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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Oakland Athletics

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These days, about the only place the Athletics are hot is the big screen, where the movie adaptation of Moneyball has generated enough Oscar buzz to remind the outside world that, yes, a major-league team still exists in Oakland.

Because you wouldn't know it by the names on the roster.

Eyeing a move to San Jose, the Athletics find themselves in a state of perpetual rebuilding, forced to free up cash for the stadium they know is coming, but not until the other owners give the go-ahead.

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So here we go again. Gone are two (Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez) of the latest rendition of the Big Three, and the third (Brett Anderson) is recovering from Tommy John surgery, leaving the Athletics with an ace in Brandon McCarthy who has never made more than 25 starts in a season.

The lineup is in even worse shape, but then again, that's been the story in Oakland for several years now. Though the departures of Josh Willingham, David DeJesus, Ryan Sweeney and Hideki Matsui would fall under the category of "addition by subtraction," the Athletics chose to perpetuate the problem by replacing them with four hitters -- Seth Smith, Josh Reddick, Jonny Gomes and Kila Ka'aihue -- with similarly uninspiring track records and just as little room for growth. Yoenis Cespedes, the prized Cuban defector who signed with the A's late in the offseason, gives the lineup at least one legitimate building block for the future, but whether or not he'll begin in the majors and how long he'll need to adjust to the U.S. is anybody's guess.

Naturally, the questions abound, from which Quadruple-A slugger will start at first base to where prospects Chris Carter and Michael Taylor fit into the picture. But the most pertinent question for Fantasy owners is at closer, where one (or a combination) of Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour, Fautino De Los Santos and Joey Devine will attempt to replace Andrew Bailey.

The other side of the coin -- the "good" news, if you want to call it that -- is that with all this wheeling and dealing, the Athletics now have an abundance of young pitchers to usher them into the new era, whenever it begins. But given the lack of talent around those pitchers, Fantasy owners don't figure to reap the benefits anytime soon.

Breakout ... Brandon McCarthy, SP

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McCarthy was supposed to be the next great thing in Fantasy a good six or seven years ago, when he was in the White Sox system. Perhaps, then, his ascension to mixed-league relevance last season shouldn't have surprised anyone. But after years of arm woes had stalled his development, most Fantasy owners had dismissed him as a lost cause. And he hasn't completely shed that reputation, not when you consider he missed six weeks last season with a shoulder issue. You can't discount the progress he made when healthy, though. His walk rate was the third-lowest in baseball, and he pitched beyond seven innings in 10 of his 25 starts. Strange as it sounds, McCarthy was actually a workhorse for the Athletics, which means he was feeling his best more often than not. And if his 2.39 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 7.9 strikeouts per nine innings over his final seven starts are any indication, he's on the verge of turning the corner in other areas as well.

Bust ... Seth Smith, OF

Some Fantasy owners see Smith's move to Oakland as a good thing, like he'll suddenly be the everyday player he could never be in Colorado's crowded outfield. First of all, it's not. Second of all, he won't. Oakland's outfield, while lacking the high-end talent of a Carlos Gonzalez, is perhaps even more crowded than Colorado's, and with lefty killers Jonny Gomes and Collin Cowgill both in the mix, you can be pretty sure that Smith and his career .202 batting average against left-handers will remain safely confined to a platoon role. Worse yet, the 29-year-old is leaving Coors Field, and while you could argue he was nearly as effective on the road as at home last year, he wasn't playing those games at spacious Oakland Coliseum -- or in a lineup full of Triple-A rejects. So no matter how much you believe Smith's power potential and batting eye could lead to a killer OPS in the right circumstances, rest assured these aren't those circumstances. He remains a player to avoid in mixed leagues.

