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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
Cubs' Kyle Schwarber snaps skid, hits fourth home run on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:39 am ET) Cubs rookie catcher Kyle Schwarber enjoyed a productive night at the plate in Saturday's 4-2 win over the Brewers. Schwarber went 2 for 4 with his fourth career home run.

Schwarber's seventh-inning solo blast gave the Cubs their fourth and final run. The youngster has been getting regular playing time since returning to the majors about two weeks ago.

But he has been struggling with the bat recently, going 5 for his last 22 over the last seven games.


Astros C Hank Conger homers twice in career night on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:33 am ET) Astros catcher Hank Conger had a huge night at the plate in the 9-2 win over the Diamondbacks on Saturday. Conger went 3 for 4 with a pair of home runs, his first career multi-home run game of his career.

Conger feasted on the pitching of Jeremy Hellickson on Saturday. He launched a solo shot in the third inning, and then blasted his first-career grand slam in the fourth inning.

Conger now has eight home runs on the year, which represents a new career-high.

He has been sharing time behind the plate with Jason Castro. But Conger is 8 for 26 with three homers and eight RBI over his past eight games.


Giants' Hunter Pence hits 11th home run in 11th inning on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:29 am ET) Giants right fielder (and Texas-native) Hunter Pence came through with the biggest hit of the night on Saturday. Pence drilled a solo home run in the top of the 11th inning, en route to the 9-7 win over the Rangers. 

Pence, who was born in Fort Worth and went to Arlington High School, went 2 for 5 in the game with his 11th home run of the season.

Of Pence's 191 career home runs, 74 were of the go-ahead variety. Over his past 10 games, Pence is batting .342 with two homers and seven RBI.


Giants' Buster Posey homers among three hits in win Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:22 am ET) Giants catcher Buster Posey--who served as the designated hitter on Saturday--went 3 for 5 with a double and a home run in the 9-7 win over the Rangers. 

Posey hit a solo home run--his 15th of the year--off Cole Hamels in the seventh inning to cut the Rangers' lead to one run. Then, after the Rangers had tacked on a couple of runs, Posey added an RBI double in the eighth to once again bring the Giants within one. He score the tying run later in the inning, and the Giants won the game in 11 innings.

Posey has been scorching at the plate recently. Over his past eight games, Posey is batting a robust .438 with three doubles, a home run and five RBI. He continued his ownership over Hamels, as he is now 13 for 27 with two home runs against the left-hander.


Athletics RP Pat Venditte throws Triple-A rehab game Saturday
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:17 am ET) Athletics relief pitcher Pat Venditte played in a rehab game for Triple-A Nashville on Saturday.

Venditte tossed 2/3 of an inning and allowed one hit. He is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury.


Giants 1B Brandon Belt slugs two solo home runs in win Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:14 am ET) Giants 1B Brandon Belt had a big night at the plate in the 9-7 win over the Rangers. The Texas-native went 2 for 4 with a pair of solo home runs in the extra-innings victory.

Belt bookended the Giants' scoring on Saturday. He got the Giants on the board with a solo home run in the third inning, cutting the Rangers' lead to one. Then, after the Giants took a 9-8 lead in the 11th, he delivered his second solo dinger of the night, giving him 12 homers on the year.

Both of Belt's home runs on Saturday came off of left-handers--he had not homered off of a southpaw this season prior to Saturday. 

After Saturday's performance, Belt is batting .306 with three home runs and nine home runs over his past 10 games.


Indians SP Cody Anderson picks up third loss of the season
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:11 am ET) Indians starting pitcher Cody Anderson didn't have his best stuff during his start against the Athletics on Saturday.

Anderson allowed four runs, three of them earned, on six hits in 6 2/3 innings of work. He gave up two walks and a home run while earning his third loss of the season.

With the loss, Anderson dropped tp 2-3 on the year with a 3.38 ERA.


Giants RP Santiago Casilla gets 27th save on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:08 am ET) Giants closer Santiago Casilla worked a scoreless ninth inning on Saturday to claim his 27th save of the season. Casilla, who gave up one hit in the inning, needed just 12 pitches to preserve the 9-7 extra-innings win over the Rangers. 

Casilla has now converted seven consecutive save chances, and his 27 saves represent a career-high for the 12-year veteran.


Giants' Chris Heston can't go five innings on Saturday vs. Rangers
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(12:05 am ET) Giants starter Chris Heston labored in his outing against the Rangers on Saturday. The young right-hander allowed three runs on seven hits, but was unable to get out of the fifth inning. He lasted 4 2/3, walking two and striking out two. He threw 93 pitches, with just 51 going for strikes. 

Heston took a no-decision, as the Giants won the game 9-7 in extra innings. He got off to a shaky start, giving up two runs in the first inning. He got through the next two frames unscathed, despite a couple of baserunners.

But he allowed a third run in the fourth, and was never really able to get anything going in this one. Still, Heston is 3-0 with a very solid 1.64 ERA over his past five starts.


Athletics' Aaron Brooks looks dominant in first start
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:01 am ET) Athletics pitcher Aaron Brooks didn't look like someone making their first start of the season on Saturday against the Indians, he looked like an ace.

Brooks allowed just one run on five hits over 7 1/3 innings of work. He struck out five batters and didn't give up any walks.

With the win, Brooks improved to 1-0 on the year with a 3.09 ERA.


 
 
 
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