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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Oakland Athletics

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The Athletics have gone an eternity without making the playoffs, at least by Billy Beane standards. The groundbreaking general manager, who never uses his lack of resources as an excuse to concede anything, begrudgingly began a rebuilding project in 2008 that has kept the Athletics out of the national spotlight for the last three years.

But they got back to .500 last year and, in what would be a remarkably quick turnaround by baseball standards, appear poised to compete again in 2011.

Not surprisingly, their strength now is the same as it was during the beginning of Beane's tenure. With emerging aces Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez and the ultra-efficient Dallas Braden of perfect game fame occupying the first four spots, their starting rotation is comparable to the one led by Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder a decade ago. Even the fifth spot, which is up for grabs between former elite prospects Rich Harden and Brandon McCarthy and Tommy John survivor Josh Outman, should give the Athletics a chance to win every time through the order.

Recognizing he has a championship-caliber rotation now, Beane stepped up his pursuit of a proper supporting cast this offseason, acquiring Josh Willingham and David DeJesus in separate trades with the Nationals and Royals and signing Hideki Matsui to a one-year deal. None of the three figures to make a huge impact in Fantasy, but for a team that had Kurt Suzuki and Kevin Kouzmanoff batting cleanup much of last season, all three represent significant upgrades. And even if they fall short of expectations, super slugger Chris Carter is still waiting in the wings, with Michael Taylor not too far behind him.

And it's not like the Athletics needed to completely overhaul the offense to win games. Whatever innings their shutdown rotation can't provide will go to an already strong bullpen that should only improve with Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour and Joey Devine in the mix.

Breakout ... Brett Anderson, SP

This should have happened last year. Anderson was a favorite of Fantasy prognosticators everywhere 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 injury after injury doomed him at the start of 2010, limiting him to one start in May (strained forearm) and one start in June (sore elbow). An increase in innings from 105 in 2008 to 175 1/3 in 2009 no doubt contributed to his problems. Once his arm calmed down and he returned to the rotation for good, he pitched exactly as everyone expected, posting a 2.59 ERA over his final 12 starts. Now that he's refreshed and more accustomed to the rigors of a big-league season, he should be able to live up to his elite potential and become a legitimate ace. Chances are you'll be able to draft him as your third pitcher, perhaps waiting until the middle rounds to do so.

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Bust ... David DeJesus, OF

DeJesus may not seem like bust material since Fantasy owners already view him as a late-round pick, but by drafting him at all, they're putting too much stock in his 2010 performance. Yes, he hit a career-high .318 last year, but much of that came from a ridiculously hot June when he hit .410. He was on the DL three weeks later, out for the year with a thumb injury, so he never got a chance to regress to the mean. He's no stranger to hot streaks; the regression was coming. Given his track record and the fact he's already 31 years old, DeJesus' 2010 was more of a statistical anomaly than a legitimate step forward, and now he's going to a park where he's hit .250 with a .689 OPS for his career. Yuck. DeJesus isn't useless in Fantasy, but if you draft him thinking he'll help you make up ground in batting average, you'll likely be disappointed.

Sleeper ... Coco Crisp, OF

Granted, most people think of Crisp's 2010 season as a disappointment because he missed so much time due to injury. But in between the strained pectoral and the two broken pinkies, he showed something he hasn't shown since he was first making a name for himself with the Indians. He was an all-around threat, taking advantage of his freedom on the base paths after getting held back in Boston and regaining the power he lost as a part-time player. The result was eight homers and 32 steals in 290 at-bats, which translates to something like 15 homers and 60 steals over a full season. You don't think that's a big deal in Fantasy? Well, only four outfielders averaged more than Crisp's 3.8 Fantasy points per game in standard Head-to-Head leagues last year. Can he maintain that pace over a full season? Assuredly not, but even if he performs at a fraction of that level, he'll be one of the biggest bargains on Draft Day.

Oakland Athletics Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Coco Crisp CF 1 Dallas Braden LH
2 Daric Barton 1B 2 Trevor Cahill RH
3 David DeJesus RF 3 Brett Anderson LH
4 Josh Willingham LF 4 Gio Gonzalez LH
5 Hideki Matsui DH 5 Brandon McCarthy RH
6 Kurt Suzuki C Alt Josh Outman LH
7 Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Mark Ellis 2B CL Andrew Bailey RH
9 Cliff Pennington SS SU Brian Fuentes LH
Top bench options RP Grant Balfour RH
R Ryan Sweeney OF RP Michael Wuertz RH
R Conor Jackson OF RP Rich Harden RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
1 Chris Carter 24 OF Majors Triple-A
Slugger began career 0 for 33 before blowing up in final week. Offseason additions likely force him to minors.
2 Grant Green 23 SS Class A Double-A
First-rounder in '09 a potential middle-of-the-order guy. Has plate discipline issues but could start by 2012.
3 Michael Taylor 25 OF Triple-A Triple-A
Former Phillies prospect flopped in first year with A's. Deserves a longer leash based on his past numbers.
4 Michael Choice 21 OF Class A Class A
First-rounder in 2010 already turning heads in minors. Whiffs too much but should hit for average and power.
5 Tyson Ross 23 SP Majors Triple-A
Got early look in the bullpen last year but future is in rotation. A's deep staff gives him more time to learn.
Best of the rest: Eric Sogard, 2B; Jemile Weeks, 2B; Max Stassi, C; Bobby Cramer, SP; Adrian Cardenas, SS; Aaron Shipman, OF; Yordy Cabrera, SS; Ian Krol, SP; Fautino De Los Santos, RP; Josh Donaldson, C; Pedro Figueroa, SP; and Michael Ynoa, SP.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
J.J. Hardy: Left thumb injury still affecting me
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:03 am ET) Despite a mini-tear at the plate, Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is still affected by a left thumb injury that had him out for a week earlier in the month, per the Baltimore Sun.