Sleeper ... Scott Sizemore, 3B

While you could argue that high-upside pitchers like Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock offer more sizzle -- not to mention upside -- on Draft Day, Sizemore's performance at a thin position down the stretch last year, when he hit .269 with six homers and an .863 OPS over his final 108 at-bats, is more likely to go unnoticed by the average Fantasy owner. But does that mean it should? Granted, the hype on the former Tigers farmhand has dwindled to nothing over the last couple years, but it was still there at one point, fueled by a 2009 season in which he hit .308 with 17 homers and 21 steals in the minors. At age 27, Sizemore might have finally matured to the point that he can make good on it. And even if he doesn't perform at an All-Star level, he's such a certainty for at-bats in Oakland that a 20-homer season is within reach. Given his high walk rate, that's all he would need to factor in mixed leagues.

2012 Oakland Athletics Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Jemile Weeks 2B 1 Brandon McCarthy RH
2 Coco Crisp CF 2 Dallas Braden LH
3 Seth Smith DH 3 Bartolo Colon RH
4 Brandon Allen 1B 4 Tommy Milone LH
5 Yoenis Cespedes RF 5 Brad Peacock RH
6 Kurt Suzuki C Alt Jarrod Parker RH
7 Josh Reddick LF
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Scott Sizemore 3B CL Grant Balfour RH
9 Cliff Pennington SS SU Fautino De Los Santos RH
Top bench options RP Brian Fuentes LH
R Jonny Gomes OF RP Joey Devine RH
R Kila Ka'aihue 1B RP Jerry Blevins LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Yoenis Cespedes 26 OF DNP -- in Cuba Majors
The raw skills are as good as you'll find, but the numbers don't always translate right away with Cuban defectors. Owners in seasonal leagues should temper their expectations.
2 Jarrod Parker 23 SP Majors Triple-A
Parker struggled early in his return from Tommy John surgery but soon regained his stuff. He's the most promising of the A's hurlers whether or not he wins a job this spring.
3 Brad Peacock 24 SP Majors Majors
A surprise breakout pitcher in the minors last year, Peacock might continue the Brandon Beachy routine as a surprise Fantasy contributor this year. He looked good last September.
4 Michael Choice 22 OF Class A Double-A
The 2010 first-rounder showed big-time power in the minors last year, but his strikeout rate could limit his ceiling. Still, he's safe enough for long-term keeper leagues.
5 Chris Carter 25 1B Majors Triple-A
No amount of power can make up for an inability to hit the ball, which has been Carter's problem in brief major-league duty. He's no lost cause yet, but he's getting there.
Best of the rest: Derek Norris, C; Michael Taylor, OF; Sonny Gray, SP; A.J. Cole, SP; Collin Cowgill, OF; Grant Green, OF; Graham Godfrey, SP; Jermaine Mitchell, OF; Josh Donaldson, C; Stephen Parker, 1B; Miles Head, 1B; Ryan Cook, RP; Adrian Cardenas, SS; Andrew Carignan, RP; Rashun Dixon, OF; Michael Ynoa, SP; and Max Stassi, C.

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Player News
Rangers' Alexander Claudio hoping to earn a role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:27 am ET) Rangers pitcher Alexander Claudio is hoping to be the team's lefty in the bullpen, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Claudio is one of three lefties in camp competing for the job. He performed well in his first taste of spring training, retiring two lefties during his inning of work. He allowed one hit, and struck out two batters. While Claudio's fastball barely registers on the radar gun, manager Jeff Banister still came away impressed.

"I like the secondary stuff," Banister said. "He's accepted the type of pitcher he is and is willing to be that guy. He’s really intriguing with the kind of deception he brings."

Claudio posted a 2.92 ERA over 12 1/3 innings last season.


Dodgers' Erik Bedard willing to go to Triple-A
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Erik Bedard is willing to go to Triple-A if he doesn't break camp with the major-league club, according to MLB.com.

Bedard allowed one run over two innings in his first taste of spring action on Wednesday. The veteran said he knows that if the Dodgers five starters are healthy, he'll be sent to the minors. "I know where I stand," Bedard said. "The game is still fun. I like to play baseball."

Bedard posted a 4.76 ERA over 75 2/3 innings last season. 


Dodgers' Alex Guerrero willing to play third base
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero has been willing to learn third this spring, according to MLB.com.

