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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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Aaron Poreda sent to Triple-A Saturday
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(6:27 pm ET) The Rangers opened up a spot on the 25-man roster Saturday, by optioning pitcher Aaron Poreda to Triple-A Round Rock.

Poreda had allowed seven runs in his previous four outings, allowing his ERA to rise to 5.91 on the season. 


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(6:26 pm ET) Athletics outfielder Coco Crisp was held out of the starting lineup again on Friday against Seattle due to an ankle injury. Crisp owns a .291/.387/.449 slash line with seven homers and 31 RBI in 254 at-bats this season. His status remains uncertain for the final game before the All-Star break on Sunday.

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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:23 pm ET) As expected, Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez is not in the starting lineup Saturday. Ramirez has been out the past two days with a shoulder issue, and he's not expected to return until after the All-Star break.

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(6:15 pm ET) The Padres optioned pitcher Jesse Hahn to Triple-A El Paso Saturday and recalled infielder Jace Peterson.

The team brought an extra infielder into the fold while Tommy Medica deals with an injury. Hahn, who won for the fifth time in his last six starts Friday, is expected to return to the team after the All-Star break. He owns a 2.21 ERA and 47:16 K:BB ratio in 40 2/3 innings.


Pirates sign Rafael Perez to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:57 pm ET) The Pirates haved signed pitcher Rafael Perez to a minor-league deal and assigned him to Triple-A Indianapolis, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

Perez pitched 43 2/3 innings with Veracruz of the Mexican League this season, posting a 3.92 ERA and 42:8 K:BB ratio. He last pitched in the majors in 2012.


A's make pair of roster moves Saturday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:54 pm ET) The Athletics announced a pair of roster moves prior to Saturday's game against the Mariners in Seattle.

They placed infielder Alberto Callaspo on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring strain. Callaspo left Friday's game against Seattle with the injury. The A's also recalled infielder Andy Parrino from Triple-A Sacramento prior to the game.

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(5:52 pm ET) Braves catcher Evan Gattis felt good enough after taking some swings Friday that he participated in batting practice before Class A Rome's game Friday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

"He’ll do the same (workout) today, and then just keep ramping him up that way," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Saturday morning. "(Rome) doesn’t play Monday; they play Tuesday. But we haven’t talked about any of that (rehab assignment) stuff yet. Maybe he comes in today and it’s gotten a little sore and (he says) I don’t want to do all that stuff. But I think it was encouraging what he was able to do (Friday)."

Gattis was placed on the disabled list in late June with a bulging disk in his back. If he continues to progress, he could be ready to join the Braves soon after the All-Star break.


Jeremy Hefner makes return to action
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:51 pm ET) Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner made his first appearance in a game in 11 months Friday, pitching for rookie-level Gulf Coast Mets.

Hefner, nearing the end of his recovery from Tommy John surgery, tossed one perfect inning in his appearance Friday. He will likely need an extensive rehab assignment before he can return to the majors. 


Marlins have plan for Andrew Heaney at Triple-A
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"No matter how fast you want to speed up the clock, it still takes time to develop a prospect," Marlins general manager Dan Jennings said. "It does. There's finer points of the game, that until you're polished, when you get up here, they're exposed."

Heaney was tagged with 15 earned runs in 20 2/3 innings in four starts in the majors, after dominating at Triple-A. He put up a 2.74 ERA in his first 23 innings at New Orleans, but the team wants to see him use his change up more while controlling both sides of the plate.

"Those were things that were identified for him in the offseason," Jennings said. "He's made strides."

He was skipped in the rotation the first time through at New Orleans, in an effort to keep him available to pitch in September, even with an innings limit. 


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