"Maybe I'm not trying to do too much because I can't," he said. "That's my only explanation, but [the thumb injury] is definitely not in the past. ... Swings and misses don't feel good. I've just got to limit that."

Hardy is 7 for 20 with a home run since his return. He has fanned just twice during that stretch.


Dan Jennings starts rehab stint
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:51 am ET) Marlins reliever Dan Jennings began a rehab assignment Tuesday with their Gulf Coast League affiliate. He has been working his way back since taking a line drive to the head on Aug. 7 and sustaining a concussion.

Bullpen Session II Wednesday for Masahiro Tanaka
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) Recovering Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka is set to throw another bullpen session Wednesday. He threw 25 pitches in the first one on Saturday.

The team has not placed a timetable on his possible return to game action after sustaining an elbow injury. He has been out for six weeks.


Report: Athletics considered ousting Jason Hammel from rotation
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:37 am ET) The Athletics considered permanently removing Jason Hammel from the rotation before deciding to just skip his next turn, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Hammel who will pitch against Houston next week, has been a mess since arriving in Oakland via a trade from the Cubs. His ERA has leaped from 2.98 to 3.84, courtesy of 24 earned runs allowed in 32 innings pitched covering seven outings. He has just one quality start during that stretch.

The right-hander has blamed mechanical issues that are leaving his pitches up for his struggles, but adds that it should be an easy fix. He is also claiming no problem with the temporary move to the bullpen.

"I'm not bothered by it," he said. "You've got to check your ego at the door when you're not getting it done."

The Athletics could place Jesse Chavez or Drew Pomeranz in their rotation if Hammel continues to get battered.


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(10:22 am ET) Rangers left fielder Alex Rios is back in the lineup for the Wednesday game in Miami. Thumb ailments have limited him to just one at-bat since Sunday.

Rios hopes he can pick it up upon his return. He has not enjoyed a multi-hit game since July 29 and is 6 for 50 since.


Jarrod Saltalamacchia absent from Wednesday lineup
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:17 am ET) A day game following a night game has Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia sidelined Wednesday against Texas. Jeff Mathis is set to crouch behind the plate instead.

Saltlamacchia has emerged from a slump with nine hits in his last seven games and five in the last three. He has not homered, however, since July 21.


Anthony Rizzo provides only scoring in Tuesday victory
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:11 am ET) The power surge of Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo continued Tuesday night - and it resulted in a rain-shortened win.

Rizzo blasted his fourth homer in eight games. His two-run shot in the first inning proved to be the only scoring. He is 4 for 6 with three runs and three RBI in the last two games to improve his stat line to .279/.378/.517.


Brian McCann goes deep again
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:04 am ET) Yankees catcher Brian McCann has found his power stroke over the last week, and he homered again in a 7-4 loss to the Astros Tuesday.

McCann got the Yankees on the board first with his fourth-inning home run, his third in five games. He finished the game 1 for 4 overall with two RBI in the loss.

McCann is still hitting just .235 for the season, but he has 14 home runs and 51 RBI in 105 games for the Yankees. 


Chris Carter's 30th homer a big one
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9:53 am ET) Astros designated hitter Chris Carter continued his hot-hitting ways Tuesday, as he slugged the team to a 7-4 victory over the Yankees.

Carter was hitless with four strikeouts heading into the ninth inning, but made up for that with one swing. With the score tied at 4-4, Carter unleashed a three-run blast to put the Astros up for good.

Carter has established a new career-high with his 30th home run of the season, and he has 72 RBI to go with that, just 10 off his best total. He is hitting .233/.301/.519 in 110 games overall. 


Tsuyoshi Wada wins, Ryan Vogelsong loses in rain-shortened affair
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(9:43 am ET) Tuesday's game between the Cubs and Giants was called as final after five innings, with the Cubs coming out on top, 2-0.

Cubs pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada got the win after throwing five shutout innings, scattering six pitches and striking out three batters. Ryan Vogelsong took the loss for the Giants, allowing two runs on three hits and a pair of walks over four innings, while striking out four before the rain came.  


 
 
 
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