Guerrero is in a bit of a unique position. With Howie Kendrick entrenched at second, Guerrero doesn't really have a spot in the team's infield. Due to his contract, however, the team can't just send him to the minors. Guerrero can block the move, and has already said he plans to do so if the team tries to send him down. If he can play third well, that may not be a problem.

For what it's worth, manager Don Mattingly believes Guerrero has looked better this spring. "I really do think the second year [in camp] he looks a lot different as far as being relaxed," Mattingly said. "He's swinging the bat well and he keeps improving."

The 28-year-old hit .333/.371/.621 over three minor-league levels last season. 


Twins' Byron Buxton doubles twice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton doubled twice on Wednesday against the University of Minnesota.

Buxton came into last season ranked as one of the best prospects in the minors. He had injury issues, which ended his season early. While Buxton is still considered the Twins top prospect, he was passed by other players in the overall prospect rankings due to the injuries. 

Buxton seemed to be 100 percent on Wednesday, doubling twice during the contest. He scored one run and drove in one RBI. The 21-year-old should open the season in the minors, but could debut as early as this season depending on his performance. 


Twins' Jose Berrios strikes out four on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Twins starter Jose Berrios struck out four during his first spring appearance on Wednesday.

Berrios took on the University of Minnesota, and turned in a good showing. While Berrios is a minor-leaguer, he's only 20, and was taking on players his age. Berrios allowed one hit and one unearned run over two innings of work. He struck out four batters.

Berrios is the team's third-best prospect according to Baseball America. He's expected to begin the year in the minors, but could move quickly based on how well he performs. 


Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley makes debut Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley pitched two innings in his spring training debut Wednesday, allowing just one baserunner and recording one strikeout. Shipley admitted he was a bit worried in his first appearance, reports AZCentral.com.

"I was a little nervous going in, but that was expected," Shipley said. "I think it was more excitement for me. That was really fun."

Manager Chip Hale said he expects Shipley to make starts in his next few appearances this spring.


Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson faces batters for first time this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson was able to face live batters for the first time this spring since recovering from back surgery, the 27-year-old tweeted Wednesday.

Anderson was only able to pitch 43 1/3 innings in 2014 with a 1-3 record and 2.91 ERA after suffering the back injury that cut his season short. 


White Sox SS Tim Anderson looking to become long-term solution
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) White Sox prospect Tim Anderson is on a mission in spring training this year. He wants to prove that he belongs in the majors with the big boys.

"Just show them I can stay at short and my defense has come a long way and it's going to get better," Anderson said. "I want to be a shortstop for a long time. I'm going to be a shortstop. I'm going to work hard to stay there."

Anderson is currently considered Chicago's No. 2 prospect and could be just the prospect the White Sox are looking for. In his 2015 debut, Anderson smacked a two-run single.

"I'm just staying calm and trying not to do too much and just doing what I've been doing to be here," Anderson said. "It has been exciting to get in here and work with all the big leaguers and get my reps in and see how they go in the daily routine."


Reds' Kevin Gregg hoping to win a spot in the bullpen
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Reds pitcher Kevin Gregg is hoping to win a spot in the team's bullpen, according to MLB.com.

Gregg may be 36-years-old, but understands he still needs to prove himself.  "I don't mind coming in and earning a spot," he said. "I'm coming off elbow surgery. At this point in my career, it's something I need to do."

Gregg had bone chips removed from his elbow in August, but was able to hit 92 mph in a showcase in February. He believes his velocity has improved since then.

Manager Bryan Price had good things to say about Gregg thus far. "He looks great. He looks durable," Price said. "He's got hand speed. He's crisp with his location. I've been extremely impressed with Kevin to this point."

The 36-year-old tossed just nine innings in the majors last year.


Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds sidelined with oblique injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds was scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday, but was unable to do so while dealing with a sore right oblique, reports MLB.com.

"I'm like, 'I'm in here again, I can't get out of this darn room,'" Reynolds said.

Reynolds missed all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he isn't having any issues with the elbow.

"My elbow feels real good," he said. "It feels strong."


 
 
 
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