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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
A's P Jarrod Parker happy with how first rehab start went
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:33 pm ET) Despite giving up a home run and hitting a batter in his first minor-league rehab start, Athletics pitcher Jarrod Parker came away with mostly positive thoughts about being back on the mound. 

“I might not have been very sharp," Parker said, via the Bay Area News Group. "My delivery was probably quick, but I was healthy enough to catch up and be where I wanted to be.”

Parker threw 56 pitches in 3 2/3 innings at Class A Stockton on Thursday. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, Parker is looking forward to being 100 percent again. 

“Going through it for a second time, it’s not a cake walk, but you’re a little more comfortable with it,” Parker said. “We’re already a year out and everything has gone the way we wanted to go.”


Rockies P Jorge De La Rosa looks to rebound after disastrous first star
by Ted Leshinski | Staff Writer
(9:27 pm ET) Rockies starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa got knock around in his first start of the season Monday but says it was just a matter of adjusting his pitch location, reports the Denver Post.

"I left the ball up. I got hit hard. I have to do better," De La Rosa said.

The left hander, who began the season on the disabled list with a groin injury, was tagged for nine runs (seven earned) on nine hits in just two innings in his 2015 debut.

"He was almost too strong," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "The velocity was up. He was trying to go harder and harder and the ball kept getting elevated."

Mets P Jon Niese tossed from game while sitting in dugout
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:25 pm ET) Mets pitcher Jon Niese was ejected in Friday night's game against the Yankees despite not even being in the game. 

Niese apparently said something in the fifth inning that umpire Doug Eddings wasn't OK with. Eddings then motioned toward the dugout that Niese was ejected from the game. This happened during Juan Lagares' at-bat. 

NJ.com posted a vine of the ejection, with Eddings apparently saying, "Hey, I don't wanna hear anymore from you. That's it. You're gone."


Brewers 3B Aramis Ramirez still planning to retire after season
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:24 pm ET) Even with the Brewers slow start to the season, veteran third baseman Aramis Ramirez is not rethinking his plans to retire after the season, per MLB.com.

"This is going to be my last year, regardless of what happens," Ramirez said. "Regardless of what happens to me and regardless of what happens to the team. That has nothing to do with my decision. I've already made my decision, and this will be my last year."

Ramirez hit his first home run of the season Thursday against the Reds, but he is still batting just .167 through 15 games. 

"It's not working right now," he said, "but all I can do is show up and keep trying."


Blue Jays P Marcus Stroman is going back to school
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:20 pm ET) Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman likes to keep himself busy. 

As if rehabbing a torn ACL wasn't going to take up enough time, Stroman has decided to head back to Duke to work on finishing his degree. On May 4, he'll return to campus to rehab his knee and further his studies. 

"My parents pushed me from a very early age to make sure that it was all academics first," Stroman said, via MLB.com. "I was a kid who wasn't allowed out if I wasn't going to work, or I was the kid studying when everyone else was partying. That's something I always try to preach to everyone I'm around, even high school students now, I always try to gear them towards college."

Stroman played three seasons from 2010-2012 with the Blue Devils before entering the draft. The Blue Jays selected him with the 22nd overall pick, giving Duke its first-ever first-round pick in school history.

Stroman tore his ACL during spring training and decided to go back to Duke shortly after. He said he feels ahead of schedule in his recovery right now. 

Stroman went 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA last season. 


Mariners recall pitcher Lucas Luetge
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:20 pm ET) The Mariners recalled pitcher Lucas Luetge from Triple-A Tacoma on Friday after placing starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma on the 15-day disabled list due to a lat strain. Luetge is 3-5 with a 4.47 ERA in 110 career relief appearances.

Mariners place Hisashi Iwakuma on 15-day DL due to lat strain
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:14 pm ET) Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday due to a right lat strain. Iwakuma was scheduled to pitch Sunday against the Twins, but the team has yet to name a replacement.

The veteran right-hander has struggled through his first three starts, going 0-1 with a 6.61 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. He has allowed five home runs and three walks, while recording 11 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings.


Phillies don't appear to be in rush to promote Maikel Franco
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:02 pm ET) Phillies third base prospect Maikel Franco is certainly on the radar for a promotion to the majors, as he has begun the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley with a .355/.403/.565/.968 slash line through 14 games.

However, it doesn't appear the Phillies are in a rush to promote the 22-year-old infielder, per MLB.com.

"We'll see," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said Friday, when asked if he could see Franco sooner rather than later. "There hasn't been much talk about him."


Reds waiting for Sam LeCure to find fastball command
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8:58 pm ET) When the Reds sent reliever Sam LeCure to Triple-A Louisville at the end of spring training, they were looking for him to get better command of his fastball. 

LeCure has a 3.68 ERA in five appearances for Louisville this season. It's a positive sign, but the Reds are still waiting to see a change in his fastball. 

"I think he’s doing a nice job of managing the games he’s getting into,” Reds manager Bryan Price said, per MLB.com. “Our primary focus with Sam when he went to Triple-A was to get the fastball command back. in the second half of last year, it was more challenging for him. It’s such a big pitch – that two-seam sinker, comebacker that he throws. He was able to lean a bit more on the curveball and changeup last year. I think for him to be the impact pitcher he was for us in the past, the fastball command will need to come back in force. And I have not lost any optimism that he’ll be a part of this bullpen here over the course of the season. We certainly miss his influence."


Twins' Tim Stauffer struggling with changeup
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8:28 pm ET) Twins reliever Tim Stauffer admits that he's not "where I'd like to be at this point in the year," per TwinCities.com.

Through five appearances, Stauffer has a 9.00 ERA.

"I’ve always been a little bit of a slow starter," he said. "Obviously, I don’t want to make any excuses. I’d like to be able to go out there and get in a groove. I really don’t feel like I’ve hit that groove quite yet." 

Stauffer said that his changeup "is still not where I want it to be".


 
 
 
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