whole story and will allow him to slip further than he should on Draft Day. He's a middle-to-late-round pick with the potential to perform like an early-rounder.
Bust: Rajai Davis, OF
A nobody in Pittsburgh and San Francisco to begin his career, Davis broke out in his first full season with the Athletics, hitting .330 with 28 stolen bases after taking over as the team's everyday left fielder on July 28. But does that kind of performance make sense for a slap hitter with a below-average walk rate? Davis isn't an offensive liability, but he doesn't have the pedigree to win a batting title. And if he doesn't hit the way he did in the second half last year, the Athletics might decide his subpar on-base percentage isn't worth all the stolen bases. Hey, they have to create openings for Chris C. Carter and Michael Taylor somehow. Davis might seem like a decent third or fourth outfielder after such a strong finish, but he's really just a steals specialist for Rotisserie leagues.
Sleeper: Ben Sheets, SP
Sheets has battled injuries every year since breaking out with 264 strikeouts in 237 innings in 2004 -- a trend that culminated in him not throwing a single pitch in 2009. He had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his elbow, but considering he could already hit 91 mph in late January when he usually throws in the 93-mph range, he's about ready to pick up where he left off. If the penny-pinching Athletics could justify sinking $10 million into him, his recovery must not be an issue. And hey, he has the potential to perform like a $20-million pitcher when healthy. Will he bounce back? Will he stay healthy? Nobody can say for sure. But the price of a late-round pick makes this potential Comeback Player of the Year well worth the gamble.
| ||Pos.|| |
|1||Rajai Davis||LF||1||Ben Sheets||RH|
|2||Coco Crisp||CF||2||Brett Anderson||LH|
|3||Kurt Suzuki||C||3||Justin Duchscherer||RH|
|4||Jack Cust||DH||4||Dallas Braden||LH|
|5||Kevin Kouzmanoff||3B||5||Trevor Cahill||RH|
|6||Ryan Sweeney||RF||Alt||Gio Gonzalez||LH|
|7||Mark Ellis||2B||Top bullpen arms|
|8||Daric Barton||1B||CL||Andrew Bailey||RH|
|9||Cliff Pennington||SS||SU||Michael Wuertz||RH|
|Top bench options||RP||Joey Devine||RH|
|R||Jake Fox||OF/CI||RP||Brad Ziegler||RH|
|R||Eric Chavez||3B||RP||Craig A. Breslow||LH|
|1||Chris C. Carter||23||1B||Triple-A||Triple-A|
|Defense still in question, but not the bat. Gets on base with plenty of power. Outside shot at job this spring.|
|Offseason acquisition is a 6-foot-6 masher who also hits for average. Should arrive this year.|
|3||Pedro Figueroa||24||SP||Class A||Double-A|
|Hard-throwing lefty finally broke through last year. Has frontline potential if he can improve control.|
|A power-speed type like brother Rickie Weeks, but with better pitch recognition. Future leadoff man?|
|5||Grant Green||22||SS||Class A||Class A|
|Probably not a huge home-run hitter, but good enough to develop into an All-Star caliber shortstop.|
|Best of the rest: Max Stassi, C; Michael Ynoa, SP; Eric Sogard, 2B; Henry A. Rodriguez, RP; Adrian Cardenas, SS; Fautino De Los Santos, RP; James J. Simmons, RP; Jared Lansford, SP; Clayton Mortensen, SP; Sean Doolittle, 1B; Josh Donaldson, C; Corey Wimberly, 2B; Chad Reineke, SP; Jon Meloan, RP; Tyson Ross, SP; Corey Brown, OF; and Arnold Leon, RP.|
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