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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
George Kottaras nets minor-league deal from White Sox
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:48 pm ET) The White Sox have agreed to a minor-league deal with catcher George Kottaras, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training.

Report: Red Sox in 'active' trade talks regarding Allen Craig
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(2:39 pm ET) The Red Sox are in "active" trade talks with at least one team regarding first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, sources told FOX Sports. Craig is said to be fully recovered from a left foot injury that has bothered him since 2013.

Craig had a down season in 2014, batting .215 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 126 games between the Cardinals and Red Sox. He really struggled with the Red Sox, batting .128 with one home run and two RBI in 29 games.


A's acquire De La Rosa from D-Backs, DFA pitcher Rodriguez
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) The Athletics announced Thursday they acquired pitcher Eury De La Rosa from the Diamondbacks for cash. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, pitcher Fernando Rodriguez was designated for assignment.

De La Rosa was 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in 25 relief outings for Arizona in 2014, while Rodriguez was 1-0 with a 1.00 ERA in seven relief outings for Oakland.


Issue with Matt Kemp's physical not expected to derail trade
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:09 pm ET) While several sources said there is an issue with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp's physical, which is holding up a trade with the Padres, it isn't believed the issue will derail the deal, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. 

There is no evidence the Padres are trying to rework the trade. For now, it is believed the Padres people are studying the findings from Kemp's physical, with the likelihood that they'll go to insurers to see whether the issue or issues discovered can be reasonably insured.

USA Today reported Thursday Kemp's physical revealed severe arthritis in both hips.


Report: Padres-Dodgers trade delayed following Kemp's physical
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:08 pm ET) The Padres are mulling whether or not to finalize the trade for Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp after his physical revealed severe arthritis in both hips, a person familiar with the diagnosis told USA Today. The source spoke to USA Today on the condition of anonymity.

The Padres and Dodgers agreed to a trade last week that would send Kemp, catcher Tim Federowicz and $32 million to San Diego for catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitching prospects Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin.

However, after Kemp's physical Tuesday, Padres' physicians are now discussing whether the arthritis would impact his career.

If the Padres choose to void the trade, then it would impact the Dodgers' trade with the Phillies for shortstop Jimmy Rollins since the deal included Eflin.

While the USA Today report has surfaced, Kemp's agent -- Junior Spivey -- told FOX Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal, "Everything is OK. We're just waiting on the final details. Should be good to go." Although, Spivey added he has not heard from the Padres since Kemp took his physical Tuesday.


Showalter: Machado appears more likely for O's opener than Wieters
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(11:38 am ET) Orioles manager Buck Showalter conveyed third baseman Manny Machado has a better chance of being ready for the Orioles season opener than catcher Matt Wieters, according to CSNBaltimore.com. 

Machado had right knee surgery in August and Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery in June.

"With both of these guys, it will be when and not if. I think if you held a gun up to my head, I think Manny makes the start of the year, and I think Matt is very close thereafter, but we won’t put either one of these guys on the field until it’s time to go, and try to keep the finish line in mind," Showalter said.


Report: Rockies considering Kendrick as back-of-the-rotation arm
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(9:28 am ET) The Rockies are looking at free agent Kyle Kendrick as a potential back-of-the-rotation arm, according to ESPN. Kendrick is 1-1 with a 5.26 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in seven career outings (six starts) at Coors Field.

Rangers' Daniels: Ryan Rua 'in a good position' to make roster
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(8:57 am ET) Ryan Rua received his first stint in the majors late last season and made such a strong impression in such a short period of time that the Rangers are looking to him to potentially be the starting left fielder in 2015, per MLB.com.

"He's in a spot where he if continues progressing at the rate he has, then I would expect that he's in a good position to make our club and get at-bats," general manager Jon Daniels said. "It's not going to be handed to him, but he has a strong chance to earn that spot."

The 24-year-old Rua hit .295 with two home runs, seven doubles and 14 RBI in 28 games with the Rangers in 2014. He had a .285/.365/.489/.854 slash line in 382 minor-league games before his promotion to the majors.

"He's not a guy that was off the radar screen and only produced for a month," Daniels said. "He's always hit from Day 1, and is an extremely hard worker that I think is going to have a good big league career."


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(8:29 am ET) Braves outfielder Nick Markakis underwent fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck Wednesday, per MLB.com. The team expects Markakis to resume baseball activities before the start of spring training. 

"We talked to (Dr.) Steve Wray after the surgery and he said it really went well," Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. "He said [the procedure] really went well, and he thinks that this guy will be ready to go full go in spring training. The only thing is that there will be a little bit of a disruption for his normal routine getting ready for spring training."

Markakis is expected to be cleared for physical activities within the next month, and the hope is he will be fully cleared within six weeks. Markakis agreed to a four-year, $44 million deal with the Braves in early December.


Three teams showing interest in Norichika Aoki
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(12/17/2014) The Orioles, Reds and Mariners are among the teams looking at outfielder Norichika Aoki, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The 32-year-old Aoki hit .285/.349/.360 over 491 at-bats last year. With the Royals signing Alex Rios earlier in the week, Aoki will likely have to move on with a different club. 


 
 
 
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